The ultimate rivalry of the World Baseball Classic is likely that of Japan and Korea. Fueled by historic grievance, geography, a similar style of play, and the way that international tournaments often end up being scheduled, any match-up of the two is must-see TV.
So it’s not surprising, then, that people involved with baseball in the two countries are already talking. At least, that’s what the Google translated articles I’ve found say.
In a talk with Korea’s Yonhap News Agency (translated to English by Google here), the KBO President agreed that the match-up with Japan is extremely important and that they will have to “prepare thoroughly” for it. The KBO has seen bumps in domestic popularity after previous success by Korea in the WBC, but the team has had a rough patch lately. That’s especially true when it comes to the Japan rivalry: Korea hasn’t beaten Japan in a major tournament since the 2015 Premier 12. The Koreans will be forming a committee shortly to begin the process of building the WBC team. The article says that while Hyun-Jin Ryu won’t take part due to his Tommy John surgery, it is possible that the Korean team may include players like Tommy Edman and Dane Dunning, who both have mothers from Korea.
Meanwhile, Japanese manager Hideki Kuriyama has been quoted as saying that the Japan-Korea games have always been fierce battles. That’s caught the attention of various Korean outlets, like this one.
Sticking with Japan for a second, some there are already speculating on what MLB players may play for Samurai Japan in 2023. A reporter for the Sanspo newspaper, for example, feels like Shohei Ohtani may be in an iffy position due to his two-way nature and the fact that 2023 will be the last year of his contract. However, he does believe that Seiya Suzuki of the Cubs would likely be able to participate if he wants to, and that Yu Darvish will likely have a big role in the rotation.
Finally, in other WBC news: Taiwan reportedly will be putting together a selection and training committee soon to pick a coach and begin selecting players for the tournament.
Stay tuned to the Baseball Continuum for more World Baseball Classic news as I find it.