Team USA will take on the world in the World Baseball Classic this March. They look to improve off of a 4-3 record in pool play in 2009 that earned them a spot in the semifinals against Team Japan the eventual winners of the tournament.
Team USA has never been a strong threat in this competition since its debut in 2006. The two times this tournament has been held Team Japan has taken the crown in convincing fashion. There are many reasons to why they have had success but having Ichiro Suzuki and Daisuke Matsuzaka can help.
Team USA is at a disadvantage before the tournament even starts because this event means nothing to the United States and most of the players that choose to play in it. Some don’t even choose to participate for a wide range of reasons.
That being said the roster this year doesn’t look that bad, a lot like past years. It’s going to come down to if the team plays like they should. The team is strong in the field with catcher Joe Mauer and third baseman David Wright along with Ryan Braun of the Milwaukee Brewers, Adam Jones of the Baltimore Orioles and Giancarlo Stanton of the Miami Marlins in the outfield.
The pitching has a lot to be desired considering they could have had Justin Verlander on the roster but he’s made the decision not to play. They do have the reigning Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dicky and lights out closer Craig Kimbrel which should give the US a good shot at winning. Kris Medlen and Ryan Volgelsong will also be in the rotation for the Americans.
I like the United States chances if everyone comes to play but that could be a big if. The players from Major League Baseball can sometimes just treat this tournament like throw away exhibition games that mean nothing. That’s where the rest of the world has an advantage, this is a big deal for them and they want to win at all costs.
I’m not saying they should go out there and treat this like the World Series but they could care a little more. Maybe I’m a sucker for the Olympic feel but I really wish the United States would take this tournament serious. National bragging rights seem like a big enough reason to play in this event to me.
I think that Team USA can make it out of pool play and make a decent run at the title but I think they will come up short once again. Until the world proves to me otherwise I think that Team Japan has to be the overwhelming favorite.