GOODYEAR, Ariz. - World Baseball Classic officials say fighting has no place in baseball, but they are hoping players involved in an ugly brawl between Canada and Mexico have learned their lesson.
Officials decided not to take any further action against three Canadian and four Mexican players ejected in Canada's 10-3 rout of Mexico on Saturday, though the organization was expressed their distaste for the chaos that marred the ninth inning of the game.
"We are extremely disappointed in the bench-clearing incident that marred the conclusion of (Saturday's) game between Canada and Mexico. The episode runs counter to the spirit of sportsmanship and respectful competition for which the World Baseball Classic has stood throughout its history," World Baseball Classic, Inc., said in a statement.
"Because at least one club — and potentially both — will not advance to the second round, WBCI has determined that disciplinary measures would not have a meaningful corrective impact. Thus, discipline will not be imposed beyond today's seven game ejections. It is our firm expectation that the members of Team Mexico, Team Canada and all the tournament's participating teams will learn from this incident and set a better example — one that befits the sport they share — in the future."
Canada was sent home Sunday after a 9-4 loss to the United States. A win would have moved Canada into the second round of the WBC for the first time.
"It was an unfortunate incident that happened yesterday, but I think they did the right thing by looking at it," Canada manager Ernie Whitt said. "We had a meeting last night with them."
Tensions boiled over in the ninth inning of Saturday's game after Canada's Rene Tosoni was hit by a pitch. The incident happened because the Mexicans were upset about Canada running up the score, although run differential is a potentially important tie-breaking statistic at the WBC.
The verbal jousting escalated into a fight that included players such as centre-fielder Tyson Gillies and reliever Jay Johnson exchanging punches with Mexican players. The action resembled something more suited to a hockey grudge match than a baseball game.
Tosoni, Johnson and second baseman Pete Orr were the Canadians ejected.
Whitt said he hopes the fight will spark a change in the rules in determining a tiebreaker.
"Well, no one likes to see that type of stuff," he said. "That's not what baseball is all about. We're out to play the game in a professional way.
"But as I said yesterday, they need to make some changes to this format. If they do that, then I don't think you'll have that type of incident that happened last night."
With Canada up 9-3 in the top of the ninth, Canada's Chris Robinson bunted down third base for a hit. Despite being far ahead in the game, Canada was looking to make up crucial runs in case of a tiebreaker.
The bunt appeared to irk the Mexican players. Television replays showed Mexico third baseman Luis Cruz telling pitcher Arnold Leon to throw the ball at Tosoni, who was next up to bat.
Leon obliged, throwing twice at Tosoni, but missing both times. Umpire Brian Gorman warned both teams and Tosoni began shouting at Leon.
The Mexican pitcher then promptly hit Tosoni in the back on his next pitch.
Unlike most Major League Baseball bench-clearing incidents, there was real punching going on in this one. Some players even pulled the jerseys over the heads of their opponents – a classic hockey fight trademark.
"There's a point you got to stand up for yourself," said designated hitter Justin Morneau after the game. "We got hit for playing the game, and that happens, but at the same time you got to stand up for yourself. You can't just get pushed around."
As the teams were separated, Canadian players began yelling at the stands after a fan threw a water bottle that hit pitching coach Denis Boucher in the head. The game had to be paused again when a fan threw a ball at Canadian first base coach Larry Walker, prompting Whitt to tell Gorman he would pull his team off the field if anything else was thrown.