It seems that whenever people talk about the World Baseball Classic (WBC), it is in a negative tone. What is its purpose? There is no right time to hold the exhibition series. Many of the big names declined invitations to participate due to lack of interest or fear of injury. Is Italy really proud to be represented by their leadoff hitter Nick Punto, whose ties to Italy are that his great-grandparents came from Italy? And if you look at the box score of today’s Team USA game against the Philadelphia Phillies, you saw that Jeremy Guthrie, John Grabow, Matt Lindstrom, Matt Thornton, Heath Bell, Joe Bisenius, and Jonathan Broxton were their pitchers. All quality pitchers, but how many All Stars are in that bunch?
Well, there are plenty of reasons to be happy and excited about the WBC too. Here is a list for you to use when people speak poorly of the WBC:
1. National Pride - The United States won’t show much, but watching teams and fans from the Dominican Republic, Venezuela and Japan will show what national pride should look like.
2. Star matchups – For instance, you may see Mexico’s Joakim Soria facing the Dominican Republic’s David Ortiz. What if Team USA is playing Japan in the championship game and Daisuke Matsuzaka pitches to Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youklis? How about seeing Justin Morneau facing Jake Peavy?
3. High Talent Level - The United States can put Derek Jeter or Jimmy Rollins at shortstop. How about the Dominican Republic’s choice? They have to chose between Jose Reyes and Hanley Ramirez! Must be rough!
4. Lots of Twins Players – There are Twins players all over in this tournament (well, except on Team USA). Here are a list of the Twins and the Twins minor leaguers in the WBC:
a. Justin Morneau, Jesse Crain – Canada
b. Luis Ayala – Mexico
c. Luke Hughes, Liam Hendriks, Danny Berg, James Beresford, Justin Huber – Australia
d. Tom Stuifbergen – Netherlands
e. Nick Punto – Italy
f. Carlos Gutierrez – Puerto Rico
g. Hein Robb – South Africa (I had not heard of him before this tournament. He’s a 16 year old pitcher that the Twins signed last year.)
5. Former Twins - It’s still fun to see these guys being successful. Here are some former Twins on WBC rosters:
a. Corey Koskie – Canada
b. Dennys Reyes, Augie Ojeda – Mexico
c. Brad Thomas, Trent Oeltjen, Tristan Crawford, Josh Hill – Australia
d. Sidney Ponson, Alexander Smit – The Netherlands
e. LaTroy Hawkins – United States
f. Luis Maza, JC Romero - Venezuela
6. Defection Potential - It will be interesting to see the Cuban team, and wonder if any, or how many, will eventually defect and play in the Major Leagues.
7. Yu! In the 2006 WBC, Kosuke Fukodome and Daisuke Matsuzaka became international stars and eventually big leaguers. Who will this year? How about 22 year old Yu Darvish, who many believe is the best pitching prospect in Japan. How much would his posting fee be if he were allowed to come to the United States?
8. Complete Unknowns - I’ve already mentioned several names of Twins minor leaguers that you haven’t heard of before, and some that I barely even had heard of. The tournament allows players to get some recognition along with international experience on a bigger scale. How about Shannon Ekermans? He is a left-handed pitcher from North Dakota State University who is playing for the South Africa team.
9. One More Try - Corey Koskie wanted to use the WBC to show big league organizations that he is able to play. The Cubs signed him. Others such as Pedro Martinez are using the WBC to prove their health. It will be interesting to see where he ends up. Ivan Rodriguez is still waiting to sign. Even Bernie Williams is playing.
10. Names – It is fun to hear announcers struggling to pronounce the names of players from Japan, Taiwan and China. But watching the WBC gives you another opportunity to say “Stubby Clapp” and that is always a good thing. The 36 year old former big leaguer will again play for Canada before resuming his career as a coach in the Houston Astros organization.
So there you have it, Ten Reasons to Watch the WBC. I bet you could come up with more. I’d love to hear them! Of course, maybe you prefer to come up with more reasons to bash the tournament. It’s likely I won’t completely disagree with you.
So let me ask you two very distinct questions, and I would like to hear your opinion.
1.) Will you watch the WBC on TV?
2.) Do you care who wins the tournament?
Me? I certainly will watch it. Why? Because it is baseball. It’s baseball, and we haven’t been able to watch baseball for months! Do I care who wins? Not particularly. Does that make me a bad American?
By the way, if you want to watch some of the WBC with myself and several other Twins bloggers and fans, head to Buffalo Wild Wings in Roseville on Saturday afternoon. We will be watching Team USA play Team Canada at 1:00 p.m. Stop by and watch and talk baseball!