I don't know too many people who are as excited about the World Baseball Classic as I am, but the rosters were announced yesterday, and the teams are taking shape. I personally like looking over my home teams roster and seeing people I never knew were my countryman. This year, it was Pirates pitcher Ian Snell. Like the last WBC, the Puerto Rican team has good offense with not so good pitching. The island produces a disproportionate ratio of pitchers to catcher. Even without Posada, we have all two of the Molina brothers plus Cubs catcher Geovany Soto who hit .285 with 23 homeruns, 35 doubles, and 86 RBI's last season. From your catcher, that's pretty solid. The pitching is going to be our weak point. We have good relief, but starters are lacking. I'm excited about an outfield that boasts Carlos Beltran and Alex Rios, and an infield that has Carlos Delgado, Mike Aviles, Mike Lowell, and Felipe Lopez. Of course, pitching dictates a game, and I just don't have much faith in Javier Vazquez, Joel Pineiro, Jonathan Sanchez and Ian Snell fronting the rotation. However, in these short series, anyone can win, so if the pitchers can throw some respectable games, the offense can carry them and the relief can shut down the later innings.
How do other teams look? As usual the US and Dominican teams are stacked. What if I said you had JP Howell, Scott Kazmir, Justin Verlander and Jake Peavy for starters and had to decide whether BJ Ryan, Joe Nathan, or JJ Putz would close? The rest of the team has some interesting decisions to make, like whether you use Grady Sizemore or Vernon Wells in center, or who between Evan Longoria and David Wright will play 3rd, or who between Jimmy Rollins and Derek Jeter should play short. This is basically like the All-Star game, only you're choosing the best from both leagues.
The Dominican team has similar difficult decisions to make with Hanley Ramirez or Jose Reyes at short, as well as Albert Pujols and Carlos Pena at first (we all know Pujols wins, but when Carlos Pena is on your bench, you know your team is stacked). Similarly, they have A-Rod and Aramis Ramirez at 3rd. That means they will have to bench some very good power hitters. Vlad Guerrero and Alfonso Soriano will patrol the corner outfield spots with Wily Taveras, and Melky Cabrera competing for center. The pitching isn't as good as it was 4 years ago when players were 4 years younger and 4 years less injured, but it still has a respectable core of Francisco Liriano, the stellar Edinson Volquez, the less than stellar Daniel Cabrera, and Fausto Carmona. Both Jose Veras and Damaso Marte will be available in relief.
I didn't look at many other teams, but Canada has Justin Morneau, Jason Bay, Joey Votto, and Russel Martin among other major league hitters. That's a respectable heart of the lineup with Bay and Morneau as good a 3/4 combination as you can get. They also have Rich Harden pitching for them, which makes for a strong ace.
Our very own Francisco Cervelli will be playing for the Italian team with Matt Garza and Alfredo Aceves playing for team Mexico.
Whether you like the WBC or not, it does have the added benefit of giving us competitive games to watch in early March. It provides a baseball fix to hold you over until the beginning of April, and that alone is worth the classic. But I also like the idea of worldwide recognition for the game. I'm hoping that in 20 years, you'll see more countries represented, and that the countries already represented will be much more competitive. Who knows, maybe in a few years you have India, Vietnam, Argentina, and England playing, giving much more visibility to the sport, and more of a world feel to it.