Saturday, March 14, 2009

WBC Round 2 Preview

Round 1 of the WBC is over and we now know the eight advancing teams moving on the second round. Of the 8 favored teams - Japan, Korea, Cuba, Mexico, US, Venezuela, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic, all but 1 advanced to the second round. Of course the one was the Dominican Republic due to their two losses to the Dutch team who will be taking their place.

Overall, the fact that 7 out of 8 of the best teams survived is good for the WBC - but it sure would have been nice to have all of those Dominican stars still playing. Alas, we'll move on without them - and this post previews the best matchups in Round 2.

We start off with the following:

Netherlands vs. Venezuela
United States vs. Puerto Rico

San Diego
Japan vs. Cuba
Korea vs. Mexico

I may be wrong here, but these pools seems a bit lopsided, both in talent and in fan appeal. It would have been even moreso had the Dominican advanced as planned. The US, Venezuela, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic are debatably the four most talented teams in the field (though Japan would likely dispute this vigorously) and certainly are the most appealing to watch for American fans, because they are the only teams with significant MLB players. And they all feed into the same pool. Meanwhile, the San Diego pool features four good teams, but four teams that have few MLB players.

A major part of the appeal of the WBC is seeing how players from other country's leagues perform against the MLB guys. That's one reason that it was so intriguing to see the Netherlands knock-off the Dominican Republic - but in San Diego we have four rosters mostly devoid of MLB players, while the teams with MLB talent are all concentrated in Miami.

That said, here are the matchups to watch:

Saturday Miami: US vs. Puerto Rico

This year, in it's second season, the WBC is finally getting the US vs. Latin American matchups that it's been craving. First off is what should be an awesome game between the US and Puerto Rico, which should be all the more exciting given the fact that it's in Miami which has a large Puerto Rican population. Unfortunately, in what may be the most anticipated matchup of the entire two years of the WBC, the game is not on television.

Sunday San Diego: Japan vs. Cuba

This matchup is intriguing simply because it's a rematch of last years championship matchup. It should also be interesting to see how Cuba, perhaps the most unknown of the squads because of the embargo, plays against another top team in Japan.

Monday Miami: Game 4 - US vs. Venezuela (likely)

Well, they've played each other twice already, but hopefully the atmosphere will be better than in the completely dead Rogers Center. Two good teams in an important game should make for a good viewing experience.

Tuesday Miami: Game 5 - Winner of Game 3 vs. Loser of Game 4

This one should be another dandy and another one inexplicably not on TV. The game will most likely be an advance or go-home game between two of the following: the US, Venezuela, Puerto Rico. If one of the teams is the US, it will really be a shame and an embarrassment for the WBC not to have the elimination game on TV.

Prediction: Were I to put money on the game, I'd put the US, Venezuela, Japan, and Cuba in the finals. If the MLB is lucky, it will perhaps lead to a dream matchup of the US vs. Cuba - a rivalry not so poignant as it would have been in say, 1960, but still an intriguing finale to be sure.