The challenge of putting together a national baseball team to compete in the 2009 World Baseball Classic is like the brain-busters you faced in honors chemistry class. Catering to each individual all-star and making sure there is a proper mix of players is like figuring out the formula of hydrate for a 15.67 gram sample of a hydrate of magnesium carbonate after it is carefully heated, without decomposing the carbonate, to drive off the water. The mass, as we all know, gets reduced to 7.58 grams. Right?
For the WBC, add too many Yankee molecules and too few Red Sox, or an abundance of Mets but not enough Phillies, and the team could react in an egotistical explosion of All-Stars canceling each other out in the clubhouse, rather than bonding as one nucleus to dominate the diamond.
With a 6-5 win in the opener against Canada, followed by a 15-6 throttling of Venezuela, it appeared Team USA was jelling. “Winning the first two games and everybody contributing, that’s what you call chemistry,” manager Davey Johnson said during an interview with MLB.com.
With veterans Chipper Jones, Derek Jeter and Jimmy Rollins playing alongside young studs Dustin Pedroia, David Wright and Ryan Braun, it’s like a blend of hydrogen and oxygen, making the scoreboard rain with runs on opponents.
“I am a huge chemistry guy,” said Jones, the Atlanta Braves’ third baseman. “I’m one of those that believes one bad apple can ruin the bunch, and this is a great group of guys.”
With normally puffed-up egos kept under control, the squad used a motto popular among team-first organizations: The name on the front of the jersey is more important than the name on the back.
“Everybody has a mutual respect for each other,” Jones said. “Nobody is in it for themselves.”
Although the U.S. was dumped in the semifinals by the eventual tournament champs, Japan, the bond among players fueled a huge improvement over the team’s eighth-place finish in 2006.
With each pro back with his MLB club preparing for the 2009 season, the bonds they formed are still fresh. But come early October, don’t expect to see a Yankee and a Red Sox player tipping their caps to one another—that’s a chemical equation that will never be solved.