Great game, exciting! Great catch from Beltran, big home runs from Delgado, Rios, Youkilis – it was back and forth, everything you can ask. Some solid pitching performances – we saw JJ Putz put away Delgado and Beltran with nasty splits – so the game had everything. But at the end of the day, for me, the most important sequence of the night was in the ninth inning with runners at first and second, no outs and Derek Jeter comes to the plate. You’re wondering, “What is Davey Johnson gonna do?” Jeter had struck out in his last at-bat, but obviously he has a history in big moments. So do you let him swing or do you ask him to bunt to move the runners over? He’s one of the best bunters in baseball. I thought it was interesting because what’s going through the managers mind is “I got a guy at the plate who is not going to hit into a double play” – you’re hoping he’s not unless he hits a bullet right at someone – so that’s why he lets him swing. He hit a rocket to right field which moved Victorino to third and Roberts stayed at first. I think if it wasn’t the combination of speed on base in Victorino and Roberts, you may have seen Jeter bunting. But with those base runners, if he strikes out those two guys can steal bases. If he bunts them over, you’ve got your hottest hitters coming up and they may pitch around the next guy to set up a double play. Those are the things that Davey factored through his mind. The way it worked out, Jeter ends up flying out and it left first and third and Roberts was able to steal second. That’s the kind of thing that makes the game so interesting.
What did I think? What’s my strategy? I thought that with Rollins, Youkilis, David Wright coming up that Jeter bunts. But, as it turned out, he didn’t and it worked out pretty good.
This is the worst thing that can possibly happen in a tournament like this because everyone is already holding their breathe that this thing can be pulled off. A lot of of critics and a lot of cynics will probably attack the WBC because of the injuries. I’m just pointing it out. I think it will have an affect on the future but if you look at the guys who got hurt, they’re the type of injuries that are alarming to me because they are the type of injuries that occur when you’re not game ready. For example, Dustin Pedroia with an oblique muscle. The oblique injury can happen from two things: fatigue and over use trying to get ready or getting caught off balance on a pitch when you’re timing is not right. In his case I feel like it probably was fatigue. He’s been swinging hard and it looked like he was on a lot of pitches.
Chipper Jones on the other hand, had struggled mightily, was concerned by the fact that he had 6 strikeouts in 10 at bats and when I spoke with him, he had hurt his oblique muscle by swinging at a change up he was off-balance and fooled on. And when you get out in front and you try and reach and extend to try and hit a ball, that’s when you become vulnerable and that’s when you hurt your oblique muscle.
With the pitchers, not throwing yet is the key. Most pitchers in spring training can get on a throwing pattern and most of these pitchers have not.
The one thing I would point out is the lack of games in between. There needed to be more practice or exhibition games played, even in between the competition. For example, if you sat out two days, played a game, sat out two more days and played again – there should never be that many days off. So now the pitching rotation was 5 pitchers on, 5 pitchers off and every 5 or 6 days these guys are pitching in a game. You just can’t have it like that this time of year. In the Venezuela game the other day, King Felix had not pitched in over 8 days and didn’t start until the third game of competition for Venezuela, which didn’t come until two weeks after the whole thing started. They have to schedule ‘B’ games or get these some kind of competition in between games. Unlike most major league spring training camps when they start, you have guys face pitchers to start off in spring training, you don’t have that luxury here. These guys are not gonna face a pitcher – I’m not. If I’m in this competition as a major league hitter I’m not going to WBC without facing major league pitchers. It’s not gonna happen.
I hope we can figure out a way to keep all the players healthy, I’d hate to see this tournament canceled.
The U.SA. mercy rule game – that game was played about as perfect as Puerto Rico could have scripted it. They wanted Vazquez to get to Figueroa and then the back of the bullpen, they did everything right. The offense executed, they went base to base and did everything they wanted to do to put the pressure on. They wanted to run and force the action and they did all that. That’s what’s gonna get lost when you look at the score, all the little things that they did.
The excitement of being down on the field after the game, it was a playoff atmosphere. These guys played it like it was a playoff game. The crowd was yelling and screaming, Beltran and Pudge were on the field celebrating and excited. It was real cool. It gave you a feeling of the importance of the WBC to so many people playing for their native countries.
Team USA is going to be fine the rest of the way. They will hang around if they have better swings, but the starting pitching is the key – Peavy in particular is just not ready, you can see it. I think there are certain pitchers you can look at on their roster that haven’t gotten to their second or third pitch yet. That’s why they have been getting hit so hard, not being able to throw that out pitch to get out of situations and jams. That stands out more than anything else.