Chipper: U.S. will be better prepared
Jones, Rollins say Americans will be focused on Classic title
Chipper Jones says Team USA will be better prepared for next month's World Baseball Classic than the squad that was eliminated in the second round of the inaugural event three years ago.
"Some guys thought we were just going to throw the bats and gloves out there on the field and just crush everyone with the names and the bats that we had on that particular team," said the Atlanta Braves third baseman, one of the returnees on this year's squad.
"This time around, if guys come into the USA camp and are not ready to play, the same result will happen. We will get beat and beat pretty soundly."
Jones, who joined Phillies shortstop and Team USA teammate Jimmy Rollins on a media conference call Tuesday, said it will help that players will compete in more Spring Training games before the start of World Baseball Classic play than in 2006.
Team USA will face Canada in Pool C action on Mar. 7 at the Rogers Centre in Toronto. Unlike the 2006 All-Star squad managed by Buck Martinez, the team Davey Johnson will lead is built more to win an international tournament.
"Buck Martinez drove himself absolutely crazy trying to get everyone equal playing time," Jones said. "He wanted to keep everybody happy and wanted everyone to look back on that experience fondly, but trying to get everyone in the game wasn't conducive to winning a tournament."
Rollins, the N.L. Most Valuable Player in 2007, says players on this year's squad are ready to accept lesser roles than they play during the regular season. The Yankees Derek Jeter is expected to be the starting shortstop.
"I have no problem with Derek Jeter being named the starting shortstop," Rollins said. "He's a great representative for USA baseball ... It's a team. It's not about me or him. It's about Team USA going out there and trying to bring this WBC title home."
Rollins says other countries could have an advantage since many Latin American players compete in winter ball. Other squads have been training as a team.
"We tend to go our separate ways do our individual things to try to get ourselves ready for April, not necessarily for March," Rollins said. "When the time comes, we know what to expect and we'll find a way to get the job done."
Jones said he is searching for a bit of redemption after Team USA's disappointing performance in 2006.
"With the talent we had on the field, you expected a better result," he said. "But have you ever heard that saying, 'too many chiefs and not enough Indians?' That's what was taking place with that team. There were so many stud athletes and egos flying out the door, it was crazy. It was a tremendous amount of fun, don't get me wrong. But this team is better put together in that it's a little more well rounded."
Pete Williams is a freelancer based in Safety Harbor, Fla.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.