The final spot in next year’s main WBC tournament is up for grabs this week in Brooklyn, in an eclectic pool of four countries that lack major baseball facilities and thus sort of have been thrown into Brooklyn in hopes that New York’s diverse population will come out to see the games. While Brazil and the American-heavy Israeli team should be considered the favorites, GB shouldn’t be totally counted out. The biggest mystery (and likely last-place finisher) is Pakistan, a newcomer to the WBC that has rarely participated outside of the regional level. You can see the rosters (which have since changed slightly due to call-ups and injuries) here.
As we barrel towards the World Baseball Classic Qualifiers, here’s the latest news:
The Run-Up to the Sydney Qualifiers:
First off, the most important news for all of us is how we’ll be able to watch it. And good news! In the USA and Canada, all games will be on the World Baseball Classic website! Go to the link to see how else you can watch it, as select games will be on TV on MLB Network and all games will be on ESPN in the Pacific Rim area, although some games will be tape-delayed.
There have been some changes to rosters since they were first announced. Perhaps the most notable addition has been that infielder Gift Ngoepe has been added to South Africa. Probably the best African baseball player in history, Gift is now on the Pirates’ 40-man roster, which probably delayed it being official.
Various teams have been playing informal warm-up games in the run-up to the qualifiers. You can see pictures and info on some of New Zealand’s play on their Facebook page, for example.
The New Zealanders will be wearing #37 on their uniforms in memory of Lincoln Holdzkom, who died in a car accident last year.
In other WBC news:
Tickets are now on sale for the Panama City portion of the Qualifiers.
Attention Britons and people with fairly close British ancestry: the United Kingdom’s baseball team is holding open tryouts on Sunday, March 6th!
Athletics catching prospect Bruce Maxwell, who was born in Germany, will be part of the German team in their qualifying tournament.
There are a few other stories I’ve missed, but I’m hard at work on the WBC Qualifier preview for Sydney, so those other stories will have to wait until next time!
Well, I told you that more news was probably coming, and today it was confirmed, as the World Baseball Classic qualifying pools have been announced! They are (all qualifiers in 2016):
Qualifier 1 (Sydney, Australia on February 11-14th):
Qualifier 2 (Mexicali, Mexico on March 17-20th):
Qualifier 3 (Panama City on March 17-20th):
Qualifier 4 (Brooklyn on Sept. 22-25th):
As you can see, they’ve mixed up the locations (only Panama is a return qualifying host), the pools (no pool has more than two teams that were in the same individual pool last time), and also teams (Pakistan has replaced Thailand). Some things to note here:
- MLB players will be able to participate in Qualifiers 1-3, but not Qualifier 4.
- It is again a modified double-elimination, meaning it’s double elimination until there are only two, at which point it’s a winner-take-all championship game. I’ve always had a problem with this format and feel a straight-up double-elimination would be better, but I understand how the organizers would like the drama of a winner-take-all game.
- Qualifier 4, in Brooklyn, is clearly meant to be a pool of teams that don’t have pro-worthy stadiums in their countries. It’s likely Brooklyn was picked due to New York’s diverse nature, with MLB and the other WBC organizers no doubt hoping that the city’s large Jewish population will turn up for Israel games.
- Looking at this right now, I’d say that Qualifier 2 will probably have the highest level of talent, Qualifier 3 will be the hardest for any one team to get out of, and Qualifier 4 will be the hardest to predict. Qualifier 1, by contrast, looks like it should be a fairly easy draw for Australia.
- I’m somewhat surprised that the Philippines is in Qualifier 1. I had a feeling they might make it an All-Commonwealth pool and have the Philippines be in New York City. At least, that’s what I thought after reading Jon Paul Morosi’s original post before it was official.
So, look in the coming days and no doubt more news will come out and I’ll take a look at some of the teams and other aspects of the qualifying tournament- like Pakistan’s baseball program.