International Indians: Recapping the Indians in the WBC
The World Baseball Classic featured five active Cleveland Indians representatives. Now that the much-maligned tournament has come to a close, we can focus on how each of them fared.
Carlos Santana (Dominican Republic)
8 games, 6-for-22, 5 runs scored, double, 2 home runs, 3 runs batted in, 9 walks, 5 strikeouts
This tournament was Carlos Santana in a nutshell. He swung the bat pretty well, he saw and took a ton of pitches, and his defense left something to be desired.
Offensively, he was one of the most productive players in the entire tournament. He deposited two pitches into the droves of rambunctious fans, and came up with a key double that started the Dominican scoring in a 4-1 semifinals victory over the Netherlands.
More to that point, he also lived on base. As has been the case in the past, though, there were times in which Santana was, perhaps, too patient as he struck out looking with the bases loaded on two separate occasions. Alas, it clearly didn't hurt his team any.
Behind the plate, Dominican pitchers really tested him. When dealing with a staff of Edinson Volquez, Samuel Deduno, Pedro Strop and Fernando Rodney, among others, whom possess powerful, wild and/or unpredictable arms, that will happen. There were dozens of bounced breaking balls or ill-commanded fastballs that Santana had to deal with. He also had a few bouts of stabbing at pitches that may have cost his pitchers strikes.
At the end of the day, he caught the vast majority of the eight games, and was on the receiving end of pitchers that gave up a total of 14 runs. That certainly can't be a negative sign for Santana and the job he did.
Between his team going 8-0, his wonderful displays of power and discipline, and the aforementioned success that he and his pitchers shared, he was the Indians' standout representative.
Mike Aviles (Puerto Rico)
9 games, 10-for-31, double, home run, 9 runs batted in, 3 walks, stolen base
Like Santana, Aviles was incredible at the plate. And like Santana, he did it in the way that he usually does.
For Santana, that meant observing many pitches and looking for a fastball to slug. For Aviles, it meant swinging at mostly everything. He carried a Puerto Rico team that featured Carlos Beltran, Yadier Molina and Alex Rios. He was, far and away, the team's best run-producer, and at opportune times. He drove in runs in all three of the team's round-clinching wins, including one that set the pace against Japan to send them to the championship game.
Just for good measure, he singled off new Indians teammate, Vinnie Pestano, in two different games.
Vinnie Pestano (United States)
3 appearances, 2.0 innings, 3 hits, 2 earned runs, 2 walks, 2 strikeouts
Pestano's first two appearances went much like the majority of his in the 2012 season: he came in and took care of business with ease.
The last one, though, was maybe the most forgettable of his young career. In a win-or-go-home contest against Puerto Rico, he gave up the runs that would ultimately put the game just out of reach and send the United States players back to their spring training camps. It happened in the sixth inning, extending a two-run lead to four. Of course, the blame is not all his. America rallied for three runs, but never the fourth, speaking to a lack of offensive production in most games.
Giovanni Soto (Puerto Rico)
2 appearances, 3.2 innings, 3 hits, 1 earned run, 2 walks, 2 strikeouts
The only non-Major League representative, Soto, proved himself all the same. In a Puerto Rico win that clinched their advancement in the first round, he spelled the team's starter by shutting out Venezuela over three innings in a tie game.
Asdrubal Cabrera (Venezuela)
3 games, 1-for-8, 2 walks, 3 strikeouts
For better or worse, Cabrera was probably the least memorable Indian in the tournament. His disappointing Venezuela team was sent home in round one, after losses to the two teams that would eventually go on to play for the championship.
Missing, of course, is Chris Perez, who was selected to the United States team, only to get injured in Goodyear before he left to be with them.
There was and has been plenty of criticism surrounding this tournament. Much was directed towards the United States team. They didn't have their best players (no one did), they didn't care enough (hasty and misguided), the tournament meant more to other countries than it did to them (other countries didn't consist of 28 Major Leaguers), etc.
Aside from 100 or so unexplainable and/or counterproductive sacrifice bunts, this was a mostly well-played, thoroughly entertaining collection of baseball games. If you are a baseball fan that consciously decided to avoid the sport's version of the Olympics, you missed out. I can speak only for myself, but give me the excitement and exuberance displayed throughout over mostly meaningless spring training walkthroughs, always.
I would bet that anyone belonging to a big league team who played in these games over the last two and a half weeks would agree.
Now, the focus shifts back to Cleveland Indians baseball. The earlier-eliminated players have already rejoined their teammates in Goodyear, and Aviles and Santana soon will too.
The bragging rights belong to Santana, who should be proud of his performance and his country.
The sport of baseball, as a whole, should celebrate the product that was the World Baseball Classic.
Indians fans also have a reason for satisfaction. 2013's representatives represented the organization more than admirably.