PHOENIX — Adrian Gonzalez and his Dodgers teammates from Team Mexico arrived back in camp at Camelback Ranch on Wednesday morning, and the first baseman is still smarting from the way Mexico’s elimination was handled by the World Baseball Classic.
Gonzalez, one of a handful of players to participate in all four World Baseball Classics, dating back to 2006, was disillusioned by this year’s experience and said he will never play in the tournament again, and would advise others to do the same.
"At the end of the day that tournament is not well organized, not well done, not well thought of. When you're going to put your career on the line, why would you do it for something that has no validity?” Gonzalez said. “They're trying to become the World Cup, but they aren't even close to being the Little League World Series.”
At issue with Gonzalez and Mexico was the team being eliminated on a tiebreaker based on runs allowed per defensive inning in games against Italy and Venezuela. Because Mexico’s loss to Italy included allowing five runs but recording no outs in the ninth inning, that inning did not count as a defensive inning.
Had that ninth inning against counted as a defensive inning, Mexico would have advanced to a tiebreaker against Italy. Instead, they were eliminated.
There was confusion about the rule before the Sunday game against Venezuela, such that the general manager of Team Mexico reached out to WBC officials by email and phone seven times for clarification of the rule, per Gonzalez, and got no response.
This tiebreaker rule is different than the last WBC, which used runs scored per inning played on offense minus runs scored per inning on defense.
Going into the game thinking they needed to beat Venezuela by two runs to avoid elimination, an error perpetuated during the MLB Network broadcast, Mexico carried an 11-9 into the late innings.
With runners on first and second and nobody out in the top of the ninth inning, Gonzalez said had Mexico known they needed another run they would have played for one run (in other words, sacrifice bunted). Even so, Mexico might have scored had pinch runner Manny Rodriguez not failed to tag on a fly ball to left field, especially as Martin Prado threw back to second base after the catch. Mexico did not score again.
Had Venezuela scored a run in the bottom of the inning, Gonzalez said the plan was to walk the bases loaded and balk in the tying run, then try to win by two (or so they thought) in extra innings. But Venezuela didn’t score and the Mexican players celebrated on the field and in the clubhouse, thinking they would play another day, only to be told about a half-hour later the bad news.
Gonzalez said he berated MLB, telling officials at the event, “You guys are unaccountable. You have no integrity.”
Now back in camp, along with Sergio Romo and Alex Verdugo, plus Rob Segedin after Italy was eliminated on Monday, Gonzalez is focused on getting ready for the regular season. After not swinging a bat for two weeks because of elbow tendinitis, Gonzalez only played in two games before leaving to join Team Mexico.
Gonzalez was 1-for-12 with a sacrifice fly in three games in the WBC. He said his swing felt better by the final game on Sunday.
"It's good to be the hell out of that tournament," Gonzalez said.
Manager Dave Roberts said the quartet would get a day to get acclimated back in camp before playing in a game. None are on the travel roster to Peoria against the Mariners.