Nice guy Luis Cruz? Friendly, seemingly eternally happy Luis Cruz?
He’s an instigator in a brawl? The world’s most appreciative player, tossing a haymaker?
It doesn’t fit the Luis Cruz the Dodgers know, but it’s the same guy. Playing for Mexico in the World Baseball Classic on Saturday against Canada, Cruz had a key role in a fight that was a long way from the typical hold-me-back variety seen in baseball.
It already had been a “chippy game,” as they say, filled with several hard and semi-late slides. And here was Mexico, so thrilled to defeat the U.S. the previous night, now on the verge of a crushing elimination.
Mexico trailed 9-3 when Canada’s Chris Robinson bunted for a single to open the top of the ninth inning. Now normally, this would be breaking one of those unspoken baseball rules: Thou shalt not try to pile on when you have the game in hand.
Only this wasn’t a normal baseball situation. This is tournament play, where much to no one’s satisfaction, total-run differential is used as a tiebreaker to advance teams to the next round.
Seems Cruz, and perhaps most of his teammates, were unaware of the possible total-run significance. Cruz, playing third, walked over to field Robinson’s bunt and then seemed to clearly gesture to pitcher Arnold Leon to hit the next batter, Rene Tosoni, in the torso.
Which is exactly what Leon did, even after he first threw inside and both benches were warned by the umpire that another such pitch would be an automatic ejection. Leon plunked Tosoni in the back, and both benches emptied.
And not just to puff up their chests. Plenty of punches were thrown, and on this video at the three-minute mark and later at the 3:30 mark, Cruz can clearly be seen throwing a nasty right.
Which the umpires missed. Seven players were ejected, but not Cruz.
If the U.S. beats Italy in the late pool-play game, Mexico would be eliminated by the 10-3 loss to Canada, so the WBC couldn’t suspend any of its players for this tournament. And there is no carryover effect that I am aware of that would cause Cruz to be suspended with the Dodgers during the major league season.
Luis “Hands of Stone” Cruz and teammate Adrian Gonzalez can now return to the Dodgers.