If you haven’t watched any of the World Baseball Classic, you’re not alone. The ratings haven’t been great, but alot of the games certainly have been. There have been quite a few highlights from this WBC already, but here are a few that are worth catching:
- Pretty much anything involving the Netherlands, especially the elimination game against Cuba
- Japan’s small ball team smashing 75 home runs in 2 games against the Dutch
- A late inning comeback by the US facing elimination against Canada
- The Dominican Republic trouncing Venezuela and beating PR, both behind jaw dropping performances by Robinson Cano
- The surprising Italian team which can’t stop scoring runs
The Netherlands sports a fun lineup that includes Roger Bernadina, Randolph Oduber (a probable non-prospect for the Nats), and the Braves young SS Andrelton Simmons who could be the MVP of the entire tournament, hitting .370/.400/.704. Also impressive on the team has been Andruw Jones, and Curt Smith, a Miami Marlins farmhand who is Sir-Not-Appearing-on-this-Page when it comes to any top 10 prospect list I’ve seen, but is so far hitting .375/.467/.542.
The Italian team has been surprisingly good as well, mostly because of the runs they’ve put up. They have their share of Americans of Italian descent, although their best player so far has been Chris Colabello, a 29 year old who played in independent leagues until he got a shot with the Twins AA franchise just last year. Colabello’s success is one of the great stories that come out of competitions like this (as I write this, he hit his second 3 run HR of the WBC, this time against the DR), and Italy’s 20 runs in their first 2 games is something that would be unsustainable – except for the fact that they might only have to play 5 more games.
Team USA has looked good, barring perhaps for the first game against Mexico. They beat Italy solidly, despite falling behind early 2-0, thanks to a David Wright home run and 4 shutout innings by Ross Detwiler, who has been the best pitcher for the team so far. Ben Zobrist and Joe Mauer have also been great so far, and so has Jimmy Rollins.
The series continues in earnest for Team USA tonight, playing against Puerto Rico. I don’t begrudge the WBC for making PR a separate team, there are enough players and there’s certainly the fanbase to do so. But it’s a little bit like making a separate Texas team. The biggest difference being PR always votes to stay part of the US, and Texas has voted to leave before.*
Back to the WBC, though, this is a big game. Unlike the first round, which was a familiar World Cup style round robin tournament, this is now a double elimination round. So you have to win two, and you have to do it before you lose two. The rest is just scheduling.
Importantly to Nats fans, Gio Gonzalez will start tonight. So if you want to watch last year’s team ace in meaningful action, you’ll have that opportunity tonight. He’ll face off against Mario Santiago, a 28 year old journeyman who pitched in the KC organization until last year, when he was on the SK Wyverns of the Korean league. I’m excited to watch Gio in his first truly competitive situation since the playoffs and the media firestorm and the World Series expectations and everything else.
If you haven’t been watching, now is a great time to jump in. The US is starting their second round games, Gio is going, and the final game will be finishing up at the same time the “first round” play-in games for the NCAA tournament are starting.
*By the way, if there was a team made of up players born in Texas, it could be pretty awesome. How about this squad:
C – Kelly Shoppach
1B – Adam Dunn
2B – Kelly Johnson
3B – David Freese
SS – Cliff Pennington
LF – Carl Crawford
CF – Michael Bourn
RF – Jay Bruce
SP – Clayton Kershaw
SP – Josh Beckett
SP – Clay Buchholz
RP – Joe Nathan
And there are a few others who could have easily made this list as well.