For 11 long years, the United States has been less of a power than a punching bag. Baseball might be the national pastime, but the national team could not even get as far as the championship game of the World Baseball Classic.
Puerto Rico, a territory of the United States, had gotten there. So had Cuba, and Japan, and Korea, and the Dominican Republic.
The rest of the world put together the very best teams possible. The United States riffled through the rejected invitations to put together a representative team. While the rest of the world flocked to television sets in record numbers, the home fans shrugged off the WBC and cursed at their March Madness brackets.