I wrote about the World Baseball Classic last week and here’s an update! Here are the teams that made it through to the second round: USA, Venezuela, Mexico, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Netherlands, Japan, Korea
And the eliminated teams: Canada (they have a good team but they were in a tough group with USA and Venezuela), Italy (no big surprise), Australia (no big surprise), South Africa (no surprise at all), Taiwan (a good team but in a tough group with Japan and Korea), China (no surprise at all), Panama (a good team but in the toughest group) and Dominican Republic (a HUGE surprise).
The biggest story of the tournament so far has been the Dutch team, which beat heavy favorites Dominican Republic TWICE in the first round. However, the incredible shock and awe they’ve been receiving is slightly patronizing as the majority of the team is from the Dutch Caribbean island of Curacao, where baseball is the most popular sport. The Dutch were eliminated last night by USA.
Japan, Korea and Puerto Rico have been awesome. These teams have marched right through their opponents. Puerto Rico is unbeaten. Japan and Korea have only lost to each other, with Japan beating perennial favorites Cuba 6-0.
USA has been getting by on talent alone, NOT fitness. Most of the Latin American players played at least part of the Winter League Caribbean seasons and the Asian players started spring training in January and February. Meanwhile, the USA team (and probably the Canadian team) basically started training right before the tournament and their lack of fitness is obvious. It seems that with every passing game one or two American players picks up some injury that takes them out of the tournament. The possibility of having to FORFEIT has even been mentioned. Pathetic. Seriously, if you’re going to play in a pre-season tournament you have to train BEFORE everyone else. I’d rather have a team of upcoming wannabes that do the necessary training on the team than a bunch of superstars that show up with stiff joins and beer guts.