New Approach: Mark DeRosa Looks To Defend World Baseball Classic Crown For Team USA

Image credit: Mark DeRosa (Getty)

When Team USA takes the field to defend its 2017 World Baseball Classic title, it will boast a roster that has won a combined five Most Valuable Player awards and a remarkable 25 Gold Gloves.

In the dugout will be Mark DeRosa, making his managerial debut.

Therein lies the risk that Team USA will be taking. The best team the U.S. could put together will be run by a sharp, intelligent MLB Network analyst, but one who has never managed a professional game.

The hire was a bold move by USA Baseball, and one that carries risk. DeRosa was a member of the 2009 WBC team as a player, but this will be his first time working as either a coach or manager at any level of professional baseball. 

Hiring someone without that experience is a complete reversal from previous USA Baseball practices. It has chosen experienced managers for every other significant USA Baseball team of the past two decades.

The thinnest resumé of any of those managers belonged to Buck Martinez, who was Team USA’s manager for the 2006 WBC. Like DeRosa, Martinez was working as a broadcaster at the time he got the job. But in Martinez’s case, he had managed the Blue Jays in 2001 and ’02.

Guided by Martinez, Team USA finished eighth out of 16 teams in the inaugural WBC.

Other Team USA managers for every Olympics and WBC since 2000 have all been distinguished MLB managers with at least 1,000 career wins and at least one World Series ring.

Tommy Lasorda won gold at the 2000 Olympics. Mike Scioscia took silver in 2020. Davey Johnson managed Team USA at the 2008 Olympics and then the 2009 WBC.

Joe Torre and Jim Leyland managed WBC squads in 2013 and 2017, the latter winning the tournament.

If USA Baseball had followed that precedent, then it would have hired a veteran manager like Joe Maddon or Joe Girardi.

This time, USA Baseball went in a different direction. Tony Reagins, Team USA’s general manager, is not concerned. As he sees it, Team USA is ahead of the curve.

“This game is one where there’s a lot of ways to innovate,” Reagins said. “And at the end of the day, your baseball IQ, how you communicate with people, your understanding of the metrics—which (DeRosa) has—will ultimately put you in the best position to be successful. 

“I would not be surprised in the next three to five years if he is an MLB manager.”

DeRosa knows that he’s not the traditional pick for the job, but he does have plenty of experience as a player, including at the WBC.

“I knew who I was as a player,” DeRosa said. “But one of the things I did well, I felt, was to create a team that truly liked to be around each other, and understood roles and understood that we were in it together and we were family.” 

With the easiest draw among the four pools, Team USA’s success will likely depend on jelling in time to handle the quarterfinal round. Once teams advance out of initial pool play, they face three do-or-die games in a row. One slip-up and the loser heads home.

DeRosa will draw from his experience as a player in the 2009 WBC. 

“Paul Seiler, with USA Baseball, he said something that’s kind of resonated with me: ‘You’ve got to get them to understand that this is a competition and not an exhibition.’ ” 

Reagins is confident that DeRosa is ready to take charge.

“He’s a smart guy, obviously, if you listen to him on MLB Network and how he breaks down players. He knows what he’s talking about,” Reagins said. 

The GM said that his interview with DeRosa stretched for three hours, when it was expected to be only one hour. That’s how good he felt about DeRosa after meeting him.

“I didn’t have a doubt that he could do it,” Reagins said. “And he was the kind of player who brought people together. That’s what he’s got to do with those 30 guys who we have . . . and that coaching staff. And our job is to put him in the best position to be successful. 

“And I think with the team that we’ve assembled that we’re going to be able to do that.”

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