Posted March 10, 2013

World Baseball Classic brawl calls attention to tournament’s faults

World Baseball Classic

Canada’s Jay Johnson and Mexico’s Eduardo Arredondo exchange punches during Saturday’s brawl. (Matt York/AP)

By Cliff Corcoran

The ugly brawl (sequence starts around 55-second mark in the video linked here) between Canada and Mexico in their first-round World Baseball Classic game Saturday afternoon wouldn’t have happened in the 2009 WBC.

The brawl was the result of Mexico’s objection to Canada attempting to run up the score in the ninth inning of a game the latter was already leading 9-3. Canada’s catcher, Chris Robinson, bunted up the third-base line for a single to start the inning, after which Mexico’s third baseman, Luis Cruz, clearly gestured for pitcher Arnold Leon to hit the next batter, outfielder Rene Tosoni. Leon complied but missed Tosoni with his first two attempts, allowing home plate umpire Brian Gorman to warn both benches. Leon then hit Tosoni in the back with his third pitch, inciting the brawl.

That sequence conformed to a certain old-school concept of “how the game is supposed to be played.” You don’t run up the score on your opponent, and if another team does, you settle it on the field. Setting aside the absurdity of that mentality (in a game with no clock, no lead is ever safe, and the risk of injury from a beanball or brawl is far greater than the significance of the perceived insult), running up the score is exactly how the WBC has been designed to work in both this and the inaugural 2006 tournament.

The first round of the tournament is a round robin, with each team playing just three games, one against each intra-pool opponent. Ties are broken, more often than not, by something called “Team Quality Balance,” which is effectively margin of victory. Head-to-head victories are the only tie-breaker that ranks ahead of TQB, but the round-robin format and three-game schedule results in a high likelihood of a three-way tie at 2-1 or 1-2 with Team A having beaten Team B but lost to Team C.

So, Canada, who was 0-1 coming into this game and will face the favored USA team Sunday, needed to score as many runs as possible in this game to maximize their chances of advancing to the second round. However, Cruz, Leon, and who knows who else on Team Mexico either failed to realize that or didn’t think that trumped those old unwritten rules. Thus the overt attempt to hit Tosoni and the rare baseball fight that included actual fighting, evidence of just how invested these players are in this tournament.

The fight didn’t need to happen because these grown men didn’t have to act like ill-behaved preschoolers, but it also didn’t need to happen because, in 2009, the WBC used a different format that produced clear and immediate on-field results. The first round in that year’s tournament was a double-elimination format. Two games are played between the four teams in a pool. The losers of those games play with that loser being eliminated. The winners of those games play with the winner advancing. The two 1-1 teams then play to determine the second team to advance. No fuss, no muss, no tiebreakers, no misunderstandings, no hurt feelings. You win, you keep playing. You lose, you’re out.

Bizarrely, this year’s second round will follow that same double-elimination format, but it was scrapped for the first round, I assume so that no team would get eliminated without playing a third game. That was a bad decision and should be corrected before the next WBC in 2017. The players are grown men and should behave like them. By that same token, the WBC is a tournament, and it should behave like one.

13 comments
nmerrell
nmerrell

The third baseman was out of position so the Canadian dude bunted for a hit. Heads up play. Then, butthurt from his own mistake, the Mexican third baseman signals to hit the next batter. Then, after Team Canada puts the smack down, some Mexican fan throws trash in a total cheapshot. My criticism of this whole episode is 100% one-sided.

Juan3
Juan3

Piling runs while limiting the number of pitches for the starters and relievers.   Makes no sense to me. 

 

 

I think Selig has said the tournament is catching on and growing.  Play in july or august to see if that is so.

rstoewe
rstoewe

I agree with portions of what you're saying... but I believe the WBC has tried to ride the popularity of the World Cup format. So, (though run/goal differential doesn't mean the same and can be quite significant between soccer and baseball), you've essentially just said that the World Cup format is stupid, as well.

 

Is this your point?

baseballsandracegas
baseballsandracegas

Those of us who grew up watching the game during the 50s and 60's didn't flinch when a batter was intentionally hit. Everyone in the ballpark would know it was coming before the batter stepped up to the plate. In this game, you got a guy known for hard take-slides on first. Luis Cruz doesn't want to see his secondbase compadre possibly endure another bruising encounter so he figures it is easier to just force the runner to second with a HB. That way, three birds can be killed with a single stone: chance for contact play at secondbase is reduced, chance for contact play at thirdbase where Cruz plays is increased, and the Message is sent.  Being a longtime Dodger fan, I will be watching Mr. Cruz very closely. His attitude reminds me of Jim Gilliam, another smart hardnosed player.

 

DwayneHammond
DwayneHammond

I simply can not believe that every article I've read on this, and every managers comments are comparing this to a regular season game.  This is NOT a regular season game.  It is a PLAYOFF game.  In the World Series, you do NOT just assume the other team can't come back from 6 runs down in the 8th inning.  Maybe that mentality exists in game 78 of 162... not NOT in a win-or-go-home playoff game.  If run differential was not a factor, and Canada let up, and Mexico scored 6 runs in the final two innings (which they are VERY capable of doing), everyone would be calling for their heads.  

How can every article be missing this critical point!?!?

morphy
morphy

no excuse for Mexico intentionally trying to hurt the Canadian player. Bad sportsmanship has come to be expected from Mexico and its pathetic fans.

 

DustyReynolds
DustyReynolds

I disagree that they should go back to the stoneage double elimination if you are the underdog and you line up against the supposed two best teams and the two teams get to avoid one another than how is that fair.  So allow allow the teams to play the round robbin just let the teams know in advance what the rules are.  Obliviously they did not explain it to Mexico and if they did than they are trying to keep the score down to keep their slim chances alive.  It is pretty dumb that they would not carry that mentality over into all rounds.

 

AdrianGonzalez
AdrianGonzalez

 @morphy Don't do these ignorant generalizations... there were many of us cheering for Mexico who disapproved our team reaction (it should be noted though, that the player who bunted was the same one who did two late slides in second base during the game, the players were aware of this, and it may had something to do with the brawl)... in any case, a few Mexican fans made the terrible mistake of taking things too far and throwing stuff to the field, but don't drag the rest of us who were watching the game peacefully and understood Canada's position about piling up runs. Your comment sounds more like racist bigotry than anything else.

Shortofbrillant
Shortofbrillant

 @DustyReynolds Mexico was fully aware of the rules. Their manager and played talked about it at in interviews before the game. This is just an example of extremely poor sportsmanship. At the time Mexico still had a change to come back in the game, but also to reduce the run differential to keep them alive. Instead the Mexican pitcher decided to throw at the Canadian 3 times, even after a warning. Poor sportsmanship

DwayneHammond
DwayneHammond

 @azathoth I can only assume you are a teenager just trying to be a clever.  sigh...   The inning is not relevant at all.  In a playoff game, you do not stop trying to score in the 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th or 12th... unless the score is so far out of hand that the other team has no reasonable chance to catch up. Is that 10 runs?  12 runs?  I'm not sure... but certainly 6 or 7 runs is not an insurmountable lead against the best team Mexico has to offer.  If an actual player on the Mexican team feels that 6 runs is utterly insurmountable, that's a pretty sad reflection on both that player and their team.

KevinC1
KevinC1

 @Shortofbrillant  @DustyReynolds I agree with shortie, Canada was simply playing within the rules to try and advance in the tournament.  The only poor sportsmanship was on the Mexican team

 

marino.eccher
marino.eccher

 @DwayneHammond  @azathoth And regardless of the inning, "running up the score" is a laughable complaint in pro sports. This isn't t-ball. It's their job to try to score and your job to stop them. You want the other team to stop scoring? Stop them. If I were getting beat up in a pro game, I wouldn't be insulted that the other team kept scoring. I'd be insulted when they stopped taking me seriously enough to try.