(NOTE: There is no information about the World Baseball Classic available, so here's a picture from the U-18 Baseball World Championship.)
Excitement for the 2013 World Baseball Classic, coming next March, is already building to a fever pitch. The media hysteria for the qualifying rounds has been evident, as baseball titans like Germany and Spain have been striving for a spot in the tournament proper. This quadrennial showdown is the centerpiece of baseball's international calendar, and so it's important that we start looking at the tourney itself, even six months ahead of the first pitch.
Sometime in March. Probably. The dates aren't set yet.
San Francisco is hosting the championship game, whenever it might be, and Marlins Park is scheduled to host a semi-final, but beyond that it's a little up in the air. (Last time one of the pools was in Tokyo and another was in Mexico and a third was in Puerto Rico.) Unlike the soccer World Cup, or the Olympics, baseball likes to add excitement by keeping everybody guessing about where the games might be. Maybe they'll be at your house!
There are 16 teams in the tournament, split into four pools of four. Two teams from each pool qualify for Round 2, when the teams are split into two groups of four, then the two best teams in each pool zzzzzzzzzz
Just know this: the tournament is designed so that each individual game means nothing until the semifinals. Baseball likes to get as many low-stakes games in as possible, to really build fan interest.
The rules on pitcher use are more than 1,200 words long. Making baseball accessible and understandable to all is the goal of the WBC.
The United States is in the tournament. Canada has to play Germany today to qualify. (Germany's team includes Toby Gardenhire, who is no longer a pro baseball player and instead coaches baseball at UW-Stout.)
This is all the news you need to know about the teams, except to remind you that Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, and Mexico are all in the tournament, and you will kind of seem like a racist if you can't remember which Latin superstar goes with which Latin country.
12 of the 16 teams are already set, but we do not know which teams are in which pools. Quit asking.
The teams are up in the air; none of the teams has played a game since the 2009 World Baseball Classic. You can be sure, though, that all of your favorites will be playing for their home countries, assuming of course that your favorite players do not pull out of the tournament to focus on the upcoming MLB season. They would never do that, unless:
- they are a pitcher, and don't want to ruin their arm
- they are a position player, and don't want to ruin their legs
- they are a pitcher or a position player, and they can think of a good excuse
- they are a pitcher or a position player, and they can think of any excuse at all
Baseball fans from all over the world find the WBC a must-see. Unless they are in Canada, because hockey's on. Or in Australia, because it's the middle of the night. Or in America, where fans are either A) watching the NBA or B) more interested in who'll take up the all-important fifth-starter role on their MLB team.
Japan has won the past two tournaments, while South Korea has finished third and second. Somehow Japan and South Korea seem to be able to find players who wouldn't rather be playing golf, so let's go with one of their teams.
Japan tried to boycott the tournament, demanding that MLB and the MLBPA share tournament revenues with the Japanese Players' Association. The dispute was later resolved when MLB assured the Japanese that there would be no revenues of any kind.
Also, Israel will have a team this year. Several Jewish players have expressed interest in playing; we can look forward to them pulling out of the tournament to focus on the MLB season.
UPDATE: Spain beat Israel in the qualifiers yesterday, knocking Israel out of the WBC. This is because Spain and Israel played twice in the tournament, with each team losing once. So naturally in this double-elimination format, Spain wins and Israel loses despite neither actually losing twice. The World Baseball Classic: You can't even satirize it, because the truth is actually funnier.
We can't wait for the World Baseball Classic! Assuming we actually find out when it is. And where it is. And who's playing in it.