A couple of weeks ago saw the start of the World Baseball Classic (WBC). This is only the 3rd WBC, but it’s already proving to be quite enjoyable to watch and from what the players say, quite enjoyable to play. The World Baseball Classic is akin to the World Cup (of soccer/football) where countries compete to qualify for (and play in) a tournament against other countries — in baseball. This past weekend, there was a game between Canada and Mexico that erupted into a fistfight. Now, as a baseball player of many years, I can tell you that never have I been in a fistfight on a baseball field. So how did it happen?
In the WBC, there are 4 pools with 4 teams in each pool. Each team plays each other once and the top 2 teams advance. Pretty simple, right? Well, with mathematics, there’s a high probability that there will be a tie for 2nd (or 1st!) and there will need to be tiebreakers to differentiate between teams. The first tiebreaker is head-to-head. Meaning, if Team A and Team B have the same record at the end of the pool play, the winner of the game between those two would advance to the next round. If we included a Team C in that scenario (all three Teams have the same record), then it gets dicey. Let’s also say that Team A beat Team B, Team B beat Team C, and Team C beat Team A. Our first tiebreaker doesn’t work. So, we’ve got to go to the next tiebreaker — run differential (it’s actually a bit more complicated than that, but we’ll just call it this to make it easier). Basically, run differential is just what it sounds like — the difference between the number of runs you scored and the number of runs that were scored against you.
Okay, now that we’ve got the basic understanding of the rules, we can talk about what happened this past weekend. In Pool D of the 2013 World Baseball Classic, Italy beat Mexico in the first game. In the second game, Italy mercy’ed (beat by 10 runs!) Canada. In the third game, Mexico beat the USA. At this point, the standings were: Italy 2-0, Mexico 1-1, Canada 0-1, and USA 0-1. In the fourth game, Canada was to play Mexico. Going into the game, Canada had a -10 run differential because they lost by 10 to Italy. So, if Canada won the game, they knew they were going to have win by a lot (in case that the 2nd tiebreaker came into effect).
Cut to the 9th inning of the game between Canada and the USA. At this point, Canada was winning 9-3. They had the game solidly in hand. The first batter of the inning noticed that there was an opportunity to bunt and make it to first base — so, he did. The 3rd basemen didn’t like this and instructed the pitcher to hit the next batter! Let’s take a step back for a second.
In the way that baseball is normally played (without the imposition of tiebreakers), you wouldn’t a team to try to “run up the score.” Meaning, a player wouldn’t take the advantage that the Canadian player did when he bunted — this is considered ‘bush league.’ So, when the Canadian player bunted to reach first base, the 3rd basemen suggested to the pitcher what would normally be suggested — bean him. Now, I’m not condoning this as a response, but generally, this is how things go in baseball. However, because of the tiebreaker
rules, Canada wasn’t trying to embarrass Mexico, they were trying to even out their run differential! Herein lies the problem — the Mexican player didn’t know the rules. After the Mexican player beaned the Canadian player, the benches cleared. When the benches cleared, a fist fight erupted.
This whole kerfuffle could have been prevented if the Mexican players knew the rules. I’m not writing this to place blame on the Mexican players for not knowing the rules. This post is meant to highlight what happens when you don’t know the rules of the game. More than that, we can broaden this to not knowing the rules of play (in business, politics, education, etc.). If you’re operating under the assumption that the rules are X, Y, Z, and the rules are actually Cup, Dog, Queen, then you’re probably going to miss something. More than that, when someone does something relating to Dog, you may get pretty upset expecting that the rules were X.
In short: Know the Rules.