The United States has made a habit of leaving a lot to be desired in the World Baseball Classic, with a fourth-place result in 2009 being the best showing.
That's not the worst thing. After all, other countries' success might benefit the event and help market it to the rest of the world.
Here are the biggest takeaways from the United States' run in the 2013 World Baseball Classic.
One injury can deflate a lineup
The first thing people talked about with the United States' roster was its depth and star power in the lineup. How could hitters like Ryan Braun, Giancarlo Stanton, Joe Mauer, David Wright and Brandon Phillips be stopped?
While Team USA struggled to score runs—averaging 4.7 per game—New York Mets third baseman David Wright delivered. He batted .438 with one home run, 10 RBI and seven hits in 16 at-bats.
Then came word (via MLB.com) that Wright was scratched from the lineup against the Dominican Republic. The U.S. lineup was stymied, scoring just one run on six hits in a 3-1 loss.
BREAKING: @USABaseball 3B David Wright OUT with sore back. Willie Bloomquist will play 3B.3/14/2013, 10:52:56 PM
Team USA went just 1-for-6 with runners in scoring position against the Dominicans without Wright. He was easily the best offensive weapon the United States had, so to lose him really hurt this lineup.
Pitching lags behind at this time of year
The pitching staff for Team USA was a bit of a soft spot. Some of the best pitchers (Justin Verlander, Clayton Kershaw) decided to stay with their teams and get ready for the regular season.
Even with R.A. Dickey, Gio Gonzalez, Craig Kimbrel and Ryan Vogelsong on the team, you didn't know what to expect because those players had only a few weeks of work in spring training. This is the time of year when pitchers are still working on things (mechanics, pitches, etc.) to see what is working.
When you throw them on a stage like this before they are at the top of their games, there will be struggles. Kimbrel gave up two runs to the Dominican Republic—the first time since 2011 that he gave up more than one run in an inning.
Dickey came back with a good start against the Dominican Republic but didn't have the sharp knuckleball against Mexico in his first start. Vogelsong started out sluggish against Italy before finding his rhythm long enough for David Wright to provide the heroics.
All-Stars don't equal championships
This one is easily identifiable to most fans because every year we see teams load up on talent in the offseason (Red Sox in 2011, Yankees in the mid-2000s, Angels in 2012) and declare them champions before a game is played.
Team USA is great on paper. If the players had time to gel and really get their feet wet, they would probably end this event with the best record over the course of 162 games. But that is not how this event works.
Anything can happen in a short series, as we know from the MLB playoffs every year. Having these names on the roster makes for great conversation, but nothing is guaranteed. Everyone else wants to prove the Unites States team isn't unstoppable.
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