No one can say that Jimmy Rollins did not do his part to help Team USA advance in the World Baseball Classic; but despite his best efforts, the USA was eliminated by Japan last night. Rollins, in the DH role yesterday, went 4 for 4 at the plate, including a triple; he also stole a base, had 1 walk and scored a run. But in all 5 times Rollins was on base, only one time was he able to score. The other 4 times, he was left stranded. J-Roll ended his stint in the Classic with a .417 batting average, putting him 3rd place overall for the USA.
Some rather controversial moves by the USA manager, Davey Johnson, also seem to have contributed to the loss. At times, it seemed more like Johnson was trying to make everyone happy, rather than trying to win the game. This is an unfortunate consequence of the presser put upon Johnson by Major League coaches to only use their players in certain ways, at certain positions. For example, pitcher Roy Oswalt was left in the game too long; he should have been pulled earlier in the 4th inning, before the 5 run explosion by Team Japan. But, likely because Johnson felt a duty to Oswalt’s team, the Astros, he was left in to stretch out his arm in preparation for the upcoming MLB season. By the time Oswalt got his pitch count in, the damage was done.
Another issue arose in the 8th inning when, with the USA down 6-4, Shane Victorino stood in the on deck circle to pinch hit with a runner on 3rd and 1 out; at the last minute,
Johnson pulled Victorino and sent Evan Longoria to the plate. Johnson was obviously hoping for a long ball from Longoria, but the problem was that Longoria, being right handed, was going to have to face a right handed pitcher and monster winds that were blowing towards right field. Victorino, who is a switch hitter and could have batted left-handed, had a much better shot at getting a hit off the righty and could have used the wind to his advantage. So, why would Johnson put Longoria in? One possible reason is that Longoria was a late addition to the team and had not yet gotten an at-bat. Johnson likely felt indebted to Longoria for making the trip out and decided he should at least get one at-bat out of the trip. While this is very nice and thoughtful of Johnson, it was not in the best interest of Team USA. Longoria struck-out, Brian Roberts grounded out and that was the end of the threat.
Defense also hindered the Americans from advancing; with 3 errors in the game, Mark DeRosa playing first base, where he had never started before, and Adam Dunn in right field, Team USA was just not able to keep pace with Japan. Dunn, put in the game for his bat even though he is a below average fielder, wound up going hitless in 5 at-bats with 1 walk and 3 strikeouts. In the future, if the USA intends to compete, they are going to have to prepare much earlier for this tournament; plus, players and managers will have to understand that these are real games and that they will be expected to play accordingly. Will this ever actually happen? Your guess is as good as mine.
So the good news for the Phillies is that J-Roll and Victorino will be returning to camp. After a 3-0 loss to the Red Sox yesterday, the Phils will be hoping that J-Roll can kick start the offense for them. Jamie Moyer gets the start today against the Yankees at 1:05pm. Less than 2 weeks until Opening Day…things are going to get a lot more interesting the closer we get to April 5th. More on that later…
(All Photos by Jenn)
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