Second baseman Brian Roberts (left) led off Sunday night's World Baseball Classic semifinal game with a home run off Japan pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka.
Unfortunately, that was the high point for Team USA. The Japanese team eventually pulled away for a 9-4 victory and will meet Korea tonight for the championship of the tournament.
It's not a coincidence that those two Asian teams are the last ones standing. Those guys are playing to win. The Americans? Not so much.
Don't get me wrong: The guys on Team USA gave their all, but the bottom line is there were other agendas for the Americans besides winning the tournament. Namely, all the players on the U.S. roster were trying to get their work in as they prepare for the upcoming Major League season.
Manager Davey Johnson basically had to manage as if he were in charge of a Little League team, making sure everyone got a chance to play. How else can you explain some of the curious moves Johnson made?
He alternated catchers and shortstops the whole tournament. One day, it's Brian McCann behind the plate. Next game, it's Chris Iannetta. Jimmy Rollins plays the first five innings at shortstop. Then, Derek Jeter takes over.
If the only agenda is to win, you'd put the best player on the field and not worry about anyone's feelings. That isn't what took place here.
During last night's semifinal game, there were several unusual moves. For example, Jeter started at shortstop, while Rollins was the DH. Anyone with half a brain knows Rollins is the superior defensive player. If I'm trying to win this game at all costs, Rollins is my guy at short.
Instead, Jeter played, and he made an error that opened the door for a three-run ninth inning for the Japanese. The miscue sealed Team USA's fate. Speaking of that ninth inning, what the hell was Joel Hanrahan doing on the mound?
The U.S. had just scored two runs in the bottom of the eighth to cut the Japan lead to 6-4. A shutdown inning was needed in the top half of the ninth. Who does Johnson call on to pitch? Hanrahan. Yikes. There was no one else available?
Of course, Hanrahan walked the leadoff man. Jeter made an untimely error and the rest is history. I assume Hanrahan was in there because he needed an inning of work. That's how Johnson has to manage, and that's why Team USA loses.
Japan played last night's game like Game 7 of the World Series. Team USA played it like it was Little League. The result should not be a surprise to any of us.