You do not expect to hear the words "mercy rule" applied to a game played by anyone over the age of 12.
You don't get "mercy rule" when Creighton runs Longwood out of the gym by 48 points on the hardwood. You don't get "mercy rule" when the Giants lay a 42-7 licking on the the wounded Eagles when it's All Quiet On the Andy Reid Front.
You don't get "mercy rule" when Honduras drops an 8-1 beating on Canada in World Cup qualifiers, though you do ask the coach to resign.
In short, when the medium-to-big-boys play, there's no mercy. Doesn't matter how badly you're getting beaten, you rub some dirt on it, stick your biteguard back in and go out there to take your lumps. As sports consumers, we value winning above all else, but we value that mythical quality of "trying" almost as much; we hate quitters more than we hate cheats, and no matter how far the game is out of reach we want our athletic heroes to come back with their medical staff golf cart or on it.
Today, in the WBC, they had to use the "mercy rule". 14-4 was the score when they called it, and this wasn't one of those games where they stocked a team with 27-year-old A-ball guys whose great-grandparents came from there maybe was being fed to Cuba to make the schedule work out. No, this was Italy - Italy! - beating holy hell out of Canada, a country that has produced its fair share of major leaguers.
To be fair, the Italian team isn't exactly Italian - there's a lot of guys on there of Italian descent, which is how you end up with a lineup featuring Anthony Rizzo and Nick Punto. Then again, a lineup featuring Nick Punto shouldn't be putting 14 runs up on anyone, let alone a decent Canadian squad.
But still. Mercy rule. That says a few things. It says the talent's starting to show up in places where maybe it hadn't so much before. And it's saying that, for all the jaded pooh-poohing from certain circles, a lot of teams are sure as hell in the WBC to win it. What's left of Team USA may have sleepwalked through their loss to Mexico tonight, but Italy sure as hell put their foot down on Canada's collective neck and didn't let up. Then you look around and see the Netherlands show the world how it's done where they play Honkbal, and traditional powers like the DR and Japan and Cuba, and my goodness, there's some pretty damn good baseball being played in this thing, even if it's not by Team USA.
And so, mercy rule. By Italy.
They play the US next.
They have Nick Punto.