When it comes to sports in America, the word "quitter" ranks near "loser" and "cheater" among labels to be avoided. Yet because of mounting injuries and a prize that simply is not worth risking more, United States manager Davey Johnson said he would forfeit the World Baseball Classic rather than take a chance of any other major leaguers getting hurt.
Team USA has sustained several injuries, including ones to Dustin Pedroia, Ryan Braun and Matt Lindstrom. Chipper Jones is already back in Braves' camp after suffering an oblique strain and he roundly criticized the WBC's downtime for making players more susceptible to injury. Meanwhile, catcher Brian McCann had to play left field in the ninth inning against the Netherlands on Sunday, a move that showed just how thin the U.S. bench has become.
Reinforcements, if they come, won't arrive until the next round, if the team even makes it that far. Johnson, who has to answer to big league teams, too, is noted for coming up with options no other manager would consider.
Believe it or not, quitting would be one of them, especially if Johnson was faced with placing someone at catcher who does not regularly play the position.
From the AP story:
[Johnson] used Kevin Youkilis as an example, saying he could never return to Boston if the Red Sox first baseman was injured playing catcher in the WBC.
"I would definitely had to gone out and said we had to forfeit this ballgame," Johnson said. "Yeah, I’d forfeit it."
There it is. Forfeit. Quit. Give up. Surrender. It's kind of shocking to read. There is no more of a disgraceful way to lose. Remember when the Bad News Bears forfeited against the Yankees? Tanner about died. And it was only a movie. This is real life.
Can you imagine Tommy Lasorda considering a forfeit? Of course not. You could make a pretty good argument that Johnson should not even have admitted that the U.S. might quit, gulp, a baseball tournament? Maybe we won't always win, but shouldn't we keep trying no matter what? To Johnson, the answer appears to be no.
Of course, maybe Davey's doing it to cry out to the WBC leaders for changes in how rosters are formed so teams can be given more flexibility. Maybe he was talking out of school. On the brink of elimination, maybe he's just flipped his lid.
It's not like quitting an Olympics, or the Tigers dropping out of the American League, but even the prospect of abandoning a tournament leaves a bad taste.
So here's to no quitting. Especially not in baseball, Davey.