Canada and the US are getting under way RIGHT FLIPPING NOW! So let’s take a look at those teams, and a few more. And, for your reference, here is a World Baseball Classic scoreboard, and a TV schedule.
You’ve Heard of: A ton of these guys. Justin Morneau brings a big bat to the Canadian infield. Boston’s Jason Bay and Phillies pinch-hitting hero (and Minda’s family’s favorite player EVER) Matt Stairs will be roaming the outfield. The Dodgers’ Russell Martin is among the catchers.
2006 Results: 2-1 in Pool B. They beat South Africa and the US in the early goings before falling to Mexico.
2009 Expectations: The Canadian roster is chock-full of Major Leaguers, but they will have to do without 2006 participants Rich Harden, Ryan Dempster, Erik Bedard, Jeff Francis, and more. The lack of those arms could hurt eventually. They’re playing in Toronto’s Rogers Centre, and the home-field atmosphere is expected to be pretty wild.
The United States of America
You’ve heard of: Oh, please. Derek Jeter, Chipper Jones, Dustin Pedroia, David Wright, Kevin Youkilis, Curtis Granderson, Shane Victorino, Jake Peavy, Ted Lilly, etc. etc. etc.
2006 results: 2-1 in Pool B. Defeated Mexico, lost to Canada, kicked the living crap out of South Africa in Round 1. Went 1-2 in Round 2.
2009 expectations: The players insist there aren’t so many big egos this time around, and they’re willing to play as a team, like grownups. If they can get past Canada right now, they shouldn’t have too many problems getting through Pool C to advance to the 2nd round.
You’ve heard of: Kansas City’s super-closer Joakim Soria, the Mets’ Oliver Perez.
2006 Results: Led Pool B in Round 1, then went just 1-2 in Round 2.
2009 Expectations: The Mexican team’s offense wasn’t inspiring in 2006, but could benefit from their not-terribly-strong pool (Australia, South Africa. Cuba’s in there too, but y’know…they’re good.). And if they take a lead into the 9th inning, their opponents will be swiftly Mexicuted.
You’ve heard of: Possibly nobody.
2006 Results: 0-3
2009 Expectations: If they can just upset Mexico, the Aussies could sneak into Round 2 since the top two teams in each pool get to advance.
Personal side note: Former Royal Justin Huber is on the Australian roster. He always seemed like a really sweet guy when I worked alongside him in 2007.
You’ve heard of: None of them. They don’t have any Major Leaguers on their rosters.
2006 Results: The South Africans were terribly overmatched every step of the way, and went 0-3
2009 Expectations: Same old. I don’t want to say there’s no chance of them winning a game, but…there might not be a chance of them winning a game.
I’m watching: Young pitcher Dylan Lindsay, whom the Royals drafted even though no one in the organization has really seen him pitch at all. They’ll be finding out about him just like me – by watching South Africa’s games on TV.