MIAMI — Mexico’s manager, Benji Gil, said he doesn’t believe his team should be playing until Saturday. Its quarterfinal game against Puerto Rico in this year’s World Baseball Classic instead took place on Friday night, which meant a tough turnaround for a team that was navigating the pool-play portion of the tournament nearly 2,500 miles away.
“We’re not looking for excuses,” Gil said moments before Friday’s 5-4 come-from-behid win. “We’re not gonna make an excuse if we win, and we’re not gonna make an excuse if we lose. But before it’s played, it’s a hundred percent a disadvantage. And I’m not saying it’s a disadvantage because Puerto Rico didn’t travel. They were here. And that’s fine. That’s the way it should be. But at the end of the day, before the tournament happened, the 1-seed was playing on Saturday. And then when stuff got complicated, it became that the U.S. plays on Saturday no matter what.”
The World Baseball Classic bracket disseminated by Major League Baseball indicates that the Pool C winner (in this case Mexico) would face the Pool D runner-up (Puerto Rico) on Saturday, with the Pool D winner (Venezuela) playing the Pool C runner-up (Team USA) on Friday.
But the designation comes with an asterisk noting that if Team USA advances, it will play in the second quarterfinal game regardless, a stipulation of MLB’s TV deal with Fox. Fox is airing Saturday’s game on its main channel; Friday’s game, however, was shown on the less popular FS1. The designation was noted on the bracket that MLB released in early February, though it wasn’t on the initial schedule from September.
“If it’s because of TV — I’ll tell you right now, if I’m not here, if I’m not at the tournament, I’d be watching the game, and I’m not gonna say, ‘Oh, I’m not gonna watch the U.S. game because it’s on Friday and FS1 instead of Saturday on Fox, the main channel,'” Gil said. “I’m a baseball fan. I love the players that the U.S. has. They’re All-Stars. I would be watching that game if it was Friday, if it was Saturday, if it was Sunday.”
Mexico, which won three of its four pool-play games but fell behind by four runs in the first inning against Puerto Rico, played on Wednesday afternoon in Phoenix, and Gil said the team didn’t get into its hotel until about 8 a.m. ET on Thursday. Mexico now has the benefit of two days off heading into Monday’s semifinal game against Japan; whereas the winner between the U.S. and Venezuela doesn’t get any days off heading into its semifinal contest against Cuba on Sunday.
But Gil clearly preferred the day off on the front end, coming off a long flight.
“We should have practiced today at noon and got ready to play tomorrow,” Gil said. “They should’ve also let Puerto Rico enjoy their tremendous victory over the Dominican for one more day as well.”