Team Canada has never advanced out of the first round in the World Baseball Classic. But the 2017 team set new standards in futility and being anemic.
The team had a single player hit above .222 in the 3 games. The team had 15 hits, drew 4 walks, and lost by a collective 21-3 score. Against the United States, Team Canada only got a single runner to second base and had 2 men on, both in the 8th inning.
Justin Morneau, one of the few Canadian hitters with major league experience, went 0-for-11 with 5 Ks. Morneau drew 1 of the 4 walks and scored 1 of the 3 runs.
Team Canada did have a 1-0 lead against Colombia until the 3rd inning. In that game, the team got 3 of the first 4 men on base. After Freddie Freeman was thrown out trying to steal second, Canada didn't reach base again until the 6th inning. Against the United States, the Americans had a 7-0 lead before Canada got its first hit.
Team Canada will have to play in the qualifying round to see if there will be a Team Canada in the 2021 World Baseball Classic. And the team won't be able to use MLB players depending on when the qualifying happens.
Here is a truly offensive breakdown.
|Josh Naylor 0-2 Daniel Pinero 0-0|
Pompey and Tosoni each hit a double, the only extra-base hits on the team. Pompey and Freeman had the only RBI, each with 1 (the other run scored on a balk). Malo scored 2 of the runs with Morneau getting the other run scored.
Canada was always good for a walk in previous World Baseball Classic years.
Ryan Dempster, who turned down countless attempts to get him on the roster, played in his first World Baseball Classic 4 years after unofficially retiring. Dempster started 2 games, 1 more than he should have started. Dempster gave up 4 runs in 2 IP to the Dominican Republic and 3 runs in ⅓ inning against the U.S.
In 2⅓ innings, Dempster gave up 9 hits, 7 runs, all earned, 4 walks, and a strikeout. His final ERA was 27.00.
Even without James Paxton and Jameson Taillon, the Canadian pitching staff could have done better. They could have fooled enough hitters to make things interesting. Dempster wasn't really fooling anyone. A single start would have been fine, but 2 starts robbed someone of a chance to make an impression down the road for Team Canada.
Eric Gagne hadn't pitched in the major leagues since 2008, 5 years longer away than Dempster. Gagne came in with 2 outs and he did let one of the Colombian runners score, but in 2⅓ innings (the same amount that Dempster threw in 2 starts), Gagne gave up a hit and a walk and got 2 strikeouts. Not too bad for a 41-year-old.
Andrew Albers had a good and bad performance. Albers relieved Dempster both times. He held the Dominican Republic scoreless for 2 innings. Albers let in the 3 runs charged to Dempster and 4 for himself in 1⅔ innings against the Americans.
Someone other than Pete Orr will play 2B in 2021. The pitching could be better with more experience in 4 years. Tyler O'Neill could be an established MLB hitter. But Canada's biggest problem isn't talent. Getting established MLB players to play for Canada has been a huge problem. Dempster is saying in interviews that this is an amazing experience. That might be a way to spread the word.
Joey Votto didn't play this time, but with Freeman and Morneau in the spots where he could be made missing not too big of a deal. Votto, Russell Martin, Michael Saunders, and Brett Lawrie could have made Team Canada a larger threat against Colombia and maybe a closer contest in the other game.
An ideal Team Canada for manager Ernie Whitt: Joey Votto LF Dalton Pompey CF Michael Saunders RF Jamie Romak/Eric Wood 3B Russell Martin SS Brett Lawrie 2B Freddie Freeman 1B George Kottaras C.
The excuse is that Canada is a hockey country and not a baseball country. Canada certainly has uphill climbs such as few minor league teams north of the border and only the Toronto Blue Jays at the MLB level. But as Harold Reynolds has eventually learned, Canadians can catch. Showing that on the field is easier if more players play for country. Freeman's example might be a light for future versions of Team Canada. But we don't even know if Canada will field a team in 2021.
Jose Bautista had a strong day for the Dominican Republic against Team Canada went 3-4 with a HR and 4 RBI, including a 3-run HR in the 6th inning. Bautista also threw out a Colombian runner in the 9th inning to save the game for the Dominican Republic. MLB Network's Matt Vasgersian went out of his way several times to point out that Bautista wasn't known for this throwing arm.
Bautista has had 21 assists in the outfield in the last 3 years. He plays right field, the place for the best outfield arm. Assists isn't always a good measure because runners won't always run on a goof throwing arm. Vasgersian knows a lot about baseball but maybe not the Toronto Blue Jays.
Matt Vasgersian, John Smoltz, and Jon Morosi did call the Dominican Republic game against Canada at Marlins Park in Miami. Scott Braun and former Montréal Expos player Cliff Floyd called the game against Colombia. That was different from the press release, but real life sometimes happens in between.
photos credit: MLB/World Baseball Classic