Final Score: Puerto Rico 3, Japan 1
World Baseball Conflict of the Game: The U.S. dropping an atomic bomb on Japan
They will go down as perhaps the two most difficult decisions in history. Decisions of unparalleled consequence. Decisions that altered the course of humanity. Decisions that strike to the very core of the human condition. Decisions that haunted and will forever haunt the sleepless nights of their makers.
The first: United States President Harry S. Truman’s decision to drop atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Hundreds of thousands of Japanese civilian lives weighed on the most terrible scale against the similar thousands of American soldiers whose lives would have inevitably been lost in a ground invasion of Japan. The unleashing of the most devastating weapon ever devised to end the deadliest conflict the world had yet experienced.
The second: Puerto Rico Manager Edwin Rodriguez’s decision to bring in J.C. Romero into a 3-1 game in the bottom of the 9th of a 2013 World Baseball Classic semifinal. The possibility that J.C. Romero would get some outs weighed against the likelihood the he would give up some baserunners. The unleashing of a pretty terrible pitcher in an effort to end a baseball game that would send Puerto Rico to the WBC finals.
Both fateful choices accomplished their goals. The United States (including Puerto Rico) won World War II, and Puerto Rico defeated Japan in the semifinal game. But at what cost? At what unimaginably astronomical cost?
The sheer levels of human suffering caused to the Japanese people by the dropping of the bombs is simply not conceivable to anyone who did not experience it firsthand. But even that seems to pale in comparison to the suffering endured by Puerto Ricans when, after inducing the first man he faced to ground to second, J.C. Romero needlessly walked Yoshio Itoi to bring the tying run to the plate.
Of course, both these decisions were only made possible by the tremendous efforts of other Puerto Ricans that preceded them. They fought in the Pacific Theater, going shot for shot with the Japanese air force. Sergeant Fernando Bernacett was among those who guarded the atomic bomb as it was delivered to Japan. J.C. Romero’s hold could not have come to pass had it not been for the 4.2 scoreless innings masterfully dealt by Mario Santiago or Alex Rios’s towering 7th inning two-run home run.
What really sets these two decisions apart, though, is that none of us can truly say what we would have done in the places of Truman and Rodriguez. Sure, you can say to yourself “I would never have have pulled the trigger on a decision that guaranteed the deaths of so many innocents when there might have been another way out.” Or “I wouldn’t have brought in J.C. Romero when I could have brought in another, better pitcher.” It’s easy to say those things from the lulling comfort of the future, when the decisions have already been carried out. But could you really step in front of the American people and tell them that more of their children need to die before they can have peace? Could you really tell the media and the fans of your country that you lost a game because you refused to use a reliever who gave up about two hits per inning in 2012?
You cannot know for sure that you could do either, nor can I. There is one thing that we can all agree on, however: the world will be a better place if neither nuclear weapons nor J.C. Romero are ever used again.