Was Team USA the Inferior Team to Japan or Just Poorly Managed?

Wendy AdairAnalyst IMarch 23, 2009

LOS ANGELES - MARCH 22: Atsunori Inaba #41 of Japan slides safe into third base under David Wright #4 of the United States a during the semifinal game of the 2009 World Baseball Classic on March 22, 2009 at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

Team USA lost to Japan last night, eliminating them from the WBC, and now Japan will go for the title against Korea tonight. While their MLB teams will be happy to have their players back, they have to be greatly disappointed and a bit concerned at how their players were utilized.

Much has been said about Davey Johnson and his strategy throughout the tournament, pitching decisions and platooning shortstop with Jeter and Rollins. The most newsworthy decision was playing David Wright for the full game while obviously injured both Wednesday evening and last night.

Luis Sojo of the Venezuela team also drew a lot of ire for his handling of pitchers and the innings worked, so I am by no means only singling out Johnson. I am certain almost all of the managers involved made some unpopular, and possibly dangerous, decisions.

Davey Johnson seemed to be trying to make some players on his team happy but really ended up disappointing everyone in the process. He obviously has credentials, respectful merit, and managerial experience (he did manage the 1986 World Champion Mets), but he clearly was out of his element managing this group of players the last three weeks.

The lack of roster moves and bench players due to injuries were greatly mismanaged, injuries were a big part of the tournament, but the utility players obviously were not prepared to play the positions for which they were needed. Mark De Rosa was clearly uncomfortable playing first base and Brian Roberts was not effective at second base.

Both Derek Jeter and David Wright made bad throws to first base and they were costly, no doubt, and the first baseman probably would not have made a difference on either play, but most likely, neither of them should have played the full game in the first place.

Rollins is the better defensive shortstop, who has also been the superior offensive player as well, but he was DH last night. Being that it was a semi-final game, Jeter should have been DH and Evan Longoria should have relieved Wright at third base midway through the game. Wright was obviously in a great deal of pain after his RBI double, but did not want to verbally let on, which was his judgement (mainly due to his national pride and competitiveness), but Evan Longoria being solely used as a ninth inning pinch hitter was a mistake.

Jeter and Wright were a combined 2 for 10, with Wright striking out 3 times, although in all fairness, Wright's RBI double in the third inning gave the USA a 2-1 lead for the only time in the game, but it was short-lived due to the error by Roberts. Jeter's error in the eighth inning led to more unearned runs and pretty much put the game out of reach for Team USA.

Throwing errors do happen to infielders frequently, no matter what game is being played, and both Jeter and Wright do work extremely hard on their defense, but again, neither one of them is in regular season form yet, and Wright is battling a torn toenail and badly bruised toe, so neither of them should be judged too harshly.

With better decisions in managing the roster, and less injuries to key contributors, Team USA should have made it to the final round, but they did go into last night's game as the underdog, though they all the players did their best, under the circumstances and the management.