World Baseball Classic starting up again


Pre-game ceremony at AT&T Park in San Francisco in 2013 for the championship game

By Carlos Allen, Senior Reporter

On March 15, the team most likely to win the World Baseball Classic, the Dominican Republic, fell out of the running with a loss to Puerto Rico, much to the surprise of fans around the world.

A baseball statue outside of the Toyko Dome in Japan for the 2023 WBC. (Royalty-free photo by ウィ貴公子 via Wikimedia Commons)

The Dominican Republic had a few star players that could have led them to the Finals, including home run derby champion Juan Soto from the San Diego Padres, future first-ballot Hall of Fame second baseman Robinson Canó (who is currently a free agent), and young stud Julio Rodríguez from the Seattle Mariners, who won the American League Rookie of the Year in 2022.

Pitching for the DR was led by 27-year-old Sandy Alcantara, who had a breakout season with the Miami Marlins during the 2022 regular season.

The Dominican Republics’ last game vs Puerto Rico was not their best performance, to say the least. The DR had Johnny Cueto on the mound for them. For Puerto Rico, pitcher Jovani Moran got the win for the country. Cuetuo only pitched 2 0/3 innings that day, he got taken out after he let up a solo home run to left field off the bat of Christian Vázquez. Bryan Abreu came in to pitch and on the second pitch of his outing, Puerto Rico’s shortstop, Fransico Lindor, hit a single to the left side that drove in Vimael Machin from second. After a very long third inning for the DR, Puerto Rico was up 4-0 for an early lead that they did not give up even with letting up a Juan Soto solo homerun and getting in a bases-loaded jam in the bottom of the fifth with only letting up one run which would be the final run of the game for either team.

After Edwin Diaz finished the game and got the save, Puerto Ricos celebrated but Diaz went down on the ground holding his knee and had to be helped up to hobble off to the clubhouse. Diaz tore his right patellar tendon and will miss the entire season in the celebration.

This is a big letdown to Puerto Rico fans and to New York Mets fans, Diaz was one of the most if not the favorite pitchers in the MLB last year with his cool and fun walkout from the bullpen and having a career-low 1.31 ERA and making an all-star appearance. Over this offseason, Diaz signed a $102 million deal to stay with the Mets.

The Dominican Republic’s failure means that the USA is still in the running, and ready to face Venezuela on Saturday.

The USA is led by arguably the greatest of all time (GOAT), Mike Trout, a 10x All-Star, 3x MVP winner, and a 9x Silver Slugger winner. In addition to Mike Trout, the 10x Gold Glove winner, 6x All-Star, and 6x Rawling Platinum Glove winner Nolan Arenado from the St Louis Cardinals is also playing for the team, and the two have the star power to lead the USA to win it all.

Proud Canadian fans at the Rogers Centre in Toronto, Canada in 2009 watching Canada face Italy. (Royalty-free photo by Oaktree b via Wikimedia Commons)

USA pitching is led by St Louis Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright, who is making his USA national team debut this year.

However, baseball is one of the most difficult games to predict, so anything can happen within this tournament. Like March Madness, the energy in the stadium is unmatched, mostly because fans from different countries do not see this high of a level game, and the World Baseball Classic only takes place every 4 years.

The last WBC was in 2017 when Andrew McCutchen and Paul Goldschmidt led the USA to the title. The reason there was no WBC in 2021 is that the MLB announced that the 2021 WBC would be canceled because of Covid-19, and be played in 2023.

The WBC contains the best players from their respective countries: Colombia, Cuba, Japan, Mexico, Nicaragua, Puerto Rico, USA, and Venezuela are still in the running.

Flags from countries participating in the 2013 World Baseball Classic are shown in a pre-game ceremony on the Championship Game at AT&T Park in San Francisco, CA, on March 19, 2013 (Royalty-free photo by LiAnna Davis via Wikimedia Commons)

In this WBC, there are some rule changes: pitchers are limited to 65 pitches, so most times teams will use at least 3 pitchers, no matter what. Another rule that is different from those of Major League Baseball is the mercy rule: if a team is up/down by a 10-run lead/deficit after seven innings, the game ends.

Some MLB stars announced that they will not take part in the WBC for different reasons: New York Mets ace and future Hall of Famer Max Scherzer, and the Tampa Bay Rays ace Shane McClanahan, for example.

I’m not ready to step into a quasi-playoff game right now. If I do that, I’m rolling the dice with my arm,” Scherzer said to WFAN Sports Radio.

Obviously, some countries have more talent and players in the MLB than others, but baseball is a game that on any given day anything can happen.