If you’re like most of America, the only sporting event you’ve been paying attention to the last couple weeks has been the NCAA tournament. And if this was the only madness you enjoyed, you might have missed out on Team USA winning its first ever World Baseball Classic crown. The WBC just wrapped up its fourth installment, and I think it was the best iteration yet. There was drama, passion, and a super early candidate for Catch of the Year.
This year was also particularly fun because of a large number of players that were far more relevant to MVP Baseball 2005 than they are to the game today. A bunch of retirees made surprise appearances as coaches and even more surprising appearances as players. As professional baseball now starts to prepare for Opening Day on April 2nd, let’s take a last (and first) look our WBC Old Guy Power Rankings.
**Honorable Mention- Carlos Beltran; He’s not retired, so he didn’t qualify, he’s just old. And because of the Puerto Rican players’ decision to bleach their hair/beards, Beltran looked a bit like if Santa Claus embraced the GTL Jersey Shore lifestyle. It was a lot of fun.**
1. Jason Marquis, Pitcher, Israel
Career Highlights: 124–118 in 15 MLB seasons; 4.61 ERA; one All-Star bid; last pitched for an MLB team in 2015
WBC Highlight: Despite his two year lay-off, Marquis was Team Israel’s ace in the tournament. He started 3 games for Israel, all victories, and posted a 0.93 ERA across his starts. People were shocked at how well Team Israel played, going undefeated in the opening round. The fact that their ace last pitched in the bigs two seasons ago makes that even more shocking.
2.Omar Vizquel, Manager, Venezuela
Career Highlights: 2,877 hits, 11 Gold Glove awards, three All-Star appearances; starting shortstop for the phenomenal 90’s Cleveland Indians teams
WBC Highlight: Whether or not he makes the Hall of Fame, Vizquel will go down as one of the greatest defensive shortstops ever. At one point during this years WBC, after Venezuelan 3rd baseman Rougned Odor made a miscue, the cameras caught Vizquel giving a fielding tutorial in the dugout. Luckily, this conversation went a little better than Odor’s interactions with Jose Bautista.
3. Edgar Renteria, Coach (?), Colombia
Career Highlights: 2,327 hits, 2 World Series rings, 2010 World Series MVP; was the last batter in two different World Series (one a walk-off single for the Marlins, and the other this little nubber that is the highlight of my life as a sports fan)
WBC: In a tense, dramatic game against the Dominican Republic, Renteria was ejected after arguing a play at the plate. This is notable, because he probably showed more passion in the two minutes before his ejection than in his whole year on the Red Sox.
4. Eric Gagne, Pitcher, Canada
Career Highlights: Yes, this is that Eric Gagne; 2003 Cy Young Award winner, 84 consecutive saves converted; last pitched in the MLB in 2008 (!!!)
WBC Highlight: Again, he actually came in and pitched in a game. And was GOOD. He came out throwing 93 mile per hour heaters, which is pretty damn impressive for a 41-year old that hasn’t pitched in the bigs in a decade. Canada wasn’t very good, but Gagne may have reignited a career that has ended, like, four separate times.
5. Ryan Dempster, Pitcher, Canada
Career Highlights: 132-133 in 15 MLB seasons, 4.35 ERA, 2,075 strikeouts; Once took him four pitches to intentionally hit Alex Rodriguez ; retired in 2014
WBC Highlight: Dempster makes this list out of sheer force of will. The highlight of his tournament performance is probably just that his arm didn’t fall off. He made two starts for Canada, lost both, and gave up seven earned runs in 2.1 innings pitched. So, hey, wasn’t his finest outing. But pretty neat to see him take the bump three years after his retirement.
The WBC has ended, and hopefully it will set the tone for a culture change that, in the words of Bryce Harper, will Make Baseball Fun Again. At the very least, we got to see a bunch of old, familiar faces try and relive their glory days.
gifs: reddit, giphy, MLB