The first World Baseball Classic
is off a great start.
Pool A ( Tokyo ) was the Asian group- China, Taiwan, Japan, and Korea.Pool A - EliminatedChina
is a great country, but it's a baseball baby. Japan whacked them 18-2, the Koreans beat 'em 10-1, and then Taiwan beat them 12-3. The Chinese were here to learn, to observe. There's no shame in their performance, and I will bet that they become internationally competitive before very long. Taiwan
( known as " Chinese Taipei " because if they called them anything else, China would not have showed up ) lost to Korea 2-0, got whooped by Japan 14-3, and then coasted over the PRC. They're clearly more advanced than China, are still on the rise.Pool A- AdvancingKorea
wants to compete against Japan in all things, baseball included. Its personal. Japan has produced very good baseball players for some time, and now Korea is almost at the same level. They beat Taiwan, they beat China, and then--holy Jesus-- they beat Japan, in the Tokyo Dome itself. Don't think that this was a big story in Korea
? Only as big as New Years Eve ten times over. Korea and Japan will play one another in the next round.Japan
to beat all the other Asian countries. They beat China and Taiwan, but when they lost to Korea, that certainly did not make it a good day in the Tokyo sports bars. If Korea advances further than Japan in this Series, it will be awful for the Japanese.
Pool B ( Phoenix ) group consisted of the US, Canada, Mexico and South AfricaPool B - EliminatedSouth Africa
played bravely, but these young guys were completely outclassed by Mexico, Canada and the US.Canada
did not make it to the next round, but they had a game for the ages when they beat the USA 8-6. They're still talking about
it and rightfully so. Pool B - AdvancingMexico
lost 2-0 to the USA, but then whipped South Africa and subsequently beat Canada. That last victory helped the USA to advance after the unexpected loss to Canada.
was in trouble after losing to Canada. They could easily have been eliminated. But after Mexico helped them by beating Canada, they once more had control of their destiny. Intimidating power pitcher Roger Clemens put his game face on against South Africa, the US winning 17-0
Pool C ( San Juan, Puerto Rico ) group consisted of the Cuba, Panama, Puerto Rico,and the Nethelands.Pool C - Eliminated
got beat by Puerto Rico and Cuba, which was expected, and by the Netherlands, which was certainly not expected.
When the Netherlands
lost to Puerto Rico and then Cuba, their fate was sealed . But they nonetheless played the game of their lives when they beat Panama 10-0. Dutch pitcher Shairon Martis pitched a complete game-no hitter
. He's from Dutch Curacao, in the Caribbean, and he's not the only good player down there.Pool C - AdvancingCuba
has a long and magnificent baseball tradition. America likes baseball, America created baseball, but Cuba and the Dominican Republic love the sport with an intensity that Americans no longer have. They know the game, they breathe it, they live it from childhood.Cuba
is supposed to walk over everybody until they get to the Dominicans and the USA. Well, they beat Panama, and they put away the Netherlands, but then a funny thing happened on the way to the coronation when Puerto Rico beat 'em 12-2. Native Puerto Ricans Bernie Williams ( Yankees ) and Carlos Beltran ( Mets ) hit monster home runs. Fidel was not f***ing happy.Puerto Rico
beat Panama, the Netherlands, and as noted above, beat Cuba. I would not have picked them to do this well, but they have could not have been more impressive vs Cuba so lets see what happens next.
Pool D ( Orlando, Florida) group consisted of Italy, Australia, Venezuela, and the Dominican Republic.Pool D - EliminatedItaly
beat Australia 10-0, a more impressive victory than I would have expected, then lost to Venezuela 6-0, which was closer than I'd have expected, and then lost 8-3 to the Dominican Republic. The Italians probably did slightly better than expected. Australia
got swept by Italy, Venezuela and the Dominican Republic. This result was a dissapointment as there is a decent baseball tradition there, but this wan't their tournament. Pool D - AdvancingVenezuela
is a country rich in baseball history, filled with wiry shortstops and sneaky pitchers. They lost to the mighty Dominicans, then beat Italy and Australia. They had the luck of a mostly easy draw. They need to step it up in the next round.Dominican Republic
The last is not the least. The poor nation of the Dominican Republic, one-half of the Caribbean island of Hispaniola it shares with even poorer Haiti, produces great baseball players. The tiny town of San Pedro de Macoris
has produced an immense number of major league players. They could win it all.
The Dominicans beat Venezuela, Italy and Australia handily. Don't be surprised if they win it all. If they do, they'll celebrate for days, as will the Dominican emigre communities in the USA.