Six years have passed since baseball’s greatest players competed in the tournament equivalent of the World Cup. Many countries are in the running for first place, including the United States of America, Japan, and the Dominican Republic.
After a six-year hiatus, the World Baseball Classic will once again include the best professional baseball players with some aggressive amateurs. If the idea of seeing Cardinals and Padres (and pretty much every other MLB team) stars compete in uniforms that read things like U.S.A. and Korea seems tempting (or at least more interesting than spring training games), here’s all you need to know:
In what time and place do the matches take place?
The first game, between the Netherlands and Cuba, will begin on Tuesday night at 11 o’clock PM Eastern.
The tournament’s 20 teams are split into four groups and will compete in Phoenix, Miami, Taichung, Taiwan, and Tokyo. On March 15, pool play will have concluded.
Just the top two teams from each group move on to the quarterfinals, which are decided by direct elimination. On March 19-21, Miami will host the final and semi-final matches.
Twenty teams seemed to be quite a lot
There had never been more than 16 in the World Baseball Classic before, but this year there will be 18. That leaves room for up-and-coming baseball powers like the Czech Republic, the United Kingdom, and Nicaragua among the established greats.
What about the Czech Republic? Britain? Baseball?
While the Czech club doesn’t have any Shohei Ohtanis, they do have a 37-year-old fireman (who has been a two-way star for his team) on the pitching staff and a reliever who also serves as the team’s PR director. Even though the Mets and Dodgers are representing the top nations, a Swarthmore College player will be representing Britain.
What happened the last time?
The United States won the 2017 Classic by defeating Puerto Rico. Prior to that year, the United States had never placed higher than fourth. The tournament that would have given the United States its first chance to defend its crown was scheduled for 2021, but was postponed because to the pandemic.
How does the United States team look currently?
The incumbent champion has a formidable roster and is poised to retain their title. Players like Paul Goldschmidt, Mike Trout, Nolan Arenado, and Pete Alonso in the middle of the lineup are a formidable sight.
More of a question mark is the team’s pitching, which is true for many of the teams and is exacerbated by the regulation that caps a pitcher’s innings at 65 to 95 pitches every round.
Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw bowed out of the Classic last month, ostensibly due to insurance concerns.
Which other players are considered top contenders?
2013 champions Dominica are once again much favored. To say that a lineup including Juan Soto, Manny Machado, and Rafael Devers would be dangerous to opponents is an understatement. The team is led by veterans Nelson Cruz (age 42) and Robinson Canó (age 40, unsigned with a big league club).
Venezuela is stacked as well, with stars like José Altuve, Miguel Cabrera, and Ronald Acua Jr. at the plate, and Pablo López, Martn Pérez, and Ranger Suárez on the mound.
Japan is the only country to win the Classic twice, and its roster has several big leaguers and NPB stars like Ohtani and pitcher Yu Darvish. There is a lot of anticipation among baseball fans to finally witness Japanese sensation Roki Sasaki compete against major leaguers after hearing all the stories about his incredible talent.
South Korea, Mexico, Cuba, and Puerto Rico (cue the trumpets for Edwin Daz) are all in the running.
How can I watch?
Fox owns the rights and will broadcast a portion of the games on Fox, FS1, FS2, and the Tubi service. FS1 will broadcast the final and the semifinals.
How is World Baseball Classic different from the Olympics?
Due to the 2021 major league season, North American stars were unable to attend the Tokyo Olympics. The outcome is far more formidable Classic lineups. Not only will baseball not be featured in the 2024 Olympics, but the sport’s future beyond that is also up in the air. The Classic has become the apex of the world game, and its organizers are working hard to make it as prestigious as the World Cup is in other sports.
To what extent does this matter?
The players could know the answer. It’s not the World Series, but players from all around the world have showed a lot of love for it throughout the years.
In 2013, when the Dominican Republic won the Classic, the winning team rushed onto the field to wave flags and celebrate. They then traveled to the D.R. for a parade.
In 2017, even the apparently jaded American players raced from the bench, waved at the U.S.A. on their jerseys, and celebrated with a statue of the bald eagle that had served as their mascot. The United States of America is once again on top of the baseball world, as stated by first baseman Eric Hosmer: “We had an objective – to put the U.S.A.
Having passed on the 2020 Classic, Trout noted, “That’s the whole reason I signed up, trying to win this thing,” in reference to 2023. Nothing else can be done. Any other outcome would be a failure.
No one at the Cubs-Royals spring training game in Surprise, Arizona, on the same day as this year’s final, is going to feel that way. Get more news and updates on your favorite players or teams only here at onlinesportsbetting.ph.