The lesson to take away from Yasiel Puig’s benching

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As Ken Rosenthal notes in his excellent column on the matter this morning, Yasiel Puig’s mid-game benching yesterday was the result of him not breaking up a double play when most players would, making some showy catches and for loafing it out to the field at the end of an inning.  Rosenthal also notes that manager Don Mattingly’s handling of the situation — and Puig’s accepting responsibility for it after the game — was quite good.

Can’t disagree with any of that. I will make an observation in the wake of one of Rosenthal’s comments, however:

A number of statistical analysts howled last week at the notion of benching Puig, noting that his various mistakes paled in importance to his overall contribution.

I can’t speak for anyone besides me, but to the extent I took issue with the bench-Puig stuff last week it wasn’t in terms of how Mattingly was going about his business or even the need to do something to reign in Puig’s alleged excesses.  The Dodgers are Don Mattingly’s team and he knows it best. If a player is in need of some discipline it is the manager’s decision. Both the fine and/or benching which happened in Miami last week and pulling him out of yesterday’s game was A-OK with me.

Where I did (and still do) take issue is with the reaction to all of this by many in the media who are acting as if Puig is some special case or if a player ruffling feathers is something new and scandalous. Players are benched or disciplined multiple times a year for such things. Sometimes it’s even established veterans like Jimmy Rollins who had his own little issue with this sort of thing a year ago tomorrow.

That isn’t to say it isn’t newsworthy. Puig is an exciting and important player so if he does have a run-in with his manager it is certainly news. But what it is not is an occasion to make it a referendum on his very character or to describe it as “Berzerk-O” behavior that puts the Dodgers’ very future at risk like some did last week.

This happens. It’s a story. It’s a bigger story if the manager refuses to handle it or the player refuses to respond. But we’re not seeing that with Puig and, as such, it doesn’t justify the sort of outrage and hyperbole the matter has thus far gotten from some quarters.

Marcus Stroman named World Baseball Classic MVP

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United States starter Marcus Stroman was named Most Valuable Player of the World Baseball Classic after helping lead the U.S. to its first ever WBC title on Wednesday night in an 8-0 victory over Puerto Rico. Stroman flirted with a no-hitter through six innings, but gave up a double to lead off the seventh before being relieved by Sam Dyson.

Stroman also pitched 4 2/3 scoreless innings against the Dominican Republic in Pool C play on March 11. He struggled in Pool F play against Puerto Rico last Friday, surrendering four runs in 4 2/3 innings.

The WBC MVP award understandably goes to a player of the winning team. However, Wladimir Balentien of the Netherlands deserves special mention. In 26 at-bats during the WBC, he hit a double and had a WBC-high four home runs, 12 RBI, and 12 runs scored while putting up a .615/.677/.1.115 batting line. That’s MVP-esque as far as this tournament is concerned.

U.S. blanks Puerto Rico 8-0 to win first World Baseball Classic title

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The United States handed Puerto Rico its first loss in the World Baseball Classic, winning 8-0 for its first title in the fourth iteration of the tournament.

Puerto Rico starter Seth Lugo was matching Marcus Stroman zero-for-zero through the first two innings, but the U.S. broke out for a pair of runs when Ian Kinsler deposited a two-run home run just beyond the fence in left-center at Dodger Stadium. The U.S. tacked on two more in the fifth on RBI singles from Christian Yelich and Andrew McCutchen, pushing the lead to 4-0.

Meanwhile, Stroman was dealing. The right-hander, normally seen in a Blue Jays uniform, held Puerto Rico hitless through his first six innings, giving up just a lone walk. The U.S. put together a long rally in the top of the seventh, scoring three runs on three hits, two walks, and a hit batter. Stroman came back out for the seventh but immediately served up a double down the left field line to Angel Pagan. U.S. manager Jim Leyland immediately lifted Stroman from the game, bringing in Sam Dyson who escaped the inning without any further damage.

Pat Neshek allowed a leadoff single to Yadier Molina to begin the eighth, but induced a double-play, then worked around a two-out walk by striking out Kenny Vargas to end the frame.

In the ninth, David Robertson took over. He induced an infield pop-up from Enrique Hernandez. After Pagan singled up the middle, Francisco Lindor sharply grounded out to Eric Hosmer at first base for the second out. Finally, Robertson closed it out, inducing Carlos Correa to ground out to third base, making the U.S. 8-0 victors over Puerto Rico to win the World Baseball Classic.

Puerto Rico had an admirable run, defeating Venezuela, Mexico, and Italy to get out of Pool D undefeated. Then, in Pool F, it beat Venezuela again as well as the U.S. and the Dominican Republic to move to the semifinals. It narrowly edged Netherlands 4-3 in the semifinals to get into the finals.

The U.S. lost to the D.R. but beat Canada and Colombia to get out of Pool C. In Pool F, the U.S. lost to Puerto Rico and defeated the D.R again as well as Venezuela. The U.S. took down Japan in the semifinals to advance to the finals to play Puerto Rico.

The U.S. joins Japan (twice, 2006 and ’09) and the Dominican Republic (2013) as countries to win the World Baseball Classic. The 2017 tournament was a rousing success, setting attendance records, drawing over one million fans to ballparks to take in the games. It will hopefully encourage commissioner Rob Manfred and others to make a concerted effort to make the 2021 tournament bigger and better.