2006 World Baseball Classic

The stars are coming out March 2nd, but don’t bother looking at the sky. Instead, bring your attention to the World Baseball Classic, featuring Major League Baseball’s finest athletes playing for their home country in an international tournament. This sixteen-team event spans eighteen days and will be played in baseball stadiums from Japan to Puerto Rico to Florida. Including teams such as the Netherlands, South Africa and Italy the WBC looks to expand baseball’s international appeal. All teams look to have some talent on their roster as about 60% of all participants are currently under Major League Baseball contracts. MLB officials have decided that the risk of preseason injuries is worth attempting to create a new worldwide competition that some hope will eventually resemble soccer’s World Cup. In its inaugural season the WBC looks to be an exciting mixture of athleticism and patriotism that shouldn’t be missed. On an international stage, the United States is always expected to be competitive. The WBC should prove to be no exception as Team USA has compiled many talented players. The team will have to rely heavily on the aging arm of seven-time Cy Young winner Roger Clemens (Houston Astros) if it is to make a run at the championship. Clemens is the only true ace on the team, but he will be assisted by such stars as C.C. Sabathia (Cleveland Indians), the young Dontrelle Willis (Florida Marlins), and fireballer Billy Wagner (Philadelphia Phillies). The hitting for team USA also looks solid with sluggers Derek Jeter (New York Yankees), 2005 MVP Alex Rodriguez (New York Yankees), and young star Michael Teixeira (Texas Rangers) on the roster. The team also includes both of last year’s MLB batting champions in Michael Young (Texas Rangers) and Derek Lee (Chicago Cubs). The roster also includes a new Yankee, Johnny Damon. This may be Damon’s final opportunity to play with his old captain Jason Varitek (Boston Red Sox) who will be the number one catcher for the team. Team USA does not have the same depth as some other squads, but if they manage stay healthy this team will have the chance to win the international crown. With a massive amount of MLB talent on its roster, the Dominican Republic looks like the team to beat. The team’s lineup includes such all-stars as Miguel Tejada (Baltimore Orioles), Albert Pujols (St. Louis Cardinals) and Aramis Ramirez (Chicago Cubs) in addition to the prodigious power of Manny Ramirez (Boston Red Sox), David Ortiz (Boston Red Sox) and Vladimir Guerrero (Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim). The Dominican team combined for over 250 homeruns and 800 RBIs in the 2005 MLB season. Having achieved these numbers against the world-class pitching in the major leagues, the offensive potential of the team is mind-boggling. The team’s pitching also appears potent with Cy Young winners Pedro Martinez (New York Mets) and Bartolo Colon (Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim) ready to take the mound. This team looks ferocious and they won’t be satisfied until they reach the championship series. The tournament field is split into four groups, each with four teams. Every team will play three games in the opening round as they jockey for position entering the second round. The top two teams from every group will make it to the second round. The four best teams will move on to the semifinals where they will get a chance to play for the championship on March 20th at PETCO Park in San Diego. The WBC may also feature the final plate appearance for Sammy Sosa. With career 588 homeruns, fifth all-time, Sosa is contemplating retirement. Best known for his homerun race with Mark McGuire in 1998, a race that is largely credited with bring baseball back into the hearts of Americans, Sosa has enjoyed a long, productive career. After recently rejecting a contract from the Washington Nationals, retirement looks like a probable course of action. “It’s more than likely we have seen him in a uniform for the last time,” Sosa’s agent, Adam Katz said last week. The only player in league history to have hit 60 homeruns in three different seasons, Sosa may dress to play his last games on Team Dominican Republic. As we inch towards the new baseball season many fans are anxious to see some action. The WBC looks to provide a very high level of baseball with interesting storylines, a baseball fan’s dream. As we all start to catch baseball fever, the WBC looks like the relief fans need in order to make it to opening day.