World Baseball Classic: Group A

The World Baseball Classic kicks off today or tomorrow in Tokyo, and in honor of what is our second favorite sports international tournament, we’re going to break this down for ya all (and just wait till the World Cup this summer (99 days btw) we’re going to be throwing facts and names at you like never before… it’s going to be sick/hot). So wait, you say, the WBC has never even been played, how can it be your second favorite international sports competition? Well that’s easy. Let’s break down the other major international sport competitions (leaving out the Fifa World Cup of course).

Olympic Hockey – I guess there is a World Cup of hockey, but I’m not sure anyone cares about it as much as the Olympics. Anyway, Olympic hockey is pretty darn good, but it’s never as good as you think it’s going to be. For instance this year for some reason the uniform makers decided to go all vertical on us thus making watching these teams next to impossible (seriously, some of the ugliest things we’ve ever seen). But if also suffers from something else… a lack of nationalism. Shouldn’t every game that Canada played in Turin been a complete zoo? Why was it there were maybe ten fans at these games? Why didn’t the Canadians go to watch and act like their Commonwealth brothers in England or Australia, in other words like complete morons? And no disrespect to Sweden, Finland, Germany, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Russia, and Canada… but that’s not really a ‘fun’ group of fans right there? I guess the Russians and Canadians have some potential… but there’s not a tone of ‘character’ in those countries. Hockey could use a Brazil, Argentina, England, Scotland, or Latin Love in there some where.

– We caught the 2003 World Cup and it was actually pretty cool. But we don’t know anything about cricket expect that we love wickets because the TV goes nuts… just insanity… flashing huge graphics and showing fans acting like they were reenacting V-E day or something. One nice thing about the World Cup is that we developed a hate for Team India and their obnoxious fans… so that’s a bonus. These tournaments always need a country too root against.

– To be honest, we got into the Six Nations more than anything else and that was fun. But the World Cup or whatever it’s called was too complicated to follow.

– Talk about weird international competitions here’s a quick recap of the past four Olympics or when they started featuring NBA players in 1992: The US dominated… the US dominated… the US pretty much dominated… the US sucked. How weird was that in 2004? It’s like USA basketball completely forgot how to draw up team and then how to play basketball on top of it. Then we made Larry Brown the coach, and it was clear that Brown either is:
a) an idiot savant and walked into a few successful situations in the NBA b) threw the Olympics

Nothing else explains the disaster that was his coaching job in Athens. The man had Wade, ‘Melo, Duncan, Iverson, Stoudemire and LeBron and five other guys that can actually play good basketball yet he still managed to lose. Why Stephon Marbury was on the team remains one of the five biggest mysteries of the 21st century… Why Brown PLAYED Stephon Marbury is the biggest mystery of the 21st century (narrowly beating out “George W. Bush was elected twice? Really? How?). At least we’re setting ourselves up to do well in 2008… too bad once again a bad coach was picked to head the team.
Anyway, where was I?

Oh how I didn’t/don’t like international basketball competitions as much as the WBC. One of the few good things about the US losing was that it brough us as a country back down to Earth. We can’t assume that all we have to do is walk into the gym and that we won right there. We have to actually play basketball… so long term this can be a good thing. But short term, I’m still not a huge fan. But as basketball grows, it’s only going to get better on the international level… us of course taking the Brazil in soccer roll in it all. But right now, there just isn’t the flavor… we still dismiss the other countries and haven’t created that rival yet. The day is fast approching, but for right now, we’re just going to have to wait.

This, of course, is why I love the WBC. First off, it’s not a slam dunk the US is going to win… in fact if every team was fully loaded, their would be a chance the US wouldn’t even finish in the top three (though that’s highly unlikely this time around with Japan missing a few guys). And the rivals are there already… Cuba and… Venezuela.

That’s right, Venezuela! Those Chavez loving losers have got a pretty good team. Even if you’re Hugo’s biggest supporter, if you’re an American, Hugo’s macho man big mouth tactics make him and his country the obvious rival. A US/Venezuela final would be more dramatic than I think anyone is prepared for. But more on that later.
Today, we’ll start with Group Asia which starts some time in the next 24 hours… here’s the Group Break Down.


Size: 145,882 square miles, or slightly smaller than California
: 127 million

Most Famous For in VFLOAB eyes
: This is a toss up between attacking Pearl Harbor, Shogun, the Karate Kid, sushi, kick ass swords, and that kid that screamed ICCCHHHHHHHIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIROOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO that was shown roughly 29,393 times during the 2001 baseball season.

Best player: Ichiro… the real question is where he ranks on the best players in the game list?
Why they’ll win their group
: Besides the fact that they’ve got better players and are playing at home? Or how about the fact that they’ve got a little of everything, and while the team isn’t a full strength (no Iguchi or Matsui) and therefore making a run to win it all will be tough, they should cruise to the top of their group and be State side next week.

Rooting Interest
: While we don’t hate or dislike the Japanese, I still think my grandfathers would roll over in their grave if I openly rooted for them in this group.

Overall tournament Outlook
: Japan should easily move on to the next group stage where they’ll face the US and either Mexico and Canada along with South Korea… don’t be surprised to see them in the semis. At that point, their lack of talent compared to the US and Caribbean countries should show.

South Korea

Size: 38,368 square miles, or slightly larger than Indiana
: 48 million

Most Famous For in VFLOAB eyes
: Crazy fans during the 2002 World Cup, the 1988 Olympics, Inner City convenience stores, the Frozen Chosin, dogs, the best monument in Washington, DC, and a pretty cool flag.

Best Player
: Hee-Seop Choi who’s with the Dodgers

Why they’ll win their group
: They have some pitching and could upset Japan because of that. But they probably won’t. That said; still expect them to move on to the next round.

Why they’ll finish second
: Because they’ve got more talent than the Taiwan team at the end of the day. Beating Japan may be too tough of an order s
ince I don’t see anyone that will be able to shut them down.
Rooting Interest
: Any country that not only had the invasion of Inchon take place but also the battle of the Chosin Reservoir, and the infamous MacArthur/Truman splat gets our hearts in group play.

Overall tournament Outlook
: Without Wang, I can’t see the Taiwanese beating South Korea… it could happen, but don’t count on it. Therefore, they’ll find themselves in the next round where they should bow out quietly.

Chinese Taipei

: 13,731 square miles, or slightly smaller than Maryland and Delaware combined

: 23 million

Most Famous For in VFLOAB eyes
: Chiang Kai-shek, winning Little League World Series my entire childhood, Madame Chiang Kai-shek, the not Communist Chinese, and that’s about it.

Best Player
: Hong-Chih Kuo who’s with the Dodgers, not having Yankee pitcher Chien-Ming Wang really hurts this teams chances of springing an upset.

Why they’ll win their group
: They get two out of this world pitching performance and Japan fields a 15 year old team when the face each other.

Why they’ll finish third
: Asking them to beat anyone other than China is like asking Danny LaRusso to beat the crap out of he Cobra Kai. It could happen, but probably won't unless it's a Hollywood script.

Rooting Interest
: We’d actually be pulling for them to upset South Korea if they went by Taiwan, but they aren’t so there for we’re not rooting for them. Call us shallow if you will, but ‘dem da reasons.

Overall tournament Outlook
: They’ll need a huge upset over either Japan or South Korea to have a shot… I think they lack the arms to get it done. But they should grow as a baseball power in the upcoming years.

Size: 3,705,386 square miles, or slightly smaller than the U.S.
: 1.3 billion (largest in the world)

Most Famous For in VFLOAB eyes: Chinese food, Mao, Yao, having a lot of people, the Great Wall of China, a shady history, cities changing their names every generation or so, and their economic boom of the last twenty years.
Best Player
: Nan Wang… just because it sort of sounds like No Wang which is funny.

Why they’ll win their group
: The government invades Japan and kills the South Korean, Japanese, and Taipei teams.

Why they’ll finish fourth
: Because they don’t play baseball there maybe? Let’s say half of us could probably walk onto this team.

Rooting Interest
: None… we’re pretty sure they’re going to lose all their games so that only makes it sweeter. Sorry to all those Mao fans out there.

Overall tournament Outlook
: If they play one nine inning game I’d be surprised. They’re probably one of the two worst teams in the tournament.

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