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WBC Fields

I’m going to be covering the World Baseball Classic for SI.com over the next few weeks. My coverage starts today with previews of all 16 teams. You can check those out here:

Pool A: Japan, Korea, Chinese Taipei, China
Pool B: Cuba, Mexico, Australia, South Africa
Pool C: USA, Venezuela, Canada, Italy
Pool D: Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Netherlands, Panama

The first two games in Pool A have already happened, with Japan beating China 4-0 and Korea defeating Chinese Taipei 9-0. China and Chinese Taipei, who battled for 12 innings in their Olympic showdown last year before China came away with their first-ever win in international competition, will play tonight at 10:30, and the loser of that game will be the first eliminated from the tournament.

Things really get going after that, with Japan vs. Korea kicking off a slate of five games tomorrow, including Team USA’s opening game against Canada.

I’ll be livebloggin the USA’s game for SI.com tomorrow at 2:00, and will liveblog nearly all of the USA’s games in this tournament. Be sure to check those out, as well as my overview of the tournament and the rules changes:

The top two teams from each pool advance to Round 2, and it would be a major upset if any of the “second division” teams — Chinese Taipei, China, South Africa, Australia, Canada, Italy, Panama, Netherlands — were to advance at the expense of any of the “first division” teams — Japan, Korea, Cuba, Mexico, USA, Venezuela, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico. . . . With the weak half of the teams eliminated, the competition should really start to heat up in Round 2. It will take just nine days for the elite eight to yield a champion via the final at Dodger Stadium on March 23.

I’m likely a bit biased because I’ve been emersing myself in the tournament for the last week or so in preperation for doing this coverage, but the innagural WBC was more popular than expected, and I think as each tournament gives the next more backstory (such as the USA’s Round 2 exit and Korea’s three games against Japain in 2006), those stories will begin to overshadow complaints about the format or the players who aren’t participating. In just the second go-around, I can really see this thing catching on, not just in Asia and Latin America, where it’s already a big deal, but here in the U.S. as well. After all, it’s passionate, high-stakes baseball being played by some of the best players in the world.

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1 Raf   ~  Mar 6, 2009 2:43 pm

If it weren't for the fact that I cannot take the vacation time, I'd be on my way to Toronto right now to watch the WBC in person...

2 Diane Firstman   ~  Mar 6, 2009 2:47 pm

Hat tip to Cliff for the clever title.

3 rbj   ~  Mar 6, 2009 3:26 pm

I like the WBC.

[2] A-yup on that.

4 a.O   ~  Mar 6, 2009 4:46 pm

I agree that the WBC has good hopes to eventually actually become "classic." The first one was good. I don't think the Japanese will win again. Dominicana has a pretty amazing lineup even minus ARod.

Cliff, I have a question for you. Feel free not to answer, of course, as it's perhaps a little touchy. Are you contractually obligated to refer to Taiwan as "Chinese Taipei"?

5 Cliff Corcoran   ~  Mar 6, 2009 5:10 pm

No, not to my knowledge, but that's the name they're competing under and it just didn't seem like the right place to get into the issues behind that.

6 a.O   ~  Mar 6, 2009 5:33 pm

Thanks, Cliff.

7 OldYanksFan   ~  Mar 6, 2009 5:40 pm

Over/Under on ARod getting surgery and when?
I say surgery within a week.

8 randym77   ~  Mar 6, 2009 5:44 pm

[7] I say surgery as soon as Cashman trades for a third baseman.

Or second baseman, if Olney is correct about the Yanks wanting to move Cano to 3B.

9 rbj   ~  Mar 6, 2009 6:31 pm

Just read the updates over at Peter's. Gulp, sounds like surgery for A-Rod. Possibly Monday.

10 randym77   ~  Mar 6, 2009 6:41 pm

Yikes. It sounds like the only thing keeping them from saying "surgery on Monday" is the hope that they can make a deal before then.

11 Mr. OK Jazz TOKYO   ~  Mar 6, 2009 7:01 pm

Thanks for the review Cliff. I'm going to Japan-Korea tonight (standing room tickets!) I think the WBC would be fully embraced if they just fixed the awkward scheduling.

12 Cliff Corcoran   ~  Mar 6, 2009 8:05 pm

Here in Eastern Standard Time, the Korea-Chinese Taipei game was this morning at 4:30am and the Chinese Taipei-China game is tonight at 10:30pm. I assume in Japan the latter game is a day game and the Japan-Korea game, which is in the wee hours of tomorrow morning here, is a night game. Wacky stuff. Thank heaven for DVRs!

13 monkeypants   ~  Mar 6, 2009 8:50 pm

[0] After all, it’s passionate, high-stakes baseball being played by some of the best players in the world

Passionate? It seems so.

Best players? Yep.

High-stakes? Hardly.

14 Mr. OK Jazz TOKYO   ~  Mar 6, 2009 8:50 pm

[12] Yes, exactly right. I think first-pitch is at 6:20pm here, 04:20 east coast time! We were told we can get walk up standing tix but I wonder about the line..a lot of Koreans in town here too so demand is high.

News segments all around the last few days about Ichiro going hitless..I watched a throwing session by Matsuzaka last night, he's looking a bit hefty this year..

15 Mr. OK Jazz TOKYO   ~  Mar 6, 2009 8:51 pm

[13] High-stakes over here my friend! The Japanese team under a LOT of pressure after their terrible performance in the Olympics..

16 monkeypants   ~  Mar 6, 2009 9:14 pm

[15] Oh right, I forgot...this is for the championship of the WHOLE WORLD.

17 monkeypants   ~  Mar 6, 2009 9:17 pm

[15] Less snaky--

I think you are confusion the "passion" part with "high stakes." What is really at "stake", even in the high pressure environment of Japanese baseball? Will anyone be killed? Lose their jobs on their pro teams? Face hefty pay cuts? Really, very little is at stake in the WBC, unless one counts winning the tournament itself a "high stake."

18 monkeypants   ~  Mar 6, 2009 9:18 pm

[17] That should read snarky.

19 OldYanksFan   ~  Mar 6, 2009 9:21 pm

I do think ARod has surgery... however:

"In a Thursday conference call with the Yankees and other parties, Dr. Marc Philippon, the specialist, described for others how the surgery would work. But there also was an indication, during the call, that there is a "75 to 80 percent chance" Rodriguez could get through the 2009 season playing through the discomfort."


20 williamnyy23   ~  Mar 6, 2009 9:28 pm

[17] Is that really the citeria for determining high stakes? Who was the last player killed for not leading his team to the World Series? With guaranteed contracts players can't lose their jobs and even back up middle infielders could count on raises until this past off season. Using your logic, there really hasn't been a high stakes game played in decades.

For may players and fans watching, winning the WBC is a high stake.

[19] Also mentioned was the possibility that Arod could miss the entire season. There really is no definitive timetable. If there really is that good of a chance that he could make it through the season, there is no reason for him to have the surgery now. Quite frankly, I am very surprised that option is even being considered.

21 Chyll Will   ~  Mar 6, 2009 9:53 pm

[20] Do you think that Alex will heal any better while playing with an injury and juggling the intense scrutiny from the media and fans? I say have the surgery, take the year off and come back when you're fresh and can deal with the media backlash at full strength. I don't care how much the man's getting paid, I want to see him playing without worrying if the eventual surgery is one dive or swivel away. And enough of the self-righteous anti-A-Rod/steroids bullcrap from E@#$ and their ilk, please! If the media wants to, they'll make the other 103 happen in his absence; it's all just a few anonymous sources away...

22 williamnyy23   ~  Mar 6, 2009 10:01 pm

[21] Does Alex need to heel? Before he even knew he had a cyst, he looked pretty good in his first 10 ABs. If he doesn't actually have pain, why can't he play to a high level this season. I also don't think the "media backlash" should have any influence on his decision. Who cares what they think...it would be foolish to take a season off for that reason. Arod is a vital part of the Yankee team. If he has an 80% chance to make it through the season, that's a chance you take. Heck, even if he is at 75%, he is still better than most players.

23 Cliff Corcoran   ~  Mar 6, 2009 10:03 pm

"Do you think that Alex will heal any better while playing with an injury"

No. In fact, he won't heal at all. He'll deteriorate. The questions are

1) How fast?
2) Will he do additional damage that will cause problems beyond his eventual surgery?

The answers to those questions will likely determine whether or not he has the surgery now or tries to play through it. The media, the fans, all that stuff has nothing to do with it.

24 Chyll Will   ~  Mar 6, 2009 10:14 pm

[23] I agree wholeheartedly.

25 monkeypants   ~  Mar 6, 2009 10:29 pm

[20] No, those aren't the only criteria. But let's be realistic--everyone recognizes the World Series as "high stakes" within the context of the sport; very few people recognize the WB as anything other than a diversion or an exhibition. The very fact that so many players are disallowed to play by their home clubs, or who refuse to play to avoid injury, suggest how in how little regard it is held.

And frankly, if teams play poorly in professional leagues, someone pays the price. Young players a re demoted; players are traded or released; coaches and GMs are fired. Some players are protected by guaranteed contracts, but there repercussions.

Who is going to lose his job if the Italian team doesn't play well in the WBC.

So, I stand by my original comment. Passion--yes; great players--yes; high stakes--not much.

26 lordbyron   ~  Mar 6, 2009 10:46 pm


I love most of your posts - but the WBC - who cares!

27 Cliff Corcoran   ~  Mar 6, 2009 10:52 pm

I do. It'll be my job for the next three weeks to care. Those who also care (and they do exist) can share in that. Those who can't can hold out for the game recap.

28 williamnyy23   ~  Mar 6, 2009 10:55 pm

[25] I think a lot of players do recognize it as such, as do a lot of fans outside the U.S. (and a growing number here as well). This is only the second edition, so I think the stakes will grow over time. If the same attitude was taken about the W.S., it would have died after the Giants boycotted it in 1904.

29 lordbyron   ~  Mar 6, 2009 11:12 pm

i know you care about the WBC and I'm sure you'll do a great job covering it. i just have no interest in it at all. Good luck!

30 monkeypants   ~  Mar 6, 2009 11:29 pm

[28] I agree with you, but we now you are talking about something different. That the Giants boycotted the WS in 1904 indicates that the stakes were NOT high, just as the stakes are not high now for the WBC. So, I think we agree.

You now seem to be saying that there is an obligation of sorts for us fans to promote the WBC in order that it grow in importance--ie, that the stakes BECOME high in the future. I personally don't share your enthusiasm or sense of duty for the World Bud Selig Classic, but to each his own.

31 Cliff Corcoran   ~  Mar 7, 2009 12:46 am

If Olympic baseball were well-attended and/or still a medal sport, there would be no need for the WBC, but Olympic baseball isn't getting the job done. The WBC is by far the superior international competition. I think it's worth supporting.

32 randym77   ~  Mar 7, 2009 1:02 am

Pete quotes Cashman as saying:

“The stiffness is the beginning of the process. Eventually there is going to be pain. … You have to be realistic. We could be on the verge of having an incident. … What’s best for him is what’s best for us.”

No surgery scheduled yet, but A-Rod is staying Colorado "for the foreseeable future."

As for the WBC...I'm interested. I was considering going to one of the Florida games, since I plan to go down there for a few spring training games. I don't think it's going to fit into my schedule, though. And it''s not like Miami is that close to Tampa.

33 Raf   ~  Mar 7, 2009 8:44 am

The very fact that so many players are disallowed to play by their home clubs, or who refuse to play to avoid injury, suggest how in how little regard it is held.

That isn't necessarily true. Looking at how the teams from Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Japan, Korea, & Cuba are received by their fans, it appears that it isn't as insignificant as you may think it is.

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