Adam Jones and the Definitive WBC Moment
The moment probably wasn’t what you think
The 2017 World Baseball Classic is over. To say it was punctuated by moments of purity would be unjust. It was made of them. There was Jose Quintana’s six no-hit innings. Javy Baez’s no-look tag. Nelson Cruz’s dinger he celebrated like both his first and last ever. Adam Jones robbing Orioles teammate Manny Machado of a home run.
Many would say the Jones catch defines the tournament more than any other play, especially because the USA ended up winning it all. But it wasn’t that or anything else that happened on the field. Instead, it’s a comment Jones made that characterizes it:
This statement epitomizes the whole WBC experience. Some of the game’s best players opting to sit out the tournament made for a reasonable story line, and maybe even more of a story than the actual tournament before it started. Guys like Mike Trout and Clayton Kershaw deciding to stay in their Major League team camps was a sigh of relief to those in front offices, and a sign of indifference to fans.
But what Jones said was true. Everyone who wanted to be at the tournament was. And in that sense one of the most honest guys in the game kept it going by essentially saying, “Why don’t we worry about who’s here?” It’s reminiscent of Herb Brooks saying, “I’m not looking for the best players, Craig, I’m looking for the right ones” in 2004’s Miracle. Such sentiment from Jones and the Disney version of Brooks defines everyone’s participation.
When an event like the WBC rolls around it might be intuitive to put together the “best” team. That isn’t the point, though. The point is to put together a team where everyone shows up with conviction. While it won’t be celebrated accordingly, team USA’s win is a big deal because it’s an opportunity to see the game differently. Instead of baseball being a six month affair so casually grueling that it makes people tune out, we could — and should — view it as what happens when you decide to be hawkishly present.
And let’s not mistake the hawk here as an American visage, either. Every team was hawkishly present, and team USA winning the tournament wasn’t a matter of Western determination or domineering insistence. Frankly, it was probably closer to an Eastern concept of being the competition instead of trying to dominate it. That type of mindset makes catches like the one Jones made on Machado possible in the first place because they’re a manner of responding instead of commanding.
It’s also what fed into certain matchups feeling like the height of the playoffs, but only better. Someone may have wanted their country’s team to win but cheering never once appeared to be a matter of pure nationalism, as MLB games can become about cheering for the team nearest which we were conveniently born. And if it was about nation cheering, it still wasn’t a matter of winning. As exemplified by Puerto Rico deciding to plan a parade whether the team won or lost in the final, it was a matter of being.
The 2017 World Baseball Classic is over. The guys who wanted to play played, and we’re all better for it.