Elliott: Canucks left, but not before shaking hands, NHL style

Canada lined up to shake hands with Team USA after being eliminated in the fourth WBC.

Canada lined up to shake hands with Team USA after being eliminated in the fourth WBC.

“Here is the thing about baseball and how powerful it is. The team you are with or the team you root for can lose in the worst possible way. The final game was so heartbreaking, so painful that you went to bed crying. And you know what ... you wake up the next day thinking about next year’s lineup and hhow you can’t wait for opening day. That is baseball ... the most powerful mistress of all.”  _ Danny Menendez, Montreal Expos executive, 1978.

By Bob Elliott
Canadian Baseball Network

MIAMI _ Justin Morneau bounced a Nate Jones pitch to shortstop Brandon Crawford for the final out to mark what was the ugly end to an ugly stay in Miami for Team Canada.

Canuck players in the first base dugout watched. Catcher Buster Posey went to shake hands with Jones and one by one Team USA players still in the field exchanged high-fives and then were congratulated by the bench players, manager Jim Leyland and his staff after the 8-0 win over Canada before 22,303 at Marlins Park.

And then a funny thing happened, something you seldom see on a major league diamond.

Team Canada headed towards Team USA and the two sides shook hands with each other. From afar it looked like the end of a best-of-seven, series between the Boston Bruins and the Montreal Canadiens. 

Was this Larry Walker’s idea? A repeat of when his St. Louis Cardinals eliminated the Los Angeles Dodgers. Walker suggested to manager Tony La Russa that the Cardinals line up to shake hands with Jim Tracy and his Dodgers after the 2004 National League Division Series. 

“Ryan Dempster asked if we could do it just to show our class,” said manager Ernie Whitt. 

Scott Richmond (North Vancouver, BC), who pitched two scoreless innings, said, “Why not? We’re both North American, we respect them.”

Dempster started Thursday’s opener against the Dominican Republic, worked a scoreless first and then allowed four runs in the second. Against Team USA, on two days rest, Dempster was given the ball again. He faced six hitters, retired one and was replaced by Andrew Albers in the three-run first. Albers was tagged for four in the second and that was that.  

The former Chicago Cubs starter and closer and now assistant to the president said that Canada management asked if he could start against Team USA.

“They came to me and obviously I’m going to say yes, I was super thrilled with the idea of doing that,” said Dempster. “I felt like I could give us at least two or three innings. It just didn’t work out that way.

“Especially to compete against two of those three teams – and Colombia played incredible ball,” said Dempster. “In order for us to beat rosters like that, you have to be flawless. From pitching to defence to hitting and everything, you get overmatched. It’s not a knock on anyone in that locker-room, it’s definitely not a lack of effort or preparation, the guys in there have humongous hearts and played the game the right way. But the talent level wasn’t quite what the Dominican and what the U.S. have.”

Dempster said he was proud to pitch for Canada and to show his children he could take the three years off, decide to make the comeback and prepare for this, a challenge he loved.

“To have the courage to do it, to show my kids, you put your mind to something, you can do it,” said Dempster, who turns 40 in May. “For anybody. Don’t fear what the results might be or the process. Enjoy it. I had an absolute blast getting ready for this.”

Dempster won 132 games in his career -- more than any Canadian with the exception of Fergie Jenkins. After the USA game, Dempster joked that “My kids probably think I pitched a shutout.” Later he said only his daughter Riley, eight would. Brady, 10 and Finley, six are the two other Dempster children.   

Greg Hamilton, director of national teams, found his lineup card was lacking compared to the three previous WBCs. 

Greg Hamilton, director of national teams, found his lineup card was lacking compared to the three previous WBCs. 

Short one: Dempster’s start consisted of a walk to Ian Kinsler, a fly ball out, a Christian Yelich double, a walk to Nolan Arenado, a double to Eric Hosmer and a walk to Paul Goldschhmidt. It was Canada’s shortest WBC start since Jeff Francis (North Delta, BC) faced 11 hitters and retired four while allowing six hits and six runs in the elimination game of the 2006 WBC at Bank One Ballpark before 15,744. Francis did not allow a single, giving up doubles to Erubiel Durazo, Gerónimo Gil, Luis Alfonso García, Miguel Ojeda and Luis Carlos García plus a homer to Jorge Cantu.

Was this the final game for this trio of proud Canucks, from left to right Chris Leroux, Peter Orr and Justin Morneau or will Morneau play again?

Was this the final game for this trio of proud Canucks, from left to right Chris Leroux, Peter Orr and Justin Morneau or will Morneau play again?

Suit 'em up: Canada’s next busy year for the senior national team will be 2019 which will include the Pan Am Games, Premier 12 and the qualifier for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. The Olympics is a six-country event now, down from eight, so Canada will have to earn one of the five open spots, as the host Japan team has one spot. Also being held in 2020 will be the WBC qualifier.

And in 2021 will be the fifth WBC. Canada has never qualified for the second round, although this is the only time it had to qualify. 

As in 2012 when Canada went to Germany, Canada will have to qualify for the 2021 WBC. In 2009, Canada lost 5-4 to Team USA and was upset by Italy to be eliminated with an 0-2 record. The Canucks are the only country to fail to advance after going 2-1 when it lost in 2006 on run differential. The rules were changed after that. 

Scott Richmond (North Vancouver, BC)

Scott Richmond (North Vancouver, BC)

The Good: Richmond set down Arenado, Goldschmidt and Buster Posey on fly balls, then struck out Giancarlo Stanton, retired Brandon Crawford on a ground ball and Adam Jones on another grounder. Hosmer reached on an error and walked Ian Kinsler ... SS Jonathan Malo made a fine play on a ground ball by Posey for the second out of the first ... 2B Peter Orr made an outstanding glove play to retire Crawford in the fifth ... After Richmond’s two scoreless innings, Kevin Chapman, Chris Leroux and Dustin Molleken each had scoreless innings ... Rene Tosoni doubled, while George Kottaras (Markham, Ont.), Peter Orr (Newmarket, Ont.) and Malo each singled.  

The Bad: Besides Dempster working on short rest, Albers faced 11 men and retired five, allowing four runs ... Jim Henderson allowed a home run ... 3B Eric Wood dropped a pop up on the mound in the fourth ... Canada was 0-for-4 hitting with men in scoring position and 1-for-12 (.083) on the tourney ... In the three games Canada was outscored 21-3 with one run scoring on a balk. Canada had 15 hits -- two for extra-bases Dalton Pompey and Tosoni each doubled – and four walks.

Base knock from short: Malo’s third inning single against Team USA was only the third by a shortstop in Canuck WBC history. Peter Orr 1-for-12 (.083) with a single against South Africa in 2006, Chris Barnwell hitless in seven at-bats at the Rogers Centre, Cale Iorg was 1-for-11 (.091) with a single in a loss to Italy and Malo 1-for-7 (.143). The four shortstops have combined to bat .081 (3-for-37).  

Reading Material: John Perrotto Fan Rag Sports ... Rumors and Rumblings: Stars’ decision to skip WBC meant woe for Canada ... Jake Montero: Krukow on WBC: No excuse for US not to send best players, he agrees with Whitt ... CBS Pittsburgh: Eric Wood On Playing In WBC: ‘It Was Insane.'