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World Baseball Classic Game Turns Ugly as Teams Canada, Mexico Brawl

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Baseball fans will remember March 9, 2013.


Because today, of all days, the World Baseball Classic actually had a game that contained a nasty brawl.  As the WBC is meant as an international showcase, and as baseball rarely has brawls, the juxtaposition of the two things did not go over well.

Here’s the situation.  It’s the top of the 9th.  The setting is Phoenix, Arizona.  Team Canada leads Team Mexico by a score of 9-3.  Canada’s Chris Robinson bunts for a base hit, which isn’t something usually done when your team is up by six runs.

This bunt upset Team Mexico.  (Though perhaps the word “upset” is a bit of an understatement.)

And a brawl broke out.

As the Miami Herald’s account of the game pointed out:

Under normal circumstances, Robinson’s bunt would be considered a serious breach of etiquette and not attempted out of professional courtesy. But the WBC rules are different.

Run differential is the first tiebreaker when two teams have the same record, and with only two of the four countries in each pool advancing to the next round, chances are good it will come down to that.

As a result, piling it on is not only permitted in the WBC, it’s advised.

At any rate, Team Mexico was furious.  Third baseman Luis Cruz clearly indicated to relief pitcher Arnold Leon that the next batter for Team Canada should get hit.  It took Leon three tries to hit Rene Tosoni, though Leon was warned after his second close pitch that he’d be ejected if he continued to throw at Tosoni.

After that, things just went wild on the field.  (To see the melee in progress, check out this link, courtesy of USA Today, for further details.)

From the Miami Herald’s account of the brawl:

Benches cleared immediately, and the situation deteriorated quickly.

Unlike most baseball skirmishes, tempers in Saturday’s disagreement resulted in fisticuffs, as a huge throng of players for both teams congregated at home plate and began throwing punches, hauling each other to the ground, and putting their opponents in headlocks.

“It’s part of the game that you don’t see all the time,” Canada first baseman Justin Morneau said. “Usually it’s just words being said. There’s not always punches being thrown. But there’s a point you’ve got to stand up for yourself.”

The upshot of the melee was that seven players were ejected: Tosoni, Pete Orr, and Jay Johnson of Team Canada, and Leon, Alfredo Aceves, Oliver Perez and Eduardo Arredando for Team Mexico.  Surprisingly, the umpires did not feel that Cruz deserved to be ejected even though he’s the one who instituted the whole thing.

Then, the fans got into the act.  From the USA Today’s account:

It turned ugly from the stands, too, when someone threw a water bottle that hit pitching coach Denis Boucher. Canadian shortstop Cale Iorg fired the bottle back into the stands.

Minutes later, someone threw a baseball at Walker, causing another stop in play. Whitt went to home-plate umpire Brian Gorman and told him that he would pull his team off the field if another incident occurred. Gorman went to Team Mexico and said the game was in danger of being forfeited.

The public address announcer informed the pro-Mexico crowd that any further disruption would cause a forfeit.

So, did you catch all that?

In case you didn’t, here’s what occurred: First, the pitcher for Team Mexico was told to throw at the second batter for Team Canada after the first batter had bunted for a base hit.  It took Team Mexico’s pitcher three tries, but he eventually hit Team Canada’s second batter.

Team Canada’s batter went after the pitcher.  (Too bad he didn’t go after the third baseman who started it all, but that’s another story.)  So those two, normally, would be the only ones fighting.

However, in this case, two outfielders from Team Canada came off the bench and gleefully joined in the melee, while two relief pitchers plus one of Team Mexico’s outfielders also joined in the melee and hit numerous people, including Canada’s first base coach Larry “the Hat” Walker.

And somehow, the guy who started it all — Luis Cruz — not only didn’t get ejected, he didn’t even get fined.  (Though this may change once the replays are viewed.)

The joke usually goes in hockey that a brawl was scheduled, but a hockey game broke out.  It’s shocking to realize that baseball, too, can have such an occurrence happen — all because of this quirk in the WBC rules that says you need to run up the score, or you have no chance to advance in the case of a tie.

And because of one man — Luis Cruz — who was offended that Canada’s Chris Robinson did what he was asked to do by his manager, Ernie Whitt, and bunted for a base hit in the top of the ninth.

One would hope that down the line, Cruz will realize that not only was this unnecessary, it was an extremely stupid decision.

But for now, all Team Canada can do is wait to see if anyone ends up getting suspended.  As Team Mexico is out of the tournament, further enforcement of WBC rules probably will not apply.

And if that seems unfair to anyone else, do let me know.  Because I seriously hope I’m not the only one disquieted by Cruz’s actions.

Written by Barb Caffrey

March 10, 2013 at 12:57 am