Ugly brawl highlights yet another flaw in the World Baseball Classic


One of the ugliest scenes to take place on a baseball field in recent years just took place in Canada’s defeat of Mexico on Saturday. And while none of the participants should be let off the hook — I’d have been in favor of stopping the game and throwing both countries out of the tournament — there’s no way this would have happened if not for the World Baseball Classic’s ill-conceived tiebreaker rules.

Let’s set the scene. Canada was up 9-3 in the top of the ninth on its way to an easy win, it’s first of the tournament. Yet, that might not have been enough for its hopes of advancing. Catcher Chris Robinson sought to help Canada add to its lead by dropping down a bunt single to start the frame.

Now, in a major league game, that’s pure bush league. In the minors as well. Probably as low down as college and high school.

In the World Baseball Classic, though, it’s smart baseball. The tiebreakers hinge on run margin, and with four teams playing three games apiece in each pool, tiebreakers are going to come into play at least as often as not. It already did in Pool A, which produced three 2-1 teams. Korea went home because its run margin wasn’t as strong as that of The Netherlands or Chinese Taipei.

Of course, Mexico didn’t see it the same way Canada did. About to fall to 1-2 and get eliminated from the tournament, they weren’t having any of it. At third baseman Luis Cruz’s direction, Arnold Leon threw at Rene Tosoni twice, hitting him the second time and touching off a massive brawl that left several players bruised and might well have resulted in some more significant injuries.

All that needed to happen to prevent this scenario was for the tiebreaker rules to be tied to runs allowed, instead of run differential. It’s still far from perfect, but then, this tournament will never be anything close to perfect as long as MLB wants to try to play it alongside a 162-game season. I imagine we’ll see it changed next time around. Assuming that there is a next time around.

Madison Bumgarner diagnosed with fractured left hand

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Giants ace left-hander Madison Bumgarner sustained a displaced fracture of the fifth metacarpal of his left hand on Friday. He’ll undergo surgery on Saturday to insert pins in his pinky knuckle, a procedure that could require a four- to six-week recovery period before he’s cleared to throw again. According to ESPN’s Buster Olney, Bumgarner’s total recovery time is expected to take 6-8 weeks. In a best-case scenario, the lefty said he should be able to pitch again before the All-Star break, but given the amount of time and care it’ll take for him to shoulder a full workload, it’s unclear whether he’ll be able to do so.

Bumgarner suffered the fracture during the third inning of Friday’s Cactus League game against the Royals. Whit Merrifield returned a line drive up the middle and the ball deflected off the top of Bumgarner’s pitching hand before bouncing into the infield. He chased after the ball but was unable to pick it up, and was immediately visited by manager Bruce Bochy and a team trainer before exiting the game.

The 28-year-old southpaw was gearing up for a massive comeback after losing significant playing time with an injury in 2017. During his tumultuous run with the Giants last year, he missed nearly three months on the disabled list after spraining his shoulder and bruising his ribs in a dirt bike accident. He finished the season with a 4-9 record in 17 starts and a 3.32 ERA (his first 3.00+ ERA since 2012), 1.6 BB/9 and 8.2 SO/9 over 111 innings. Without him, the Giants suffered as well; by season’s end, their pitching staff ranked seventh-worst in the National League with a cumulative 4.58 ERA and 10.1 fWAR.

This is the second massive injury the Giants’ rotation has sustained this week after right-hander Jeff Samardzija was diagnosed with a strained pectoral muscle on Thursday. “Horrible news for us,” Bochy told reporters after Friday’s game. “That’s all you can say about it. There’s nothing you can do but push on.”