World Baseball Classic: Team USA Departs Early...Again

Marisa ScolamieroAnalyst IMarch 24, 2009

LOS ANGELES - MARCH 22: Derek Jeter #2 of the United States looks on from the dugout in the ninth inning of the semifinal game of the 2009 World Baseball Classic against Japan on March 22, 2009 at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, California. Japan defeated the United States 9-4. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

Sunday night, Japan defeated the US and the Americans found themselves out of the tournament and back in the training camps...again.

Daisuke Matsuzaka faced off against Roy Oswalt, and despite giving up a first inning home run to Brian Roberts, he pitched well over four and two-thirds innings.

Oswalt was not as good. Japan quickly tied things up at one, and then piled on the runs to leave the US down 6-1.

Team USA had battled from behind for most of the tournament, so it was almost no surprise when they crept back to make it 6-4 in the eighth inning.

However, there was no comeback. The ninth inning was full of let downs. Derek Jeter committed a throwing error that led to a run, Adam Dunn misplayed a ball in the outfield that led to three runs scoring, and the offense wasn't able to get any more runs off of Japan's bull pen.

So just like that, the US, the country that is supposed to be the leader in baseball, was denied the opportunity to win a world championship.

What went wrong?

First off, the US got hit with a barrage of injuries early on.

Chipper Jones was the first to go with an oblique strain, followed shortly by Kevin Youkalis and Dustin Pedroia.

The loss of Youkalis forced manager Davey Johnson to start Adam Dunn at first base. Dunn is typically an outfielder and that move proved to be costly at times.

Brian Roberts stepped in for Pedroia, which worked out fine, and Evan Longoria was called up from Tampa as the extra third baseman.

Still, the team was banged up and guys were playing positions they weren't used to playing. That most definitely had an impact on the team's ability to win.

Japan's national team has also been playing together for several months, which has allowed everyone to get into a rhythm.

The US team has been playing together for a few weeks, and was not on a consistent level because of the injuries.

However, one of the biggest strikes against the US team is that the American pitchers are not at their best yet, while pitchers from other countries have been playing in winter ball leagues and are more than stretched out by this point.

If the US hopes to compete with teams that have their best players on the field, then they have to be willing to put their best out there. In order to do that, they would have to have their players start to train much earlier than the dates in February when they report to spring training.

On a whole, I think the players the US team compiled was a great group of talented players. I just think it's unfortunate that the tournament gets played so early in the baseball season before the players are anywhere near their best.

Perhaps that's something the people in charge of the WBC need to think about. Maybe the tournament needs to be played after the World Series when the players don't have to worry about injury for the season because their season is over, and they are already at their best.

It was good to see the US hang in longer this year than they did three years ago, but I'm sure a lot of those guys feel like they could've done more.

Maybe if things were organized better they just might be able to reach that goal some day.

For now though, they're going to have to settle for not coming in first, and there's no doubt that's gotta sting.