Celebracion Dominicano Muy Malo for Some Members of U.S. Squad

Dominicans in the WBCSo the Dominicans like to party. They play hard on the field, and they celebrate wins—hell, they celebrate runs—like they just won the lottery. It’s downright un-big league of them, causing their opponents no end of concern.

Following the DR’s 3-1 victory over the United States on Thurday, Brandon Phillips went so far as to say that some American players were less than pleased, and promised to “show out” in a rematch—I assume this is akin to hot dogging—if he got the chance.

Well, the U.S.’s 4-3 loss to Puerto Rico on Friday assured that Phillips will not get his moment, but that’s beside the point. Like many of their brethren from Latin America, DR players have celebrated their achievements with outsized displays on the field. When Erik Aybar drove in the go-ahead run in the ninth inning on Thursday, his team came streaking onto the field in celebration, despite the fact that the game had not yet ended. When Jose Reyes plated another run moments later, they did it again. And the scene after Fernando Rodney closed out the Americans in the bottom half of the frame put the previous displays to shame. (Emma Span has a collection of highlights in her Sports on Earth column.)

In Major League Baseball, it would all be seen as showing up the opposition, with the offending parties criticized (correctly so), and possibly made an example of by a willing pitcher with a wandering fastball.

This, however, is not Major League Baseball. It is the World Baseball Classic, and the Dominicans are not playing with foreign teammates on the Yankees, Dodgers or Rangers—they’re playing with each other. Representing a country in which such emotional displays are the norm, they have every right to their celebrations.

Baseball is an American game, but it’s long been known that its code doesn’t necessarily translate overseas, be it the Caribbean, Japan or locations in between. When players from there play on teams over here, it is incumbent upon them to learn the local mores, and abide by them. When it comes to national teams, however, not to mention national pride, these players have earned the right to celebrate with enthusiasm.

Should be a heck of a final series.

Bunt appropriately, Foreign players, WBC

The Most Appropriate Inappropriate Bunt Ever Sparks WBC Brawl

WBC brawlLuis Cruz thought he understood baseball’s unwritten rules. So did Arnold Leon. The former, playing third base for Mexico in the World Baseball Classic, responded to a bunt by Canadian catcher Chris Robinson—whose team held a six-run, ninth-inning lead on Saturday—by gesturing for his pitcher to drill the next batter. Leon, the pitcher, did just that.

Within moments, punches were flying and Alfredo Aceves had Satan in his eyes. (Watch the prelude here. Watch the main event below.)

Cruz, however, did not understand the unwritten rules, nor did anyone else on Team Mexico who supported Leon’s retaliation. Because winning trumps any possible Code violation, the WBC’s consideration of run differential matters. The more a team scores, the more likely it is to advance, and, facing the possibility of a three-way tie with the U.S. and Mexico, Canada needed every run it could get. (Also consideration-worthy: Canada was knocked out of the 2006 tournament when coming out on the wrong side of a run-differential tiebreaker.)

It’s undoubtedly tough for players steeped in a certain way of approaching the game—who may well have embraced the Code throughout their entire professional lives—to ignore what is likely second-nature, but there is little excuse for not knowing the rules by which one is playing.

Plate ump Brian Gorman warned both benches after Leon’s first two pitches to Rene Tosoni, the batter following Robinson, sailed inside. On the verge of elimination, however, Leon opted for pride above victory, and drilled Tosoni in the back. Benches emptied, with the brawl starting when Cruz threw a punch at Canada’s Scott Mathieson.

If there is irony in this situation, it is that players coming out of Latin leagues have long been accused of possessing less-than-sufficient understanding of the unwritten rules. This is generally in respect to flair, however—reaction to making a play, not the play itself. Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista—who has a toe in each pool, playing in Toronto and hailing from the Dominican Republic—backed this up, saying from spring training camp in Florida that the structure of the WBC is not enough to merit such strategy.

“I believe in the unwritten rules of the game,” he said in a Toronto Star report. “They should be respected. It’s a code amongst players and everybody who plays baseball at a level higher than Little League knows what it is and there’s no excuse.”

Except that there is an excuse. Ultimately, Canada won both a moral victory and an actual one, its 10-3 win eliminating Mexico from the tournament. It’s fair to question, as Canadian manager Ernie Whitt did after the game, the wisdom of implementing a run-differential system that runs counter to an ingrained facet of baseball, but that’s a discussion for the future.

As long as the WBC—or any other professional baseball outfit—has rules, players can not be knocked for trying to best position their teams to succeed within them.

Update, 3-11: Who knows if or how much the WBC had to do with it, but Leon, a 24-year-old who has never pitched in the big leagues, was just demoted to minors by the A’s.

Deke Appropriately, WBC

Oh, China: Runner Dekes Himself in WBC Action

WBCAs a method of last resort, dekes can be an infielder’s best friend. They’re most frequently enacted in an attempt to slow a baserunner’s progress by making him think that the ball is somewhere on the diamond other than where it actually is–and can end up saving runs .

They are deceptive by nature, but, done right, are entirely by the book. (They’re especially by-the-book if the fielder plays no part in deking a baserunner who has clearly just been deked.)

Some explanation: In WBC action on Monday in Japan, Chinese baserunner Fujia Chu swiped second base following Cuban catcher Eriel Sanchez’s botched transfer of the ball to his throwing hand. Chu pulled into second as Sanchez was trotting toward the backstop to corral the ball, then, near the end of the play, inexplicably started jogging back toward first. (Watch it here.)

The initial impression: One of the Cubans told him it was a foul ball.

The more likely scenario, especially given the language barrier: Chu caught a glimpse of the ball in foul territory and made the assumption all on his own.

These are the kinds of things that happen to an inexperienced squad. (China was mercy-ruled, 12-0, in this game. Say no more.) The reason one never sees this happen in the big leagues is that runners are trained to look in to the catcher mid-stride to see the result of the play. Had he been aware of his surroundings, Chu might even have tried for third.

As it was, Cuba gets credited for a heads-up baseball play it likely had nothing to do with.