Anyone following it? First time it’s been held since 2017. Twenty teams in the tournament this time, which is the largest-ever pool. Group stage ongoing as we speak.
I went to the Panama game in Taichung last night, the home crowd was raucous at first but fell as quiet as a funeral as Taiwan fell behind 11-1. Having 20,000 people sitting in stone silence is a very eerie feeling.
The US team seems really underwhelming and poorly managed. I get that pitching is going to be tough to muster up this time of year, with most bigger names preferring to stay at their team camp and with their regular pitching coaches. But oof - what a terrible performance. Mexico is a really good team, and it’s a one game sample size - but the US didn’t look all that sharp against Great Britain either.
Venezuela is looking REALLY good. The Venezuela/Dominican game over the weekend was awesome - I got a chance to watch most of it, and both teams brought a lot of passion to the game. They’ll each likely advance from their pool, and I’d guess we’ll see them again in the quarter finals against each other.
On the other side of the world, did anyone see the 79 mph throwing Czech electrician strike out Shohei Ohtani?! That’ll be a story he gets to tell for the rest of his life.
For this reason, it’s more of an exhibition than an actual tournament. The stakes aren’t high enough to put the best pitchers out there and push them to their usual limits. Perhaps someday there will be an actual World Series, but until then…
Merrill Kelly had a pretty good year in 2022, but I’d be a little more psyched about the whole thing if the USA starters were drawn from a pool including Jacob DeGrom, Max Fried, Justin Verlander, Gerritt Cole, Max Scherzer, Clayton Kershaw, Carlos Rodon, Shane McClanahan, Aaron Nola, Zack Wheeler and others I can’t think of at the moment.
I must find out why Lars Nootbaar is paying for Japan. I get that his Mom is Japanese and he couldn’t otherwise play in the WBC, but why does Japan want him? It’s not like Japan is a country lacking in professional baseball players.
Looking at the list of teams that competed in the tournament surprised me. I was under the impression that baseball was only popular in the Americas plus Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan. I wasn’t aware that countries in Europe, the Middle East, and Asia (other than those I mentioned above) had teams that could play at an international level.
The teams from Italy, Israel and Great Britain were largely assembled using players with roots in those countries rather than native-born talent. The team from the Netherlands was mostly composed of players who grew up in Aruba and Curacao in the baseball-crazy Caribbean. The game now has a toe-hold in South America, with Venezuela having a very strong squad made-up primarily of major-leaguers. Colombia is also growing the sport, and hopefully it will spread to the rest of the continent.