The WBC Is Coming
by Tamar Chalker
February 15, 2023
Well, it's finally here. Spring Training is getting underway and before you know it there will be actual baseball games being played. Not only that, but March 8 kicks off the World Baseball Classic, so baseball with some bragging rights attached isn’t too far away.
It’s hard to believe this is only the fifth time the WBC has taken place. This international tournament is only 17 years old and the last time it happened was in 2017. Obviously, COVID-19 has altered the schedule for the WBC like so many other things.
I remember when the WBC first started. Baseball had just been dropped from the Olympics and this was the response - an international baseball tournament that would take place every four (it was originally three) years. I thought MLB did a great job hyping the WBC that first time. There were big names on the USA team - Derek Jeter, A-Rod, Roger Clemens, Mark Teixeira, Matt Holiday, Ken Griffey, Jr., Chipper Jones - and more. Despite this, the US got knocked out in the second round, while Daisuke Matsuzaka led Japan to become the first WBC champion.
In fact, it wasn’t until 2017 that the US finally took the WBC crown - and it was with a far less exciting roster. You had Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich, and Buster Posey (and all still in their 20s). Marcus Stroman actually walked away with the MVP nod. It looks like the US is putting up a sincere effort to defend its title. Mike Trout is the captain, while Mookie Betts, Clayton Kershaw, Trea Turner, Nolan Arenado, JT Realmuto are just a few names on this formidable team.
I wish there were more Yankees to watch in this year’s WBC. Nestor Cortes was supposed to pitch for the US, but he pulled out with a hamstring injury and should (hopefully) be ready for Opening Day. This leaves Kyle Higashioka as the only US player, while Jonathan Loáisiga and Gleyber Torres represent Nicaragua and Venezuela respectively. We will get our first glimpse at Indigo Diaz, a pitcher the Yankees got as a part of the Lucas Luetge trade with the Braves at the end of December. The MSU Spartan had a solid showing in AA ball last year and will be throwing for Team Canada.
Great Britain is making its first appearance in the WBC this year. I will be honest, I didn’t realize they had a team. They aren’t expected to go far, but it will be an interesting storyline to watch. They are unlikely to be very competitive, but the Dominican Republic has Juan Soto, Julio Rodriguez, and Rafael Devers, so if anyone is going to upset the defending champs, my money would be on them.