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:
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.