World Baseball Classic recap: What we learned

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Nothing ephemerally quenches a baseball fan’s thirst for the start of the season than baseball, itself. And no, I’m not talking about the overdone, lengthy mess that is spring training. The World Baseball Classic brings a pride aspect to the game but at the same time, provides the entertainment and star power that the Olympics can’t. To those who refuse to give the event a chance, and believe it is not high quality, competitive baseball, take it from the actual players involved: after the U.S. loss to Puerto Rico, Brandon Philips admitted that he wanted the WBC title.

“I’ve got to go back to Goodyear, which I don’t want to do, so it sucks man. I wanted to go to San Francisco so bad,” Team USA and Cincinnati Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips told reporters.

“This has to be right up there with an Olympic gold medal. This is as good as it gets,” former All-Star outfielder and current Dominican Republic general manager Moises Alou said following the Dominican's capturing of the WBC crown.

Some fans may be against the event because it risks the chance that their favorite player or a player on their favorite team could get hurt. However, that decision is and should be up to the player and his team. Fans should realize that players are human too and they don’t play the game to attract fans. Baseball is played because for the love of the game, because it’s America’s Game.

Here's what we learned:

Latin America owns the U.S.

2013 was another disappointing year for the U.S. in the World Baseball Classic. Sure, the Classic has only been played three times, but one would think that the U.S., boasting the best baseball league in the world, should have won the title by now. I understand that winning a title is tough no matter what the circumstances are, but the U.S. has made it to the semifinals once in three years and again failed to make it this year. On their road to a 3-3 record this year, all three of its losses came to Latin American teams, Mexico, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. Lastly, it was an all-Latin American title this year, as the Dominicans defeated Puerto Rico. I don’t believe that the Latin American necessarily have greater talent than the U.S. does, but they do play with more energy and intensity compared to the United States and as seen at the games, the fans follow suit.

“No doubt they have the best team... by names...But we play with a lot of heart," Rangers and Dominican Republican outfielder Nelson Cruz said."

The WBC has its own antics and personality

How could you not love Fernando Rodney’s lucky plantain? Recent reports claim it to be a fraud, taken from a fan in the stands, instead of flown in from the D.R. like originally reported. But it gave the Classic a competitive, personal touch that it had previously lacked.

On the other hand, an ugly sight broke out in the ninth inning of Canada and Mexico’s pool play game. Canada was already pounding Mexico when Canada’s Chris Robinson laid down a bunt single. Mexican pitcher, Arnold Leon, then proceeded to throw at Rene Tosoni, Canada’s next batter, on three straight pitches, and finally hit him on the third. An ugly brawl full of fisticuffs and takedowns erupted and several players were ejected. Canada’s pitching coach, Denis Boucher, was even hit in the head with a full water bottle, thrown by a Mexican fan in the stands.

Of course, Mexico thought Canada was piling on the hits and runs when the bunt single was laid down, but the reason for Robinson’s action is that teams are ranked in their pools based on how many runs they score, so in a way, Canada was just playing the game. Therefore, the Mexicans showed some ignorance to understanding of the rule and made themselves look like sore losers after throwing at Robinson.

Despite the misjudgment that some fans showed during the brawl, I’m sure many who watched the WBC can agree that the fans were one of the best features of the entire event. With its own culture and personality, each different group of fans brought a different beat and sound to the stimulating background noise never heard at a typical MLB game. Everything from the vuvuzelas to the nonstop chants and displays of energy makes the fans very deserving of praise for their dedication and passion to their respective teams and countries.