This event is supposed to be a quadrennial affair, but the pandemic played hell with that as it did with so much else. So, two years late, it begins March 8.
After a six-year wait, the World Baseball Classic has returned, and it’s bigger than ever. That’s not hyperbole, either: The tournament field has been expanded to 20 teams, with three first-time participants in Great Britain, the Czech Republic and Nicaragua [What took Nicaragua so long to enter? It failed to qualify in its previous three attempts. Panama is a returnee after missing the last two Classics.] hoping for a Cinderella run. But they’ll need to get past Japan (looking for its third title), the USA (hoping for a repeat), the Dominican Republic (the pre-tournament favorite) and Puerto Rico (trying to win it all following back-to-back second-place finishes).
Baseball is more of a global game than ever before, and that’s proven on the rosters: There are 67 MLB All-Stars, 186 players on 40-man rosters and 332 players under contract with big league teams. There are eight Major League MVPs in Paul Goldschmidt, Mike Trout, Shohei Ohtani, Freddie Freeman, Mookie Betts, Clayton Kershaw, Jose Altuve and Miguel Cabrera. In fact, 16 of the top 18 finishers for the 2022 NL MVP and six of the top 10 finishers for the 2022 AL MVP are scheduled to participate in the 2023 World Baseball Classic, with the reigning Nippon Professional Baseball MVP Munetaka Murakami and Korea Baseball Organization MVP Jung-Hoo Lee joining in, too.
So how many Dodgers are playing and for whom? Funny you should ask.
Los Angeles Dodgers: Austin Barnes, C (MEX), Mookie Betts, OF (USA), Liam Doolan, RHP (AUS), Freddie Freeman, INF (CAN), Clayton Kershaw, LHP (USA), Adam Kolarek, LHP (ISR – DPP), Jose Ramos, OF (PAN), Miguel Rojas, INF (VEN), Will Smith, C (USA), Trayce Thompson, OF (GBR), Julio Urías, LHP (MEX).
One more connection: Mike Piazza is managing Italy’s team.
Why is the Dominican Republic the favorite? Well:
This lineup is a veritable Murderers’ Row, with Rafael Devers and Manny Machado battling for time at third base, Mariners sensation Julio Rodríguez joining an outfield with Eloy Jiménez and Juan Soto, and Vlad Guerrero Jr.’s freshly minted Gold Glove and powerful bat just added to the mix.
The rotation looks just as strong as the offense, with reigning NL Cy Young Award winner Sandy Alcantara fronting a staff featuring World Series champion Cristian Javier, young Pirates fireballer Roansy Contreras and veteran hurler Johnny Cueto.
One more thing:
Note: Players marked “DPP” are members of their team’s Designated Pitcher Pool. Each WBC team may choose up to 10 players as part of their pool — these players are eligible to participate in one or more consecutive rounds of the WBC, but if replaced on their team’s roster will be unavailable for the rest of the tournament. Affiliated players in Designated Pitcher Pools who are not actively on their team’s WBC roster during a given round will report to Spring Training with their Major League clubs.
Adam Kolarek is part of Israel’s Designated Pitcher Pool.