Daan De Kerpel - TSN.ca
One word comes to mind right now for what Baseball Canada must be feeling...Ouch.
Team Canada did the unthinkable on Monday night, and that was losing in spectacular fashion to Italy by a score of 6-2 at home in Toronto at the World Baseball Classic.
One of the most unfortunate parts of the loss has to be that all the momentum from Canada's exciting 6-5 loss against the USA on Saturday is now gone.
There are many reasons for that, but if you were in the Rogers Centre on Saturday, the place was electric, and if you're a Blue Jays fan and you were lucky enough to be at that game, I hope you enjoyed the atmosphere because unless things go really right, there won't be that type of excitement in there all season.
I think the crowd helped Canada on Saturday, but because of the double elimination format, people didn't know for certain when Canada's second game would be and that led the crowd from Saturday which was over 42,000 to dwindle to under 13,000 on Monday.
The crowd seemed dead, and the Canadians couldn't seem to match the Italian players fire on the field.
There were a few missed plays that cost Canada, but to be fair, Canada didn't field their best team. I say that realizing that the Italian team isn't going to be confused with the 1927 Yankees.
As advertised, Canada's pitching was just too thin, and it showed on Monday. The team used six different pitchers to get through the game, as opposed to the three that Italy used.
It goes without saying that Canada would have stood a much better chance if Chicago Cubs pitchers Rich Harden and Ryan Dempster, and Seattle Mariner Erik Bedard had decided to pitch. A healthy Jeff Francis and Eric Gagne could have helped, as could Adam Loewen who shone in the 2006 tournament, but unfortunately, he's been forced to stop pitching because of constant arm issues.
While pitching wasn't the only issue, usage may have been.
While the strategy of leaving the best pitcher Canada had, Scott Richmond, to start the third game might have been sound on paper, it didn't work, and it might have sent the wrong message.
Keeping Richmond for later assumed two things at the outset of the tournament: a Canadian loss to the United States and a win over Italy. We know the former happened and the latter didn't.
Italy had to know going into the game that Canada was saving their best arm for later, and that could have served as some extra motivation.
It's easy to second-guess the Richmond decision, but I guess seeing him staring blankly after the Italy loss made me remember that he was basically cheated out of his Olympic chances by the Jays who called him up a week or two before the Beijing Games and then sent down a few weeks later, and now seven months later he missed out on another chance to represent his country through no fault of his own.
There's nothing you can do sometimes with the players you have, but Canada's outfield defence wasn't exactly spectacular.
Matt Stairs showed why he's no longer capable of being an everyday player out there, and because the team lacked a true centerfielder that could hit, Jason Bay was forced to play out of position in centre.
To be clear, Stairs and Bay shouldn't be blamed for either loss, but you have to wonder if the team could have made an extra play or two if they had proper people.
Having said all that, the tournament wasn't a total loss for Canada, as Mariners' prospect Phillipe Aumont made a name for himself in Canada.
Aumont if you recall, got himself into a bases loaded jam with nobody out against the United States on Saturday only to pitch himself out of the seventh inning jam, with two strikeouts.
Justin Morneau solidified his position as Canada's best everyday player in the Majors, while Joey Votto showed why he's likely going to be a cornerstone player for the Cincinnati Reds for the foreseeable future.
The next World Baseball Classic is scheduled for 2013 and while Canada had some good moments, they will be hard to remember as the disappointment of this showing will have four years to simmer.