Monday, March 06, 2017

2017 World Baseball Classic: Let the Games Begin!

From the desk of:  PLANET BASEBALL

Team Israel picks up where they left off...

The 2017 World Baseball Classic is Underway.  Team Israel Registers First Upset of the Tournament Defeating Host South Korea in Pool Play Opener.

POOL A:  @ South Korea
  • Israel
  • South Korea
  • Netherlands
  • Chinese Taipei

South Korea has been a legitimate force since the first World Baseball Classic, and should once again advance deep into the tournament.  They lost to Japan in the 2009 WBC Final.

With regards to Round One, the Netherlands are not be taken lightly.  They became the talk of the 2009 Classic after taking two games from the mighty Dominican Republic.  In 2013, Team Netherlands did the same to Cuba.  What team dares underestimate them this time?  Advancing into Round Two is well within their capabilities considering an infield an boasting Xander Bogaerts, Didi Gregorius, Andrelton Simmons, and Jurickson Profar.

Team Israel, however, enters these games as arguably the biggest underdog of them all.  Just don't tell them that ... not after defeating the field (Great Britain, Pakistan, Brazil) during last September's final WBC Qualifier (#4) played in Brooklyn ... and especially after their stunning 2-1 extra-inning upset over host South Korea in the 2017 World Baseball Classic opening game.
Considering they won three straight at the WBC Qualifier, Israel brings a four game winning streak into Monday night's game against Taiwan. The team features former major league pitcher Jason Marquis, present and former Mets Ty Kelly and Ike Davis.

Taiwan (Chinese Taipei) baseball is about as grassroots as it gets, folks.  All those Little League championships are paying off.  Taiwan has enjoyed Olympic success, and advanced into Round Two of the 2013 WBC.

Pool B: @ Tokyo

  • Australia
  • Cuba
  • China
  • Japan

Perennial WBC powers open Pool B round-robin play with a bang, as host Japan takes on Cuba Tuesday morning in a rematch of the 2006 WBC Final.

Consider for a moment what the World Baseball Classic has meant for Cuba, baseball, Cuban baseball, and the U.S.  In order to facilitate their participation in the first ever (2006) World Baseball Classic, some allowances and easing of restrictions needed to be made with regards to the wide-ranging U.S. trade embargo in place against Cuba.  Since 2006, U.S. relations have continued progressing forward, and as a result, we've been exposed to their players more so in recent years than at any other time since the Cuban Revolution.  The Confederation of Caribbean Baseball has additionally invited Cuba back into the winter league's Serie del Caribe.  Ironically, pre-revolution Cuba was a founding member of the Confederation back in 1949.

Team Japan is a two time champion of the World Baseball Classic.  But what they lack entering this Classic are the former marquee names more familiar to American fans.  Seeing Ichiro Suzuki and Sadaharu Oh on the same field together was transcendent.  They'll be no Yu Darvish, and only memories if Dice-K Matsuzaka.  It's time to learn knew names and faces.  Shohei Otani could have been one of them, but he will miss the Classic with an injury.  Nevertheless, this much is certain: Japanese baseball is one of the highest rated levels of play worldwide.  They will be ready.

Australia and China will be hard pressed getting by either one of those teams.

Both teams have several pitchers with major league experience.  Familiar MLB veteran Bruce Chen will be climbing the hill for China.  But I just don't see either team outscoring the likes of Cuba, or outperforming Japan.

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