Luis Cruz said Monday that he “lost it.” Over and over and over again.
But what, exactly, did he lose when he induced a brawl in the WBC game between Canada and Mexico on Saturday? Did he lose the formula for “Team Quality Balance”? Here it is again:
To fit that formula on the back of his hand, Cruz and the rest of the participants in the World Baseball Classic would have to write fairly small. It’s an important formula, the one that determines which of three teams tied with identical records, and no head-to-head tie-breaking games, advances out of pool play into the second round of the tournament.
The longhand explanation of that “Team Quality Balance” formula, per the official WBC rules:
To determine the Pool Winner and Pool Runner-Up, the three Federation Teams shall be ranked in order of TQB (i.e., the sum of runs scored divided by the number of innings played on offense, minus the number of runs allowed, divided by the number of innings played on defense (RS/IPO)-(RA/IPD)=TQB)). For purposes of determining TQB only the scores from the games between the tied teams are to be used in the calculation.
Dodgers first baseman and Team Mexico captain Adrian Gonzalez said “it’s not for me to say” whether the formula should be changed.
“It’s a weird situation,” Gonzalez said. “If you look at the equation it’s like, ‘whoa, this is kind of weird.’ ”
Weird, or a valid excuse for Canada catcher Chris Robinson bunting with an 9-3 lead over Mexico on Saturday?
Robinson reached first base on the bunt without a throw from Cruz. Cruz didn’t deny telling pitcher Arnold Leon to hit the next batter, Rene Tosoni, after he picked up the ball. Nor could the video deny the fact that Cruz threw a punch during the ensuing brawl.
Here, exactly, is why you bunt for a base hit in that situation: Canada lost its first pool-play game to Italy 14-4 in eight innings by virtue of the WBC mercy rule. So despite leading Mexico by six runs at the time, Canada still had a negative TQB when Robinson bunted (-0.298, a number I doubt Robinson or even manager Ernie Whitt had on hand at the time). Every run counted. The run-differential tiebreaker would have come into play under a very narrow circumstance: Italy would have had to beat the United States that night, and Canada would have had to lose to the United States on Sunday. That would have left Italy at 3-0, the other three teams at 1-2, and no head-to-head tiebreaker among Mexico, Canada and the United States since they’d all beaten each other. The odds were unlikely, but you can’t blame Canada for defending against the possibility.
You can, however, blame the normally mild-mannered Cruz for starting the brawl.
“That’s not the way I play,” he said.
And even though he accepted responsibility, Cruz declined to apologize for his actions. “I would just say I lost it, and feel bad, but I have to move on and ready to get ready for the season.”
Dodgers manager Don Mattingly had a chance to express fears over a possible brawl-induced injury to Cruz or Gonzalez. But Mattingly is a player’s manager.
“You understand it,” he said. “In the heat of the moment you get fired up.”
The conclusion to this story is not a shocker: Baseball players understand the “etiquette code” about not running up the score by bunting for a base hit when leading by six runs. They don’t understand TQB, an artificial acronym imposed on an artificial tournament, even with the gift of hindsight.