Well It’s a week later and there have been more developments in the WBC.
Cinderella is a pumpkin again…
Israel who shocked the world by winning their first 4 games of the world baseball classic (which made seven straight wins if you count the qualifier rounds finally turned into a pumpkin as the Dutch avenged their earlier defeat by thumping them 12-2 in an 8 inning mercy game while Japan finished them off with a 8-3 win. It was still an impressive run for the team who will finish no worse than 7th overall (6th if Puerto Rico beats Venezuela) whose world ranking is sure to rise and their trip to the 2nd round automatically qualifies them for 2021.
Cuba falls apart.
The vaunted Cuban team was outscored 23-7 losing all three of their 2nd round games including a 14-1 mercy defeat against Australia in a game that could have forced a 2nd round playoff. While it’s always a good thing to see a communist government embarrassed it’s kind of sad to see a country that has produced so many fine players humbled in this way. However like Israel they did make the 2nd round so they will be back in 2021 but will they have the talent to get back to their previous level? That remains to be seen.
Venezuela pines for Italy.
Team Venezuela had an odd path to the second round going 2-4 in round one with two wins against Italy while being beaten by Puerto Rico and Mexico, however without Italy to kick around round to has been a disaster with loses to the US and the Dominican Republic. Puerto Rico’s win against the US knocked them out so today’s game is just for pride but the question remains can Omar Visquel’s injury plagued team edge out one of the favorites to go to the finals in their last game.
The Japan Dutch repeat
Four years ago Japan and the Dutch made it to Baseball’s final four and were beaten by Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, both teams earned a 2nd chance to change that result. Japan going a perfect 3-0 against their 2nd round foes and the Dutch crushing the Cubans to guarantee their trip to America. Last time around the Dutch fell to the Dominicans this time they will draw Puerto Rico which is likely to be no easier, however the Dutch team looks even better than last time so it will be no pushover for the runner ups for 2013. Meanwhile Japan will have to wait for the result of the US vs DR game later tonight to see who they will face and nobody should count out the 2 time champions.
Puerto Rico stands alone
The only real question for the PR squad that has gone undefeated in the classic is do they rest their stars in a meaningless game vs Venezuela? They have played excellent defense and offense and their pitching has done the job against some tough teams (although they almost blew it vs the US yesterday). The real question will be how they deal with the young and cocky Dutch who are no pushover in the semi final and do they hold back their best starter for the final against either Japan, the DR or the US? I’m glad I don’t have to make that call.
The last big game. US vs Dominican Republic
The Dominicans and the US face an elimination game tonight at 10 PM the winner will take on Japan in the final four the loser will go Home. The US finds themselves in this spot thanks to a digging a big hole in game one vs PR and their failure to get the tying run home in the 9th while the DR gave up fewer runs but couldn’t produce offense against the PR team (although in my mind an interesting strike zone cost them dearly as well). The DR will need to get by the US and Japan for another crack at the Puerto Rico squad (presuming they get by the Dutch) meanwhile the US is looking to return to the final four that they last made in 2009.
There are no easy games left for any of these teams but the odds on favorite would be for a DR vs PR rematch and one has to give the defending champs the edge there but it wouldn’t surprise me to see any of the final five teams walk away with the crown and in one respect both Puerto Rico and Japan have one disadvantage. There is no sport harder to keep up a winning streak in (even the 62 Mets won 40 games) Japan has one six straight to win it all they’ll need to win 8 while Puerto Rico will be in the same spot unless their meaningless game to Venezuela.
Either way from today through Wednesday the WBC will be the spot for the best baseball of the spring.