It was one of those press conferences that didn’t garner much attention but it was nonetheless very important. The date was February 8, 2017, an overcast but otherwise pleasant day at Dodger Stadium. The presser was to formally announce Team Mexico’s roster for the upcoming World Baseball Classic, of which the semi-final and final rounds would be played at Blue Heaven on Earth.
Representing Team Mexico at the press conference was Dodger great Fernando Valenzuela, Team Mexico manager Edgar Gonzalez, Edgar’s brother and Dodgers and Team Mexico first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, and recently acquired right-hander Sergio Romo – and let me tell you, there wasn’t a prouder bunch on the planet.
“It’s almost like a bonus that it’s at Dodger Stadium,” AGon told the gathered media that day. “You get to play in front of our home crowd, in front of our people, in front of the great fans of L.A. We’re going to have the best cheering squad behind us obviously because of all the Mexicans here and all of the people who will travel from Mexico to support us. It’s an added bonus but we’re still going to be focused on making it to the finals just like if the game was somewhere else.”
Team Mexico did not make it to the finals.
They should have … they had the better overall record than did Team Venezuela. But due to an absolutely ridiculous WBC rule, Mexico was eliminated by Venezuela because they only beat Team Venezuela by two runs, this even though Team Mexico manager Edgar Gonzalez had been told by multiple sources before the game that a two-run victory would guarantee his team a spot in the next round. Team Mexico defeated Team Venezuela by a score of 11-9.
Lo and behold, no sooner had EGon, AGon, Romo, former Dodger Luis Cruz and the rest of Team Mexico finished their postgame high-fives and chest bumps that they were informed that the actually needed to win by three runs in order to advance to the next round.
As you might imagine, Team Mexico was absolutely furious – and justifiably so.
“You have no integrity,” AGon expressed to MLB Chief Baseball Officer Joe Torre through the media upon his return to Dodgers spring training camp on Wednesday morning. “Everything you guys are doing is a bunch of BS.”
The ironic part is that because Team Mexico was the home team in that 11-9 win over Team Venezuela, they already knew that they would not bat in the bottom of the ninth inning unless Team Venezuela tied the game or took the lead. However, had Team Mexico known that they needed to win by three runs instead of two, they would have allowed Team Venezuela to tie the game at 11-11 in the top of the ninth to at least have a chance of scoring three or more runs in the bottom of the ninth instead of playing an absolutely meaningless top of the ninth inning – something that AGon addressed with the media on Wednesday morning.
But the worst part about this entire embarrassing mess – and it’s bad – is that Gonzalez told reporters that Team Mexico general manager Kundy Gutiérrez attempted to contact WBC officials by phone and by email for a clarification of the tiebreaker rule before their game with Team Venezuela but never received a reply. This is absolutely unacceptable for an international tournament of this magnitude where there should always be someone available during the two-week long quadrennial event.
“They’re trying to be the World Cup. But they’re not even the Little League World Series,” Gonzalez said. “When you’re going to put your career on the line, why would you do it for something that has no validity?”
As if there was ever a doubt about AGon’s participation in future WBC tournaments, there most certainly isn’t one now.
“It’s good to be the hell out of that tournament.”
Shame on you WBC. Shame on you.