This is Kate Preusser’s fourth and final piece as part of her month-long residency. It has been a pleasure to host her work! Missed her previous posts? You can read them here. Listen to her appearance on FanGraphs Audio here.
“What other sport not only kept a stat as cruel as the error, but posted it on the scoreboard for everyone to see?”
–Chad Harbach, The Art of Fielding
On paper, it looks like Jurickson Profar had a successful WBC stint for Team Netherlands. He batted .464 during the team’s run through the Classic, with five doubles, four RBIs, and a home run — this while also playing a passable center field, a position at which he’s never recorded a start as a professional.
But Profar’s sterling performance will be overshadowed — for him, at least — by a baserunning blunder made in the first inning of an elimination game against Puerto Rico. Andrelton Simmons led off that game with a single. Xander Bogaerts was hit by a pitch right after that. When Profar followed with another single, it could have potentially loaded the bases for the Dutch. Could have, except that Simmons had just gotten picked off trying to steal third against Yadier Molina — because, I don’t know, maybe he didn’t recognize one of the best defensive catchers in the world with his blond hair?
But back to the Profar single. Even after accounting for Simmons’ caught stealing, that single still put the Dutch in a good position, with two runners on base and just the one out. The advantage didn’t last long, however. After rounding first, Profar used the opportunity to gesture towards the Netherlands crowd — an admittedly smaller contingent than Puerto Rico’s — and was slow getting back to the bag. Yadier Molina, a tiger who has the reflexes of a cobra that’s also a member of MENSA, threw him out. Which, of course he did! Yadier Molina likes throwing people out in the same way you and I like breathing. And of course Profar was celebrating his base hit, because people celebrating base hits is what makes the WBC so delightful. As an event, it’s like NES Super Punch-Out but with actual live humans doing the taunting.
There are multiple angles of the sequence in question. Here are two of them:
The Netherlands would still go on to score that inning thanks to Wladimir Balentien’s two-run homer, but it’s hard not to note that it could have been a grand slam. Profar certainly isn’t failing to note that. As he told the Orange County Register: “I just want to put this loss on myself… I made that mistake. I think we paid for it.”