Ohtani Versus Trout for the World Baseball Classic

Ethan Engellau

Sports, Editor 

We couldn’t have asked for a better ending. The two best players in baseball, Shohei Ohtani and Mike Trout, faced off with the World Baseball Classic Championship on the line. Ohtani and Trout both play for the Los Angeles Angels, so the odds of this matchup happening is slim unless one of them fights their way out of LA. Ohtani led Team Japan to an undefeated run to the final, while Trout had seemingly taken a back seat on Team USA with a clutch moment here and there, with Trea Turner stealing the spotlight. Could this be another clutch moment?

Team USA down 3-2 with two outs in the top of the ninth inning. Ohtani toed the rubber and came right at his teammate, throwing strike one right down the middle at 102 miles per hour. The second strike came the same way at 100 miles per hour right down the pipe. With Trout on the ropes, Ohtani threw a nasty slider at 87 miles per hour to strike out Trout and secure Japan’s third World Baseball Classic victory. Japan remains the only country with multiple WBC victories and the second to win without losing a single game. 

Not only did Team Japan win every game they played, but they also outscored their opponents 56-18 for an average margin of victory of five runs. In addition, we got to see players such as Munetaka Murakami display why he is the Aaron Judge of Japan, homering 56 times last season and flexing his muscles in the championship with a crucial solo homer that came off his bat at 115 miles per hour. This tournament was a masterpiece from start to finish for Japan. 

On the other side, Team USA went 0 for 7 with runners in scoring position, their two runs coming off a Kyle Schwarber solo home run in the eighth inning and Trea Turner’s record-breaking solo shot in the second inning. Turner cements himself as the sole record holder for most home runs in a single WBC tournament. 

While the tournament was rocking in every stadium with fans proudly adorning their countries flags, traditions and colors, there was also some unfortunate backlash. The WBC faced scrutiny after injuries to Mets closer Edwin Diaz and Astros second baseman Jose Altuve. 

Diaz, playing for Team Puerto Rico, came in the ninth inning of a win-or-go-home final game of Pool D against the highly favored Dominican Republic. After sealing the victory for Puerto Rico, Diaz was mobbed on the field and, while celebrating, landed awkwardly and collapsed. Diaz had to be wheelchaired off the field, putting a damper on the celebration. Diaz suffered a full tear in his patellar tendon in his right knee and is likely to miss the entirety of the 2023 MLB season.

Altuve, playing for Team Venezuela, took a 96 mph pitch off his hand from Team USA pitcher Daniel Bard. Altuve was diagnosed with a fractured right thumb and is going to miss at least the first two months of the season. 

This stirred demands for the WBC to be canceled to protect the players. One of the notable participants was Dodgers outfielder/second baseman Mookie Betts who, when asked about the premise of canceling the tournament, stated, “I’m having the time of my life playing these games. This is very similar to the World Series, and when we play, we want to play with passion. It’s not that much fun when you’re just playing, and nobody cares. I think if you ask anybody on the field, we’re having some of the most fun we’ve ever had.” 

This was on full display as the joyous moments we witnessed throughout this tournament are sure to draw more viewers to the MLB. The WBC is not something that should be reprimanded for the risk of injury. Players who are not participating are warming up for the season in Spring Training where debilitating injuries have also occurred, even as recent as Phillies first baseman Rhys Hoskins tearing his ACL, setting him up to miss the entirety of the season. 

Baseball is a sport, and sometimes that results in people getting hurt. The NBA has turned to load management to try and lessen the blow but that has its own repercussions as fans are not happy that their favorite players can just sit out whenever they feel the need with no precautions to ticket buyers. Upping the protection of gear that is worn, upgrading the medical staff and teaching the players how to take care of their bodies is the real way we will see results. The WBC is not to blame, and I can’t wait for the next one in 2026.

Categories: featured, Sports


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