You'd think that David Ortiz, Hanley Ramirez, Jose Reyes and Miguel Tejada would provide enough offense to beat a Netherlands team that counts Sidney Ponson as its top pitcher. And you might assume that successful big league pitchers like Johnny Cueto, Carlos Marmol and Edinson Volquez might be able to handle Sharnol Adriana, Sharlon Schoop and Dirk Van Klooster.
That's why they play the games, blah blah blah. The two wins by the Netherlands to knock out the Dominican Republic certainly gives some juice to the glorified Spring Training games, and the response of the Domincans to losing will likely be felt in St. Louis. Manager Felipe Alouwasn't particularly subtle when he answered a question about Willy Aybar, not a first baseman by trade, making a key error in the fateful 11th inning on Tuesday.
“What other professional do I have to play first base?” Alou asked. Before Tuesday's game, Alou was equally snippy when he told people why he was starting David Ortiz at first. “Everybody knows who the first baseman in the first Classic was,” Alou said.
If you didn't know, it was Albert Pujols. Pujols wasn't in the lineup for the 2-1, 11-inning elimination game because the Classic refused to insure his participation after offseason nerve surgery. It's nice of Alou to be so glib when it comes to the millions of dollars that the Cardinals are paying Pujols to play in games that actually count, and it is a convenient bit of scapegoating to avoid the fact that his team mustered three runs in two games against a country that uses their wood for shoes and not bats.
Go ahead and complain about Pujols' absence, Felipe. Just don't do it in front of Dutch manager Rod Delmonico. He beat you twice without Braves starter Jair Jurrgens, the country's best pitcher, as well as major leaguers Shairon Martis and Wladimir Balentien. Go ahead and complain about Pujols' absence, but be sure to explain how not having him caused your team to muster seven hits and an unearned run against the Dutchmen on Tuesday.
It's not a bit more likely that the Dominican team was a bit overconfident and underprepared for playing the Dutch? That's excusable the first time, but it falls on the manager to make sure that it doesn't happen a second time. If anyone desires to blame one person and one person only for the loss, Alou seems a lot more culpable than Pujols.
Or maybe it was all Reyes' fault. Choking may have just become second nature for the Mets shortstop over the past couple of seasons.