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SportsColumnistsDavid Lennon

U.S. team's enthusiasm muted in WBC

David Wright of USA celebrates with Ryan Braun,

David Wright of USA celebrates with Ryan Braun, Giancarlo Stanton and teammates in the dugout after scoring against Canada during the eighth inning of the World Baseball Classic First Round Group D game at Chase Field. (March 10, 2013) Credit: Getty Images


No, really, the United States cares about winning the World Baseball Classic. But until the Americans show as much on-field emotion as some of the other tournament entries, it's the question that keeps coming up.

Just because the Dominican Republic empties the dugout after every run or Italy blows kisses to each other -- yes, that happens -- the conventional wisdom says that the U.S. squad as a whole is indifferent to the WBC.

So what is it going to take to change the public's perception? David Wright inventing his own signature handshake? A Gatorade bath for Joe Torre? Maybe tape a Harlem Shake video?

Something, anything, to convince the skeptics that this really, really matters. This is the second round, after all. How 'bout it, Joe?

"I feel pretty good about our enthusiasm," Torre said Tuesday.

Yawn. On a scale of 1 to 10, with the Dominicans earning a 10 for their over-the-top, on-field zaniness, Torre's crew rates a 2. But that's how baseball is supposed to be played -- in a stoic, businesslike fashion. The U.S. team has not diverted much from that operating manual so far, even as the Dominican Republic treated Tuesday's 5-4 win over Italy like it was Wrestlemania.

There was no brawling. But the preening after home runs got to be a bit much, and royal weddings have had shorter receiving lines than the Dominicans formed in greeting players after they crossed the plate.

In the sixth inning, Robinson Cano stood and watched his long home run off the facade of the rightfield's upper deck. Then he walked for a few steps. Then he jogged. Then he picked up the pace to a light run. And when Cano finally scored, the Dominicans did everything but pop champagne for his arrival.

"It's a different style the way we play here than we play in New York," Cano said. "You see how we get outside the dugout. That's something you never see in the big leagues. Here we get a chance to come out and just be able to high-five the guys. We can jump.

"Nobody sees you trying to show somebody up. It's more about the chemistry on the team. We're all excited to be here and we've all got one mission: to win."

The Italians came off much more reserved than the Dominicans, even after taking a 4-0 lead in the first inning on Chris Colabello's three-run homer. Blowing kisses was enough, and Italy didn't get all worked up about the Dominicans having their fun.

"I think anything goes," Italy's Nick Punto said. "It's just how this tournament is. At times it might be a little frustrating for the guys that have been around and playing in the major leagues, but it's just unique. It's very unique, and it's a lot of fun."

It's also the perfect setting for Jose Reyes, who thrives in such a hyper-caffeinated environment. Reyes was singled out during his Mets days for supposedly firing up opponents with his antics, but it appears to work for the Dominicans in the WBC.

Reyes' one-out single in the seventh sparked the winning, three-run rally. And it seemed as if Reyes never stopped talking or clapping or gesturing or pointing from the moment he stepped on the field.

"Obviously, in a 162-game season, you're not going to be seeing that," said Mike Piazza, who watched it all from the dugout as Italy's hitting coach, "so you just have to let it roll off your back. Our guys have fun, too."

And what about the Americans? Can they all grow wacky beards or something? Maybe if Italy gets eliminated, they can borrow the blowing-kisses concept.

"A lot of times, it's just different styles," said R.A. Dickey, who will make his second WBC start during this round after losing his first in Phoenix. "But don't mistake lack of running on the field for us as not being fully invested. It's just a different way to play sometimes. That's all."

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