Before we get to the recap, I want to take this opportunity to congratulate Andrew Miller and the rest of Team USA on winning the World Baseball Classic.
UNITED STATES 8, PUERTO RICO 0
If anyone had predicted this outcome for the World Baseball Classic following the United States' First Round collapse against the Dominican Republic, they would have understandably been called crazy. The US team came back to win a close game against Colombia and only got better from that point. The Americans' miraculous comeback run ended in a blowout win over Puerto Rico. The American scoring began in the top of the third inning with a two-run homer off the bat of 2B Ian Kinsler. Singles from LF Christian Yelich and RF Andrew McCutchen each drove in a run in the fifth to extend the US lead to 4-0. SS Brandon Crawford's two-run single in the seventh put the game out of Puerto Rico's reach. RBI hits from DH Giancarlo Stanton and from McCutchen later in the inning in the eighth completed Team USA's eight-run offensive barrage.
The real story of this game was the American pitching, however, especially tournament MVP Marcus Stroman's dominant start. His six innings of no-hit baseball was the farthest any pitcher took a no-hitter in this year's WBC. Thankfully, Stroman isn't in the Central Division, so the Indians will likely see him a maximum of two times before the Postseason. Sam Dyson, Pat Neshek, and David Robertson combined for three innings of shutout relief to secure the win, and the championship, for Team USA.
Puerto Rico looked nothing like the invincible team who had beaten all comers to advance to the Championship Game with a 7-0 record. There's not much else to say about Puerto Rico's performance other than to recap the performance of the lone Indian to play in the title tilt:
Francisco Lindor (Puerto Rico, SS) - 0-4, 2 K - Not a great day for Lindor, but it wasn't a great day for anyone in a Puerto Rican uniform last night in Los Angeles. This game is nothing for Indians fans to worry about. The only way it could cause a problem would be if he returned to Goodyear in a funk following Puerto Rico's blowout loss. He had a great showing in the WBC both offensively and defensively and looks primed to have another big season and has really established himself as one of the game's next great stars.
It appears that all eleven Indians organization players who participated in this year's WBC will return to Tribe camp healthy. Comprehensive stats, including pre-tournament exhibition games, will appear in their own column later this week.
Before I wrap up this year's edition of "Around The World", I'd like to share a few thoughts on this year's tournament...
Hopefully, many of you got to see some of the games from Asia. They provided a rare glimpse at just how different the game in Asia is from baseball anywhere in the Western Hemisphere. It never ceases to amaze me how different the sport can feel when watching it played in different countries, even though it's the same game. Nine innings in a game. Three outs in an inning. Three strikes in a strikeout. Four balls in a walk.
Another impressive facet of this year's tournament was the depth of quality teams. When South Korea is done after the First Round as the host team for their pool and Mexico, Canada, and Chinese Taipei have to qualify for the next edition of the Classic, the tournament must be loaded with good teams. Only China seemed completely in over their heads. Yes, there were some blowouts in the qualifiers, but those are a fact of life in any world championship tournament. Heck, the soccer World Cup qualifiers are rife with blowouts. Australia used to regularly beat Pacific Island nations by 20 or 30 goals before they decided to qualify through the Asian qualifiers instead (Asia has a few automatic spots in the World Cup allocated to it, Oceania gets one spot in a play-in game).
Can we put the "no one cares about the World Baseball Classic" argument to rest now? There were multiple sellouts. An overall attendance record was set with a combined attendance of over one million Over 51,000 people were at Dodger Stadium last night for the Championship Game. Whether there is a better time to play this tournament, such as in the fall, is a question worth discussing, but the WBC is clearly popular and is not going anywhere.
The widespread support for this tournament in multiple countries made one thing perfectly clear: Baseball does not have an issue with popularity. If anything, the game may be more popular now than it ever has been. One million fans in a season was an incredible attendance figure that only the Dodgers could achieve regularly four decades ago. Now it is a sign that a team may be in financial trouble. Despite what everyone seems to be saying, the game is not broken. There's no reason to try to fix it.
After the USA's performances in the first three WBCs, I was concerned that the US was becoming baseball's version of England (invented the sport, national team never wins the big one). That is no longer a concern.
Congratulations to Team USA manager Jim Leyland, who goes out on top of the baseball world. Between Leyland this year and Joe Torre four years ago, it seems that the Team USA WBC job has become an honorary final managerial job conferred upon a legendary retired manager from the United States.
Quick Hits about tonight's post-game celebrations:
- That may be the coolest MVP trophy I've ever seen.
- That eagle sculpture needs to be en route to Cooperstown if not there already.
- Hopefully the MLB locker room celebration gear (hats and t-shirts) this October/November looks as good as the WBC stuff. The World Series stuff would look even better with a red block "C" (or, even better, Chief Wahoo) on it, of course.
That does it for the 2017 WBC and "Around The World". We'll be back with "Around The Farm" on Friday, April 7 with a recap of the best and worst of the Indians organization from Minor League Baseball's Opening Day. My first "ATF" column of the season will appear the following day (assuming last season's "ATF" rotation remains in place). Until then, good night from the USA, home of the 2017 World Baseball Classic champions!