That honor went to Japan in both previous tournaments. Why? Japan goes “all in” for the WBC, it’s out to prove something. The best they have play, even though this time it lost in the semifinals. It’s the Japanese mindset of anything worth doing is worth doing right, being invested totally.
The U.S. doesn’t take the same approach for this competition. It has higher priorities, players on mega-contracts to protect and personal issues. Many players have legitimate needs to stay with their clubs during spring training.
Josh Hamilton can’t leave Angels’ camp, Ryan Howard is coming off an injury and Stephen Strasburg has well-documented arm issues. There are legit reasons why the U.S. players are not “all in,” nor do I feel they ever will be.
With other countries, the stars who are physically OK do play. For some reason they are committed to country, not parent team. Look at Jose Reyes, who has good reason to turn down the Dominican invitation. He was a new player in camp with the Toronto Blue Jays, good reason to stay home. But no. With so many Dominican big names playing, he felt obligated.
Team USA was definitely formidable, with high-caliber players at all positions, but not an All-Star roster by any means. The catcher, third baseman, shortstop, right and left fielders would be on an All-Star roster, as would the 1-2 starters and a reliever or two, but that’s about it.
It was basically the same for other competing teams. The Dominican and Puerto Rico had top players, but not MLB All-Stars at all positions. The talent level was very similar, that’s why Team USA loses.
In baseball, if the talent is similar anything can happen. Imagine a rotation of Strasburg, Justin Verlander, Cole Hamels, Matt Cain and David Price? Three innings apiece should win every game, especially with Craig Kimbrel and Jonathan Papelbon at the end. Throw Hamilton and Mike Trout in the middle of the order, now you’re talking about dominant players and a dominant team, a Dream Team.