Why has Team USA struggled so much in the World Baseball Classic?
PHOENIX -- The plight of Team USA, and its recent flops at the World Baseball Classic, was left for David Wright to explain after Friday's startling 5-2 loss to Mexico at Chase Field.
For the record, it wasn't Wright's fault. The Mets' third baseman had two hits, including an RBI single, but the Americans overall went 2-for-13 with runners in scoring position. Also, R.A. Dickey's knuckleball was mostly a dud as Mexico whacked him for four runs and six hits in four innings.
In the nearly empty U.S. dugout, Wright sat on a bench, wearing shorts, shower shoes and a glum expression. Wright has been among the WBC's most vocal supporters -- this is his second tournament -- and he was stuck with trying to explain the absences of the best pitchers his country has to offer.
"It's well-documented that some guys turned it down," Wright said. "But I like the guys that want to be here. I understand why some of those guys don't want to, it kind of gets them out of routine, and obviousl,y it's an odd time of year for some of those pitchers to be ramping it up.
"But I think there's something to be said about guys that want to be here and want to put that jersey on."
Team USA figured it couldn't do much better than sending out Dickey, last year's NL Cy Young Award winner, for the opener. But that didn't prevent the United States from dropping to 7-8 in WBC competition, and zero titles in a game this country invented.
The question is why?
The aforementioned missing pitchers are one thing, but there are other potential obstacles, including the time of year the WBC is held. Some players aren't fans of engaging in regular-season intensity in the middle of March, when they're used to working themselves into shape.
"I know there have been some questions about timing and so forth," Bud Selig said. "I think everybody has come to the conclusion this is as good a time as any."
It's not so much that this is a good time. It's just less bad than any other point of the baseball season. The Olympics dropped baseball after the 2008 Summer Games, but Selig is against interrupting the 162-game schedule.
"We can't stop our sport in August for 2 1/2 weeks," Selig said. "We just can't do that. No. 1, it couldn't work. We'd like to do it, but it's just not practical."
Selig also said he's confident MLB teams are not discouraging their players from cooperating. Still, the consistently poor showing by the Americans is not helping the tournament catch on in the States.
"If we are successful and win it, then I think you're going to have more support," Dickey said. "I feel like it's kind of a World Cup event. And I think that took a little while to get some legs, too. But we have got to continually produce good teams that show well in it."
Selig wouldn't say that better performances by Team USA are crucial for the success of the WBC in the States, but he'd obviously like to reverse the trend.
"There's a lot of things the commissioner can control," Selig said. "But that's one that you can't."