The World Baseball Classic is not something we usually care about. It’s a strange contest, one in which many of the world’s top players don’t compete due to contract stipulations and the risk of injury, very few fans actually pay attention, and the nuances of nationhood and geopolitics are all but ignored — which is how we ended up with last night’s lopsided final between Team USA and Team Puerto Rico.
The game may have been an 8-0 blowout win for the US, but it was genuinely spectacular for one pint-sized reason: Marcus Stroman.
Stroman is 25 years old and a whopping 5’8” of pure adrenalin. If you are a Blue Jays fan, you know all about him — and you know why that WBC game mattered. His performance against an impressive Puerto Rican team — whose venerable lineup included the likes of Carlos Beltran, Javier Baez, and last year’s ALCS hero and Blue Jay killer Francisco Lindor — was nothing short of masterful. Stroman went six full innings, allowing only one hit and one walk. After the game, he was named the tournament MVP.
He more than earned this shimmy:
In a post-game interview, Stroman’s characteristic bombast was in full force. “I love pitching in these moments, I love the atmosphere,” Stroman said. “I feel like the bigger the game, the more I’m able to get up, the more effective I am. … This was probably one of the biggest, if not the biggest, game I’ve ever pitched in.”
As spring training crawls to an end and Opening Day is now just around the corner, this quote should make Blue Jays fans both excited and apprehensive. Excited because their best (second-best? Third-best?) pitcher just had the game of his life, and coming into the season on that note can only mean good things. Apprehensive, though, because clearly Marcus Stroman has grown up since we last saw him. He’s no longer a guy who counts a divisional series start as a career highlight. He will not be satisfied with anything less than playing in a game prefaced by the word “World.” There’s excitement in that. And a lot of pressure. Here’s hoping the rest of the team feels the same way.