United States' Trea Turner (8) celebrates at home plate after...

United States' Trea Turner (8) celebrates at home plate after hitting a home run scoring Jeff McNeil (1) and Will Smith (16) during the sixth inning of a World Baseball Classic game against Cuba, Sunday, March 19, 2023, in Miami. Credit: AP/Wilfredo Lee

MIAMI

Love it or hate it, the World Baseball Classic is the only place on the planet you’re going to see a $300 million player batting ninth. That’s the spot from which Trea Turner homered three times in the past two games, including a grand slam.

Top to bottom, going by 2023 salary alone, Team USA featured a $190 million lineup in Sunday night’s 14-2 trouncing of Cuba, a card so heavy with talent that not even fantasy owners would dare to imagine such an alignment. Or a check so huge that Steve Cohen might hesitate to sign it.

The 30-man roster contains 18 All-Stars, 11 Silver Slugger recipients, seven World Series champions, five Gold Glove winners, three MVPs and three Rookies of the Year. It’s unquestionably the best group Team USA has ever recruited, so it only makes sense that the defending WBC champs will be playing in Tuesday’s title game against Japan.

This tournament has plenty of detractors, and it surely sprouted a new crop after the season-denting injuries suffered by Edwin Diaz and Jose Altuve, two All-Stars in their own right who played for Puerto Rico and Venezuela, respectively. But if nothing else, the fact that the WBC brings video-game rosters to life, like a Marvel movie does for comic books, is worth the price of admission — or a few hours of viewership.

The international competition is a drawing card, sure. It’s why the Olympics and soccer’s World Cup suck in the casual fan every four years. The flag makes all of us teammates, at least in the sporting realm, and that allegiance burns hot in these venues.

But follow Team USA through the WBC and you’ll see things never witnessed before, not even for a few innings of an All-Star Game (which has turned into baseball’s version of pro wrestling, one step short of a scripted TV program). Only Cardinals fans are regularly treated to having Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado hit back-to-back, as they did again Sunday night for Team USA. But Mookie Betts and Mike Trout 1-2 atop the lineup? Pete Alonso hitting seventh?

It’s also the last time you’ll watch Alonso and Jeff McNeil celebrate Turner going off, though for Mets fans, that’s probably tough to stomach knowing what lies ahead in less than two weeks. Turner moved to an uncomfortably close neighborhood this winter, right down the Jersey Turnpike, after signing his 11-year, $300 million deal with the Phillies. And his new home, Citizens Bank Park, could help spike Turner’s home run rate up from the 20-something range, especially after this power display during the WBC.

Turner’s multihomer game Sunday was only the second in Team USA history, joining Ken Griffey Jr. (2006), and his consecutive four-RBI nights was a first for the tournament. His 10 RBIs overall ties him with David Wright — the original Captain America — from 2013 and Griffey (2006) for a single WBC.

“I don’t know any of these things,” Turner said. “I’m just trying to win with these guys. I think that’s why we are here. We don’t care who does what. We want to win. That stuff’s pretty cool . . . But for me, I just like winning. I like playing baseball, competing and coming out on top. Hopefully those stats keep coming and that’s a good thing for Team USA.”

Turner’s slugging (and salary) make him an outlier in the nine-hole. But manager Mark DeRosa, who’s referenced the abuse he’s absorbed on social media for a number of other moves, has no plans to bump him higher in the lineup for Tuesday’s championship game.

“I think for me, I kept saying every time he went deep, who is the idiot that’s hitting him ninth, you know?” DeRosa said. “But that’s the way this lineup’s built. So I’m going to leave him alone right now.”

Does it really matter? However Team USA is shuffled, the names are just as lethal — and entertaining.

When Adam Wainwright got burned by Cuba’s soft contact in the first inning Monday night — — setting up his bases-loaded walk for a 1-0 deficit — Cardinals teammate Goldschmidt took him aside and told him not to sweat it. They’d pick him up at the plate.

Minutes afterward, first time up, Goldschmidt hammered a two-run homer with an exit velocity of 112.0 mph, harder than all but one of his batted balls (112.3) from last season. Team USA never trailed again.

“Honestly, for me, that was one of my favorite home runs I’ve ever hit in my entire life,” said Goldschmidt, who has 315 on his resume. “You want to contribute on this team. I’ve been hitting third and I’ve been doing OK, but not really too many big hits or anything like that. Luckily, it’s a great team.”

And he’s got Turner another six spots down, waiting to mash.

“Yeah, what a fun team, where Trea Turner bats ninth,” Wainwright said.

Fun isn’t the word Cuba would use. Or Venezuela. That’s for the guys wearing the stars and stripes. Or the rest of us who get to watch it for one more night.

Newsday LogoSUBSCRIBEUnlimited Digital AccessOnly 25¢for 5 months
ACT NOWSALE ENDS SOON | CANCEL ANYTIME