By: Mike Carter
The World Baseball Classic begins this week, much to the chagrin of many baseball fans. I am not one of those folks who dislikes the tournament because it may or may not take away from Spring Training. I’m excited for the first competitive baseball since the World Series.
This event features teams from 16 international countries and showcases some of the best players on the planet. In fact, over 60 All Stars will be playing for their countries. These 16 teams are split into four-team pools in a round robin style that will send the top two teams from each pool to the next round. There are pitching limits for each round; the first round allows pitchers to throw only 65 pitches per outing, 80 pitches in the second round, and 95 in the final round.
This is the fourth time the WBC that has taken place. Japan won the tourney in 2006 and 2009, and the Dominican Republic won in 2013. They are defending champions and were the first team in WBC history to go undefeated in the tournament (8-0).
I’m going to say this now: the United States could win this thing. A rotation led by Chris Archer, Danny Duffy and Marcus Stroman should fit in nicely with a deep influx of bats led by Nolan Arenado, Paul Goldschmidt, Buster Posey, Daniel Murphy and Giancarlo Stanton. These guys can rake. One of the biggest questions about the USA team is, do they have the middle of the bullpen depth to get critical outs in tournament play? They have big arms like Andrew Miller to get key outs. We’ll see, but this is a stacked American team that may slug their way to the title.
The best teams in the tournament for my money are Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. Puerto Rico features two of the best up-and-coming players around in Carlos Correa and Francisco Lindor. The Dominican Republic boasts Manny Machado, Adrian Beltre, Robinson Cano, Starling Marte and Nelson Cruz. Don’t count out Venezuela, either, with Jose Altuve, Miguel Cabrera and Carlos Gonzalez.
It’s a terrific thing that so many of the best players in the world come from a variety of different and compelling countries. I know many American fans grumble about the WBC, feeling that the interruption of Spring Training hurts their team’s chances for going deep into the playoffs in October. Think of it this way: this is the first competitive baseball you have seen since the highly entertaining World Series in November. And I know you’ll worry about the risk to your favorite player, but that could happen in any game at this point of the year. So roll the dice and enjoy this tournament. Who knows? Maybe this will be the last one that takes place in the spring? There is some talk of moving it to November. That may work, even though it’s at the end of the longest season in sports.
But what about this: similar to what the NHL does, why not give every team a week off in the middle of the season and play the WBC during that time? The MLB All-Star game has truly become meaningless and people aren’t watching it anymore. I am one of the biggest fans of baseball I know, and I have lost interest. Baseball is losing young kids to other sports. Want to rebuild young fandom? Put the WBC in July. Kids are off school, can stay up to watch on TV, and will see the young stars shine in this tournament. Just an idea, and I have many bad ones, as most of you who read these words know.
What do you think? I would love to hear your opinions on this topic. I promise no Donald Trump-like responses to those who disagree with me. Do you like the WBC? Will you be watching? Those of us involved at 9 Inning Know It All will be watching. And if you don’t like it and won’t be watching, I hope your team is getting ready for the long season ahead, where the Washington Nationals and the Boston Red Sox look to be favorites, along with the Chicago Cubs and the Cleveland Indians, the opponents in the 2016 World Series. Enjoy the preparation!