SAN DIEGO—Venezuela entered the 2017 World Baseball Classic with a legitimate hope of winning the tournament and bringing joy to a country that so desperately needed it.
The Venezuelans boasted a fearsome lineup with depth and quality that could only be matched by the Dominican Republic. Felix Hernandez came back after skipping the 2013 WBC to be the ace of a rotation of accomplished big league veterans. The bullpen had the desired mix of experienced arms and well-regarded prospects most teams strive for.
All the pieces were in place for Venezuela, and it was not unreasonable to consider it a favorite to win the WBC crown.
Instead, Venezuela was done after the second round, going 2-5 in the tournament and getting blown out multiple times, culminating in a humiliating 13-2 loss to Puerto Rico’s backups in the final game of second-round play.
How did it all go so wrong? How did a team with so much talent and motivation to win perform as poorly as it did?
“I don’t know what happened,” third baseman Yangervis Solarte said. “We have to figure it out the next Classic. We have to figure out everything.”
Injuries played a part in Venezuela’s subpar performance. Catcher Salvador Perez (knee) was lost in the first round after a collision at home plate, while Martin Prado (hamstring) and Miguel Cabrera (back) both came up lame after at-bats in the second round and were never seen again.
But a more significant cause was run prevention. Venezuela allowed 55 runs in seven games. The defense committed eight errors which led to six unearned runs, including five errors in the second round.
The performance led to criticism of manager Omar Vizquel’s decisions on defensive alignment and bullpen usage.
Rather than use Yangervis Solarte or Prado, the team’s two natural third basemen, Vizquel elected to use Rougned Odor and Jose Altuve at third base despite neither having played the position in the major leagues. Odor, who also never…