With every new addition, it seems at least a few more people are enjoying the World Baseball Classic. It’s got a bit of everything for the baseball freak, starting off with #WeirdBaseball and overnight starts in Taiwan and Tokyo. Then we get the noise and sights whenever the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, or Puerto Rico get on the field, which makes us all wonder why MLB struggles so much to make baseball fun. Look at those guys! And of course there’s the usual “Team USA Throwing Up On Itself” night, which we got yesterday as they were handed their ass by Mexico (and we’ll get back to that).
As our neighbors to the south poured honey and ants all over Brady Singer (undercutting the value of this tournament because the US was forced to turn to Singer and Methuselah Wainwright in its first two games, but again, we’ll get to that), more and more people on Twitter starting doing the calculations on how damaging it was for the US to not just to lose against Mexico, but to have their asses kicked up to their necks. Which, to the uninitiated, sounded a little funny. OK, the US didn’t blow out Great Britain and their D-student jerseys, but with a small late rally last night, you figured one blowout of Colombia or Canada while simply beating the other should be enough for the US to advance and for Fox executives to put away the absinthe. Because, of course, run differential would be the first tiebreaker in the case of a tie between more than two teams. Of course, they could use the record in games between those teams that are tied if there are more than two, but that won’t always work either. So run differential would clea…
Nope, of course not. This is MLB, and nothing they do is as simple as it could be because fuck you and there’s nothing they can’t fuck up because fuck you. So as the US’s deficit grew, and Pool A ended in a four-way tie, we were introduced to a set of rules that included words like “quotient” and “divided”, involved a lot of math, and definitely sounded like it was something designed by someone who’s listened to Dark Side of The Moon 50 times too many. No man, the general in “Us And Them” is you, dude! It’s also Joey Meneses! Don’t you see?!
Here’s the actual wording of the WBC tiebreaker rule, if you need to start your week in something of a fog. Well, a different kind of fog than normal:
“The tied teams shall be ranked in the standings according to the lowest quotient of fewest runs allowed divided by the number of defensive outs recorded in the games in that round between the teams tied.”
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So in Pool A, which wrapped up play already, every team finished 2-2. But instead of going by run differential, Italy and Cuba went through to the quarterfinals thanks to their lowest runs allowed quotient/percentage/flubber. Which is really weird!
For example, and it didn’t really affect the math but it could have, the Netherlands only recorded 102 outs in their four games instead of the 108 that Cuba and Italy recorded because they were the road team in two games, and they lost both, Sure, they lost, but had they given up just two fewer runs while still losing those two games, the same amount of runs surrendered by Italy in four games, they still would have been bounced thanks to simply being the road team and not having the chance to record more outs. How does that work? Italy still had the better run differential by some distance (+3 versus -6) and deserved to go through, but MLB set this up to be a real mess and almost got it. Some would argue they did because it so easily could have come down to the randomness of who was deemed the home team and who wasn’t in certain games. [Editor’s note: Holy shit this is confusing]
That math doesn’t do the US many favors. They just gave up 11 runs, and even if they get around to beating both Colombia and Canada heavily, they’d better do it while not giving up much. It’s not hard to see three teams ending up 3-1 in the US’s pool, with Colombia and Mexico still getting their free spot on the bingo card against Great Britain, or Canada pulling an upset. And the US has that 11-spot to make up for.
The system makes no allowance for offense, and maybe the purpose was not rewarding teams that can punish pitchers that are still early in their ramp-up for the season. But hey, that’s when they set the fucking thing, so deal with it. Speaking of which…
Mark DeRosa gives away the game
After last night’s loss, USA manager Mark DeRosa was only too happy to undermine the whole thing. Because it’s hard to take a tournament like this completely seriously when the manager of its biggest team is openly telling everyone that he has to serve the masters of the MLB teams’ wishes over winning.
We get it, it’s still spring training, and pitchers have limits here, but it’s a little hard to swallow when you see how every other team seems to be enjoying this thing immensely and playing as if it really matters, while DeRosa caters to people and management that’s not even here. And this reminds you that if you go to the leading pitchers page from last year and see how many aren’t at this tournament, and you can’t help but get a little deflated.
The WBC is a great idea and in some corners is a ton of fun. But if it’s ever going to be THE REAL THING, then MLB has to commit to it by doing something like replacing the All-Star game with it every four years. Shorten the season, block out two weeks in the middle, and have the fucking thing properly, when pitchers are in true form and everyone has been playing for months and at a point in the calendar when it’s the only thing going. Having it in July also opens up all kinds of venues. Wouldn’t having games in Yankee Stadium or Fenway or Wrigley give it a new, shiny coat of luster?
Maybe pitchers will always be wary of tacking on innings anywhere other than for the teams that are paying them millions. Maybe you can never get someone like Jacob deGrom or Aaron Nola into this. But with a shortened regular season and in the middle with innings they would be throwing normally in a 162-game season, there’s a better chance. Acting as a different version of spring training cheapens something that shouldn’t be cheapened if it’s ever going to work.