In the months leading up to the 2013 World Baseball Classic, it seemed as though Baseball Canada might be able to field a truly competitive team and achieve some tournament success.
Canada finished in 13th place at the 2009 edition of the World Baseball Classic. Since then, Canadian baseball players have become amongst the biggest names in the Major Leagues, so if everybody showed up they could field a truly competitive lineup.
Not everybody showed up.
The bad news began when the likes of Ryan Dempster, who would have been Canada’s best starting pitcher, and outfielder Jason Bay declined invitations to play. Pitchers Rich Harden and Jeff Francis would have also bolstered the Canadian rotation, but declined the option to play. These players, while good, are in the autumns of their pro careers, and the fact that the tournament occurs less than a month before the start of the Major League Baseball season makes it understandable to an extent, but it is still disappointing, as they put themselves before their country.
The most selfish of all decisions had to go to Russell Martin. The catcher of the Pittsburgh Pirates was the best option for Canada behind the plate, but decided not to take representing his country seriously and was resolute that if he was going to play it was going to be at shortstop.
Martin had never played pro at third base, and neither Team Canada nor his pro club in Pittsburgh thought it was a good idea for him to play out of position. Rather than accepting the offer to play catcher, he made up his mind to quit the team when he didn’t get his way.
Pretty childish stuff from a 30-year-old “pro.”
With that decision, it came down to Chris Robinson, a career Minor Leaguer, to be behind the plate for Canada. Unlike Martin, who whined about having to learn the nuances of a new pitching staff, Robinson took to the role and was one of the most consistent Canadian players in Round 1.
Joining him were veteran Major Leaguers Justin Morneau, John Axford, Michael Saunders and 2010 National League MVP Joey Votto. Unfortunately, the pitchers throwing to him weren’t nearly as good. Canada was bombed in a 14-4 loss in game one against Italy, as the mercy rule came into effect.
Canada put in a great effort against Mexico – the two sides fought it out both literally and figuratively as Canada eliminated Mexico with a 10-3 win, setting up a winner-moves-on-loser-goes-home match against the U.S. on Mar. 10. Canada jumped out to an early lead, but poor late inning pitching and coaching saw them blow a lead and lose 9-4.
One can only imagine how the results may have differed if Canada’s elite players had been more concerned with the name on the front of the jersey, as opposed to the name on the back.