Since the World Baseball Classic’s inauguration in 2006, one team has been the dominant force.
That team is Japan. The land of the rising sun won its first World Baseball classic in 2006 by beating Cuba, and then won again in 2009 by beating South Korea. This year, Japan has to be looking to become the WBC’s first team to ever three-peat.
It won’t be as easy for Japan this year, as they don’t have a single major league ball player on their squad. In the past, Japan always had Ichiro Suzuki and Daisuke Matsuzaka on their team. In 2009, Japan had Yu Darvish, now the Texas Rangers‘ ace.
This year, there’s no one. To most baseball fans in America, Japan will be playing this World Baseball Classic with no big names.
On the other hand, Japan will be playing with the best players in their country. Some of these players may eye the WBC as a way to get their name out there, hoping to be able to get some recognition, and maybe even open the gates to a MLB career.
Lets face it, a lot of the big-name players eye this tournament as a chance to get into game shape. But for Japan, this is a chance for bragging rights.
The fans in Japan live for the game of baseball, and so do their players. Baseball is easily one of the biggest sports in Japan, if not the biggest. Their national team will be giving it their all with every pitch, and with every swing.
Simply put, this tournament matters to Japan. Despite not having the biggest names on their roster, Japan has to be the favorite to win the tournament.