MIAMI -- Things began ominously for the USA team, with AL MVP
Meanwhile, this nation, the United States of America, doesn't need to await the verdict on its team. It looks very bad.
Pathetically, the 10-run mercy rule needed to be invoked in the U.S.'s stunning 11-1 World Baseball Classic defeat to Puerto Rico. That rule is used to avoid embarrassment. It didn't work.
Team USA moved quickly into the losers' bracket, without much fuss or any commotion, the result of the embarrassing defeat to a spirited Puerto Rican team that hammered U.S. ace pitcher
A few U.S. players seemed to be unaware they fell victim to the mercy rule and appeared to be returning to their positions when they were removed from the field. All that was missing was the gong as they all eventually left.
The Puerto Ricans feature nice a mix of major-league stars like
"It's not a good feeling, it's tough to swallow,''
"The only word that comes to me ... it's embarrassing,''
"Sure, it's embarrassing. But you can't hang your heads too long. We've got a game (Sunday),''
Specifically, the sorrowful defeat puts the U.S.team against the upstart Netherlands team Sunday night. A loss to the Dutch looms as a possibility now, and it would be nothing short of a second embarrassment. The U.S. proved that anything's possible. Same goes for the feisty Dutch team.
While Netherlands is the most pleasant surprise in the tournament despite its 3-1 loss to Venezuela earlier in the day, the U.S. has to be considered a major disappointment to date. The flu bug has hit the American (with
No excuses. The U.S. team was just plain terrible. Here are some of Saturday night's culprits:
• DeRosa, who was pressed to play after
• The one through four hitters were a combined 0-for-12;
• Dunn continued to be team USA's biggest threat at the plate, with two more hits, but looked like a piker in right field. He should have caught
• Dunn was stopped at third by Hall of Fame third baseman but neophyte third-base coach
Even if the U.S. teams looked better on paper, it was no match on the field, where Puerto Rico dominated every facet. Puerto Rico's starting pitcher
Pitching against a lineup of All Stars, Vazquez belied his rep and dominated the U.S. team. He was the pitcher the Braves acquired in trade when they failed to land their top choice, who happened to be Peavy.
Peavy was gone after two innings. But the by the time he was out, the game was over, and his trade value had dropped precipitously.
Peavy, it was noted later, was one of the ill players on the U.S. team. Yet, U.S. manager
Johnson actually rushed back from his stepson's wedding across the state in St. Petersburg in time to catch Peavy's act, and the rest of his lame team's performance.
It was Johnson who urged the team several days ago to commit fully to the team, and not treat it like an exhibition. But you have to wonder whether any of that message was lost in translation when Johnson missed Friday's practice presumably for the rehearsal dinner, and was slated to be replaced on Saturday by coach
Johnson was said to have "hustled'' back to the WBC, but his surprising early appearance didn't exactly inspire anyone.