In this edition of Rounding the Diamond, I’m going to step outside my writing comfort zone. Without further ado, we shall voyage into the scary, largely unknown (at least to me) world of baseball outside of MLB. Gasp! So frightening!
Tell your parents you love them. Make sure to grab a snack, too. Peanuts and Cracker Jack would be fitting, but don’t worry if you do not have direct access to them.
Although baseball is the United States’ national pastime, it also happens to be incredibly popular in many other countries. Crazy, right? There is perhaps no better example of baseball’s international reach than the World Baseball Classic (WBC), contested by 20 international teams. Much like the World Cup, the WBC occurs every four years, but has not taken place since 2017 because of the pandemic.
The 2023 WBC, which will be the fifth edition of the competition, will officially begin March 7, with Cuba and the Netherlands facing off against each other in Taichung, Taiwan.
Will the United States defend its first-ever crown from 2017? Will Japan achieve world baseball dominance for the third time? How could the Dominican Republic not win it all with its stacked lineup? Although these will probably be the most-discussed topics surrounding the WBC, I would like to specifically focus on three teams who will make their debut appearances at the WBC: the Czech Republic, Great Britain and Nicaragua.
On a personal note, I was a little surprised that the Netherlands and Israel had qualified for the competition before, but I guess that’s just my American-centric baseball bias showing. Oops. I must have forgotten that Mets’ legends Ty Kelly and Ike Davis played for the Israeli WBC team (a few belated mazel tovs are in order, I’m afraid).
First, we have the Czech Republic. The MLB’s infamous, glasses-wearing “nerd” Eric Sogard highlights the Czech roster. He is the only standout on the team to me, which is probably not the best sign for their success in the tournament. Just for reference, the Czech Republic currently has +27500 odds of winning the WBC (meaning that betting $100 would return $27,500). However, I see a path out of pool play if they manage to defeat South Korea, as long as China and Australia play as poorly as expected. This scenario would land the Czech team in second place in Pool B, within which Japan is the obvious favorite.
Secondly, Great Britain. In complete honesty, the only player I know from this team will be Seattle Mariners’ prospect Harry Ford (who is only a few months older than me. Gulp.). Much like the American Revolution, I suspect a poor end result for the Brits, who have +40000 odds of winning the WBC. Maybe they should stick to soccer… Although, England was only able to tie the United States in the World Cup this year.
Lastly, Nicaragua. Placed within what I think is the most difficult pool, Pool D, with Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic as clear favorites, it would take a true miracle for Nicaragua to even advance to the quarterfinals. Nicaragua has +17500 odds of winning the WBC, which means that it is surprisingly favored above Australia, Israel and China — all countries that have qualified for the WBC in years prior.
I’m all for an underdog story, but I unfortunately don’t see any avenues for major WBC success in these debuting teams’ futures.
Hopefully, the next edition of Rounding The Diamond will have some MLB news to report on. This non-MLB talk was much too scary for me — despite the snacks and my parents’ love.
Eli Blumenfeld is a sophomore in the College of Arts & Sciences. Rounding the Diamond appears online and in print every three weeks.
Great read! Looking forward to the next addition