Despite Joe Torre managing as though the analytical breakthroughs of the last 20 years never happened – bunting three times with a lineup of All-Stars, shrugging off matchup-relief situations, walking a career-long scrub to load the bases with a new reliever coming in and keeping the player who led the major leagues in slugging percentage last year on the bench all game despite struggling for runs over the first seven innings – Team USA turned into Team USA over the final two innings, dropping seven runs and joining Italy, the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico in Miami.
... One of Torre’s greatest strengths is explaining the rationale behind certain decisions. None of his elucidation Sunday passed muster. Intentionally walking Pete Orr, a lifetime .259/.289/.332 hitter, to load the bases with Cishek then facing his first hitter in the eighth was strategically dreadful. Cishek is far from a control artist, and the possibility of a force at any base wasn’t worth the trade-off of a bases-loaded walk or hit by pitch.
Cishek escaped, ostensibly vindicating Torre like Victorino did in the eighth with a run-scoring single. It didn’t, of course, mitigate his stubborn insistence to small-ball conventions. If Torre is going to be a slave to that style of play, actively stomping on Team USA’s inherent superiority like it’s a smoldering cigarette butt, moving past Miami to San Francisco will take far more than talent.
Unless Torre is trying to make up for lost moves after spending the last two years in Major League Baseball’s front office, he’ll soon understand: Best to let this team play. Beyond questionable starting pitching – the U.S. picks up Gio Gonzalez to start its first game in Miami on Tuesday – this is a deep, strong, dangerous team. Its lineup frightens. Its baserunning is top-notch. Among David Wright, Jones and Phillips, whose diving stop of an Adam Loewen shot in the eighth inning squelched Canada’s rally, the U.S. has flashed elite gloves across the diamond.