Sorry Folks, we beat ya.
PANAMA CITY, Panama (AP) -- The defending champion U.S. baseball team failed to qualify for the 2004 Athens Olympics, stunned by Mexico 2-1 Friday in a qualifying tournament.
The U.S. team was among the favorites to win the gold medal again, and there was a chance Roger Clemens would have pitched for the Americans.
``It was a well-pitched game by their pitchers,'' said manager Frank Robinson, a Hall of Famer. ``We were not able to do much until the ninth inning and it was not enough.''
In 2000, Tom Lasorda managed a team that included Ben Sheets and Doug Mientkiewicz to the gold at Sydney in the first tournament that included professionals.
While the Americans were beaten at their own game, countries such as the Netherlands, Italy and Greece are already in the Olympics.
``I know Roger Clemens wanted to play. That would've been a big draw for them. That's a shame, because they've got some good players on that team,'' Mientkiewicz said.
``It would've been nice to go out there and defend it, but now they're not going to get that chance,'' the Minnesota first baseman said. ``That's just a shame. I feel for all those guys. It's going to be hard to watch the Olympics now, that's for sure.''
The Mexican team was a heavy underdog in this quarterfinal game, but got a tiebreaking home run in the ninth inning from Luis A. Garcia off Brian Bruney.
Bruney had 26 saves in the Arizona Diamondbacks' minor league system this season.
The United States threatened in the bottom of the ninth when Grady Sizemore and former major leaguer Ernie Young led off with singles.
With runners on second and third with one out, reliever Isidro Marquez got Justin Leone to ground back to the mound and retired Gerald Laird on a popup to end it.
Former New York Mets pitcher Rigo Beltran held the Americans to three hits in seven innings. Leone, of the Seattle system, homered in the fourth for the U.S. run.
Ray Martinez tied it in the fifth with a homer off Cleveland prospect Jason Stanford. The Americans had outscored their opponents 21-0
The U.S. roster also included Atlanta rookie pitcher Horacio Ramirez and former big leaguers Mike Lamb and Todd Williams.
``We lost a game. I don't think it's a setback for U.S. baseball,'' said Sandy Alderson, an executive vice president in the commissioner's office and the top American official with the team.
``I think it's a validation of the internationalization of the game. As we know, anything can happen in a game or a short series of games,'' he said.
Unlike basketball, the biggest stars in the United States do not play Olympic baseball, jeopardizing the sport's future in the games.
Even so, Alderson does not expect top major leaguers to participate four years from now when qualifying begins for the Beijing Summer Games.
``This is not about an eligibility issue. This is about a game played well by Mexico and unfortunately lost by the United States. Again, that's the nature of the game. Things happen,'' he said.