Before the 2017 WBC started, Team USA claimed to have assembled the strongest compilation of American baseball players to ever grace the Classic stage.
In the past, American players have been accused of not taking the WBC seriously and being outplayed by teams from other countries that are driven by a passion for the game and the desire to be better than the inventors of the sport.
Japan and The Dominican Republic are the only countries to ever win a WBC. Japan caught everyone sleeping in the first two Classics, because the best MLB players from other countries weren’t attending, and Japan’s professional players are on par with most of, if not all of the world.
Once DR started sending their wealth of elite MLB talent to the event, they began to dominate and until the team’s recent upset loss to Puerto Rico, had won a record 11 Classic games in a row, having last lost in 2009.
Better late than never, but this season Team USA has a squad capable of winning the whole ball of wax.
The 7-5 loss to DR last week, in which Team USA blew a 5-0 lead late was the first step because the competitiveness of the game showed the vamped up recruiting efforts of Team USA. They finally got commitments from elite, young talent with a thirst to actually win the thing, not just participate and then get back to Spring Training as soon as possible.
That talent was on full display on Wednesday night as Baltimore Orioles All-star and Back Knight Adam Jones homered to tie a critical game 2-2 against Venezuela in the eighth inning of an eventual 4-2 Team USA win.
It wasn’t just another homer for Jones, who gave everyone the emotion they’d been looking for from Team USA by finishing it off with a hop and a Boys In The Hood type of chest pump as he reached home plate.Three batters later, Eric Hosmer jacked a two-run blast and the crowd responded with loud chants of "U-S-A" as the turn-up was in full swing.
It was the first time that Team USA and its fans matched the spirit, excitement and passion for the game that the Latin countries have been exhibiting. If there was any doubt that Team USA wanted to win this thing, it was emphatically put to rest.
The U.S. has never reached the final round of the WBC, but it is now tied with Giant Killer Puerto Rico, who they face tonight, at 1-0 in this round and they are in a position to make history. They have the players and they definitely have the passion.
"It's something bigger than baseball," shortstop Alex Bregman said of the WBC. "When we were growing up, we watched the Olympics on TV, and we rooted for our country so hard, and I know every country in the world does that... the WBC ... about everybody locked in, rooting for their country and having a blast. Hopefully, it will continue to grow and get more people out watching."
And for the first time in the history of the WBC, America should be watching and rooting.