Watching Edgar Gonzalez stumbling under fly balls for Team Mexico during the World Baseball Classic was painful to watch. It reminded me of my Little League days when the coach stuck me out in right field, and I didn’t have a clue. The guy never knew I could pitch. Then again, he never asked.
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Anyway, there’s poor Edgar, the older brother of superstar Adrian Gonzalez, who is an infielder by trade, but was asked to play the field. Only a few weeks ago, Team Mexico had only one outfielder, veteran Karim Garcia, on its entire roster. That’s because the Mexican League decided to play politics and withhold permission for most of its players to participate in the World Baseball Classic. And by the time the league finally decided to cooperate, there were very few warm bodies in playing shape who could contribute effectively. To make matters worse, most of the outfielders on the Caribbean-champion Obregon Yaquis were Americans.
The Mexican League’s top “jardinero” is Eduardo Arredondo, who agreed to join the team and play center field at the last minute. The speedy, Vera Cruz native holds a career .330 batting average over nine years in Mexico and should be playing north of the border, but the league won’t cooperate. So, with Garcia in right field next to Arredondo, it was logical that Edgar Gonzalez be asked to fill the hole in left field. Unfortunately, the ball found him far too often.
It wouldn’t be fair to entirely blame Edgar Gonzalez for his country’s 6-5 loss to Team Italy in the World Baseball Classic opener. Mexican “bad boy,” Alfredo Aceves, gave up two runs on five hits, including one bomb, in a miserable, middle-inning performance. Just as disappointing was Sergio Romo, who coughed up two more runs and was hung with a blown save, although he was the victim of a Gonzalez blunder.
While Romo would redeem himself the next day against Team USA, Mexico manager Rick Renteria would use a total of seven pitchers to hold off the Americans in a 5-2 win. The face of Team Mexico, Adrian Gonzalez, clutched up with a two-run homer off R.A. Dickey, giving his club high hopes of advancing in this event. But answering the bell on three consecutive days would take it’s toll.
Most Mexico pitchers were either ineligible or gassed against Team Canada, resulting in an ugly 10-3 defeat. Even more embarrassing, though, was the ninth-inning brawl that erupted when Mexican relief pitcher Arnold Leon nailed Canadian batter Rene Tosoni in the back. Team Canada’s previous hitter, catcher Chris Robinson, dropped down a bunt with nobody on base in the ninth inning, with his squad up by six runs. That play infuriated Mexican third baseman Luis Cruz, who watched the ball slowly roll toward him, and then gestured toward his pitcher. After Leon hit Tosoni, both benches emptied and punches started flying from every direction. Aceves, of course, was in the middle of the fracas and quickly found himself on the ground.
With a run differential in play as one of the tiebreakers in this tournament, one could argue that Team Canada was justified in going for the jugular. But for Robinson to pull such a stunt in the final inning was poor baseball etiquette, and it put his teammates in harm’s way.
This is how I see it. Mexico has the horses to be a major force on baseball’s world stage, and it’s unfortunate this team didn’t have better representation at each position. Because they finished last in their pool, Mexico will now have to qualify for the next World Baseball Classic tournament instead of getting a free pass. Let’s hope by then, the Mexican League will cut the crap and give Team Mexico a fighting chance.