If any of you Cubs fans out there are not watching the WBC this 2009, you are missing out on some great stuff. The second World Baseball Classic started early last Thursday morning, March 5th, with Pool A which included, Japan, Korea, China, and Chinese Taipei. Japan and Korea would have been the two favorites to come out of this double elimination pool and that is just the way it ended. The 2-0 and Japanese, met with the Korean team who was 2-1 having lost already to Japan for a seeding match to determine who would play who when round two begins this Saturday, March 14th. Korea defeated Japan 1-0 and will be the number 1 seed in Pool 1 in round 2 of the WBC.
Meanwhile the other WBC Pools have not gone quite so according to plan. Pool B featured the heavy favorite Cuban National team, and probably the runner up favorite in the pool, Mexico. While Cuba defeated South Africa convincingly 8-1 in the first game, Mexico was stunned by the Australian team in a 17-7 defeat. Mexico promptly did an about face and took their frustrations out on an unsuspecting South African team, thus eliminating the RSA from WBC competition. Udefeated Cuba (1-0) will now face the also undefeated Australians (1-0) to decide who will definitely get to go on round two, while Mexico awaits a battle for survival against the loser of this game. Japan is gearing up to face the winner of the Cuba - Australia matchup at 4 P.M. Eastern Time on Sunday, March 15th.
Pool C is probably the pool with the most eyes watching intently to see if the USA can regain some pride after their dissapointing 2006 WBC campaign. Canada didn't make it easy on the USA to secure their first win, with a 6-5 victory on Saturday. But the US followed last Saturday's win with an even more convincing win 15-6 over the offensively powerful Venezuelan's on Sunday evening who had already bested the Italian team 7-0 on Saturday. In a surprising, but not the first, upset to happen in the 2009 WBC, the Italians kept their seemingly impossible hopes of a WBC Championship alive by beating the Canadians 6-2 and eliminating the dissapointed team Canada early from this year's classic. Fromer Cub Mark DeRosa was on display in the USA's second game and recently acquired Corey Koskie will now be joining the Cubs in Spring Training with the elimination of Cananda. Italy will get another shot at Venezeula in an elimination game before the winner will face the US in a seeding game to decide who starts where in round two.
Pool D gave us on Satruday what already figures to be one of the biggest upsets of the year in any sport for 2009. The power house Dominican Republic team who lost Alex Rodriguez along with the Yankees early last week was the heavy favorite to win the pool. Their first game was against the heavy underdog Netherlands team which did not feature Andruw Jones, but did present, journeyman Sydney Ponson and former Chicago Cub Randall Simon to pretty much round out their Major League experience. The Netherlands played small ball and managed a first inning three run scoring frenzy against Eddinson Volquez of the Dominicans and the Cincinnati Reds. Then the unbelieveable happened, against a lineup which featured David Ortiz, Migeul Tejada, Hanley Ramirez, Jose Reyes, Jose Guillen and more - the Netherlands pitching staff made the three run first stand up for a 3-2 win over the Dominican Republic.
The battle conitnues on in Pool D with Puerto Rico defeating Panama 7-0 and then the Netherlands right afterword in a close game 3-1. The Dominican Republic recovered from their upset at the hands of the Netlerlands team and pounded Panama out of the competition 9-0. So the rematch is set for tonight at 6:30 P.M. between the Dominican and the Netherlands with the winner set to face Puerto Rico in the seeding match and then advancing to round two.
I may be just one fan and I understand the temptation for teams, players and fans to fear injuries in the WBC. But I think Major League Baseball has taken the proper precautions to protect pitchers arms during the contest and would like to point out that injuries do happen on the baseball field, whether it is Spring Training, the regular season, play offs, or an international contest such as the WBC. In my opinion if the MLB wanted to give the players extra rest, ditch the all star game, but keep the WBC! The WBC is good for the world, good for baseball, and just plain fun to watch! If you aren't watching the WBC then consider this a wake up call for any true baseball fan. The World Baseball Classic is a blast, meaniful baseball in March!