If you’re a baseball fan and haven’t been watching or keeping up with the World Baseball Classic then you have been missing out.
I wasn’t overly excited for the WBC, nor have I really been in the past. I think this year my want to just watch baseball got the better of me to where I said, “Screw it. I’ll watch Israel play Chinese Taipei” at 10:00 pm on a Monday night.
I was watching MLB Network and the bottom line said, “Team Israel looks to stay hot as they take on Chinese Taipei” and I thought it was hilarious that a 1-0 team was looking to stay hot, so naturally I tuned in. From the moments leading up to the game, and the announcers talking up the “ace” Chinese Taipei pitcher, I was sucked in from the first inning as Israel smacked this guy around running him out of the game before 1 complete inning.
That was funny enough to get me on the Team Israel bandwagon (for fun) where it’s beautiful watching Ike Davis smack double after double.
I was excited to watch Team USA play as I usually do, but I suddenly became more invested in the whole tournament, and man this thing has not disappointed.
If you aren’t familiar with how it works, here you go… 4 pools of 4 teams in each. They play a round robin and the top 2 advance with certain tie breaker rules if needed for identical records.
Second round turns into 2 pools of 4 teams in each. Same thing. Round robin, top 2 advance to the Championship round where it becomes single elimination where the winners of each semi-final advance to a winner take all game.
The format is great for a 2 week tournament. There’s a few games a day, some at 4:30 or 6:00 am in Japan, while the others are at a much more reasonable 6:00 pm start in Miami. Either way, I’ve been watching as much as I can.
Here’s a recap of the first round and my thoughts….
Chinese Taipei (0-3)
This pool took place in Seoul, South Korea, so I was limited on what I actually got to watch other than the occasional 10:00 pm ET which I think was noon in South Korea time. Anyway, like I said, I thought it was funny that Israel even had a team, and they came to play. They advanced by sweeping their pool led by former Pirate Ike Davis (haha), Sam Fuld, and a bunch of other guys you’ve probably never heard of. It’s almost like a feel good story the way they played in Round 1. They were written off as the 16th best team in the tournament coming in and proved the analysts wrong.
They’re 1-1 right now in the second round. They could see the Championship round with a second win.
The Netherlands have a really nice team with the combination of Jurickson Profar, Jonathan Schoop, Didi Gregorius, Andrelton Simmons, and Xander Bogaerts. They can hit, and they have Kenley Jansen in their designated pitchers pool. Could make a push to advance to the Championship round. They’re 1-1 in the second round currently and handed Israel their first loss in their second round rematch.
Now with this pool I actually didn’t get to catch any games since they were in Tokyo. I saw a split second of Cuba vs. China and that was it. The Japanese team is good though, and they’ve won 2 out of 3 WBC’s to date. They shouldn’t have a problem advancing through to another Championship round.
Dominican Republic (3-0)
This pool was legit. I think I watched all 6 games that took place. Each team, well maybe not Canada, busted their asses and gave great performances.
Colombia surprised me led by Jose Quintana (I’m still looking at you Pittsburgh, go get the man) who dominated the USA in their first game, only to have the rest of the pitching staff lose it for him. But they played all teams well, including an 11 inning great game vs. the Dominican where the DR turned it on to score 7 in the 11th to win, but they almost win if Jose Bautista didn’t throw the winning run out at the plate in the bottom of the 9th.
The US has never advanced past the second round, but I think this year they will. Solid starting pitching carried them and the bats woke up against Canada. Marcus Stroman, Chris Archer, and Danny Duffy all had great outings passing it to a great bullpen. Christian Yelich and Brandon Crawford are already in mid-season form, and Buster Posey brought the power along with Nolan Arenado. They’re pretty good. Who would’ve though Andrew Miller of all people would give up a 3-run home run vs. the Dominican to put them in the lead late in the game after the US held a 5-0 lead for most of it. If that happens again, then the world is ending.
The US is pretty good, but the Dominican’s are insanely good. The lineup could win a World Series, no doubt about that. Manny Machado played his ass off and was making plays that would make Derek Jeter jealous in the field. He led them each game. If there is a weak spot on this team, I’m going to say it’s with starting pitching, particularly Edinson Volquez. The US was all over him. They haven’t lost a WBC game since 2009 and they very well could go 8-0 again in 2017.
Marlins Park had the largest crowd it has ever seen (lol) when the DR played the US. That game felt like an October game and lived up to it. Basically Postseason baseball in March. I’m not complaining.
Puerto Rico (3-0)
The Puerto Rico team is another fun one to watch. They’re loaded with young talent as well as veteran MLB stars. Carlos Correa, Francisco Lindor, Javy Baez, Carlos Beltran, and Yadi Molina just to name a few. They’re smacking the crap out of the ball right now. Can’t wait to watch them play the Dominican’s and the US in round 2.
Italy surprised me. Lots of people saw them as an 0-3 team, but they had a great come back win in their first game against Mexico. They were down 4 in the 9th and scored 5 runs to win. They currently have a tie breaker tonight vs. Venezuela to see who advances. Their first game was a win for Venezuela in an 11-10 thriller. Hopefully it shapes up to that again tonight.
I don’t know how Venezuela doesn’t have more than 1 win in this pool. Miguel Cabrera, Jose Altuve, Alcides Escobar, Carlos Gonzalez, Martin Prado, Salvador Perez, come on guys. I think they advance over Italy, but I’m surprised it’s coming down to a play in game for them.
Mexico just didn’t seem to hit their rhythm after the comeback win they gave up to Italy. Adrian Gonzalez didn’t hit very well and the pitching wasn’t anything great. Would’ve thought they could’ve put together a stronger squad.
Second Round Pool E (as of right now)
Second Round Pool F (as of right now)
Dominican Republic (0-0)
Puerto Rico (0-0)
Venezuela/Italy Winner (0-0)
Like I said, I’m hooked due to the fantastic play these teams have been putting out. Some games are like an All Star game where everyone is trying. Every team is playing their heart out for their country, except the US it seems, who is more worried about their players getting hurt than competing. The Dominican team and the fans that filled Miami were going nuts to where some players said they were more excited for that game than a World Series game when they appeared in one. That’s awesome. I wish the US played with that fire. It’s cool to see a World Cup-esque atmosphere for my favorite sport.
I even don’t mind the stupid extra innings rule where you start the 11th inning with runners on first and second and 0 outs. For this type of play, sure, why not? If they put that into the MLB, get out of here.
Round 2 Predictions
Japan and Israel advance from Pool E to the Championship Round.
Damn right I’m riding the Israel bandwagon through to the next round. I could see this pool coming down to another Israel and Netherlands match up for the tiebreaker which would be great since they’re 1-1 through the 2 rounds against each other.
USA and Dominican Republic advance from Pool F to the Championship Round.
The US is going 3-0 this pool. That’s right. They’ll get hot. They’re going to get revenge on the DR in round 2. I just want to see this match up as many times as possible. That game was just awesome with 2 incredible line-ups.