While the rest of the baseball world is in the middle of Spring Training either in the Grapefruit League or the Cactus League, the 2013 edition of the World Baseball Classic gets underway March 2 in Fukuoka, Japan and ends in San Francisco at Pacific Bell Park, the home of the defending World Series champions San Francisco Giants on March 19.
It's baseball chance to show its fans its best MLB players playing for their home countries.
The first two rounds are double elimination, which means that if your team wins its first game, they basically stay in the winners' bracket. Lose and you have to keep winning to keep playing. That's the easy part. The hard part is the championship series. It's one and done.
Japan will look to defend its title they won in San Diego in 2009, while 15 other nations are looking to knock the Land of the Rising Sun from their spot as kings of the baseball mountain.
Tickets for most of the series in the first round went on sale Saturday, while others will go on sale in early February.
While the baseball world was fighting to see who would go to the 2012 World Series, there were games taking place all over the globe to qualify for the classic. Those results are listed below.
If you're wondering if there will be professional players in the classic, the answer is yes. Key names such as Craig Kimbrell (Atlanta), David Wright (New York Mets) for the United States and Aroldis Chapman (Cincinnati) playing for Cuba. There will be drug testing, just like the Olympics and Major League Baseball rules will prevail with the DH in effect.
The World Baseball Classic is an international baseball tournament sanctioned by the International Baseball Federation (IBAF) and created by Major League Baseball (MLB), the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) and other professional baseball leagues and their players associations around the world. It is the main tournament sanctioned by the IBAF, which names its winner the "World Champion." It previously coexisted side by side with Olympic Baseball (until 2008) and the Baseball World Cup (until 2011) as IBAF-sanctioned tournaments but the other two have been discontinued. The 2009 Classic, the second edition of the event, was won by Japan for the second tournament in a row.
The tournament is the first of its kind to have national baseball teams feature professional players from the major leagues around the world including Major League Baseball; the Summer Olympics had regularly featured college and minor-league players because the Games conflict with the major league seasons in both North America and Asia and the Baseball World Cup historically did not have major leaguers participate. In addition to providing a format for the best baseball players in the world to compete against one another while representing their home countries, the World Baseball Classic was created in order to further promote the game around the globe.
It was organized in large part as a response to the International Olympic Committee's decision to remove baseball as an Olympic sport in 2005, the event has grown into a major sporting event worldwide, though to a lesser extent in the United States. In fact, the final series in 2006 and 2009 rank among the highest-rated sporting events of all time in Japanese television history.
In the 2006 tournament, a surprising South Korea advanced to the semifinals with an undefeated 6–0 record but was defeated by Japan (which had lost twice to South Korea in the earlier rounds) for a berth in the final game. Meanwhile, Cuba defeated the Dominican Republic for the other berth in the final game. Japan then defeated Cuba 10–6 to be crowned the first champion of the World Baseball Classic.
In the 2009 tournament, the controversial round-robin format from 2006 was replaced by a modified double-elimination format for the first two rounds (the semifinals and final game remained single-elimination). The eight teams advancing from the first round were the same as in 2006, except for a "Cinderella" performance by the Netherlands, which twice defeated the Dominican Republic to reach the second round. In the semifinals, South Korea defeated Venezuela while Japan defeated the United States, and Japan then emerged victorious for the second straight Classic, winning the final game over South Korea 5–3 in 10 innings.
Although the 2006 and 2009 editions of the World Baseball Classic were contested by the same pre-selected field of 16 teams, for the 2013 tournament only the 12 teams that won at least one game in 2009 were guaranteed a berth in the main tournament. The other four contested a qualifying round in late 2012 along with 12 additional teams. As a result, two new teams will compete for the first time (Brazil and Spain, respectively replacing Panama and South Africa). The main tournament will take place in March 2013.
Although Japan is the only team to have been crowned champion, earning the title both in 2006 and 2009, South Korea owns the best win-loss record at 12–4, with all four of its losses coming at the hands of Japan. Japan's win-loss record is 12–5, with four of its five losses coming at the hands of South Korea.
A player is eligible to participate on a World Baseball Classic team if any of
the following criteria is met:
The player is a citizen of the nation the team represents.
The player is qualified for citizenship or to hold a passport under the laws of a nation represented by a team but has not been granted citizenship or been issued a passport, then the player may be made eligible by WBCI upon petition by the player or team.
The player is a permanent legal resident of the nation or territory the team represents.
The player was born in the nation or territory the team represents.
The player has one parent who is or if deceased was, a citizen of the nation the team represents.
The player has one parent who was born in the nation or territory the team represents.
Rules of play
In addition to the standard rules of baseball, the World Baseball Classic employs the following additional rules:
A pitcher cannot pitch until:
a minimum of four days have passed since he last pitched, if he threw 50 or more pitches when he last pitched
a minimum of one day has passed since he last pitched, if he threw 30 or more pitches when he last pitched
a minimum of one day has passed since any second consecutive day on which the pitcher pitched
A pitcher cannot pitch more than
70 pitches per game in the Round 1 of the 2009 tournament (65 in 2006)
85 pitches per game in the Round 2 of the 2009 tournament (80 in 2006)
100 pitches per game in the Finals of the 2009 tournament (95 in 2006)
A pitcher can still finish a batter's plate appearance even if the limit is reached, but must come out after completing the plate appearance
A game will be a called if the leading team is ahead by:
10 or more runs when the opposing team has batted in at least seven innings
15 or more runs when the opposing team has batted in at least five innings
Mercy rules do not apply during the semi-finals and finals.
Here are the teams that will be playing in this year's classic with their rankings, according to the IBAF (International Baseball Federation) and Major League Baseball.
Australia: When you think of Australia, you think of kangaroos, Steve Irwin, Aussies drinking Fosters like it's water and Australian Rules Football, not baseball. They've come a long way since the Sydney games. The Aussies have 62 players under contract with professional clubs, which includes Grant Balfour and Travis Blackey of the 2012 American League West Division Champion Oakland Athletics. The Australian National Baseball Team has participated in both the 2006 and 2009 World Baseball Classic but has not advanced past Round One. In their opening game in 2009, Team Australia defeated Mexico 17-7 and set a new tournament record for hits in a game with 22, including four home runs. Most recently, Australia finished fifth in the 2011 IBAF Baseball World Cup. Australia will play in Pool B with Tapei, South Korea and the Netherlands.
IBAF WORLD RANK: 10
Brazil: The host nation for the 2016 Olympics, Brazil is better known for coffee and bananas than baseball. Brazil got its first Major Leaguer this year, when Yan Gomes debuted for the Blue Jays. Gomes is one of 14 players from the country signed to a pro contract in the U.S.
IBAF WORLD RANK: 20
Canada: The home of hockey, Canadian Bacon (which is really ham!) and 12 man football, Canada has 147 Canadian players under contract with professional clubs, including 17 players on Major League rosters. Two of Canada's best talents include 2010 National League MVP Award winner Joey Votto of the Cincinnati Reds and 2006 American League MVP Award winner Justin Morneau of the Minnesota Twins. The Canadian National Baseball Team has competed in both the 2006 and 2009 World Baseball Classic, though it has yet to make it out of the first round. Recently, the team finished third in the 2011 World Cup and won gold at the 2011 Pan Am Games.
IBAF WORLD RANK: 6
China: Mainland China has seen a very palpable growth of its baseball in the past decade. The 2006 World Baseball Classic was regarded as a major stepping stone for the Chinese national team as they were getting ready for the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. Chinese catcher Wei Wang became the first player to hit a homerun in the World Baseball Classic in Team China's first round game against eventual champion Japan. In 2009, China eliminated Taipei from the World Baseball Classic with their first and only victory in the tournament. China's strongest performance came while hosting the 16th Asian Games, as they reached the semi-finals by going 2-1 in pool play.
IBAF WORLD RANK: 18
Cuba: Known for producing baseball talent (as well as sugar cane and cigars), the Cuban National Baseball Team has won 25 Gold Medals in 29 IBAF Baseball World Cup appearances, finishing second in four others including the previous three in 2011, 2009 and 2007. In their 2009 World Baseball Classic appearance, Cuba was eliminated by Japan in Round Two of the tournament, the lowest finish ever in international competition for Cuba. In the 2006 World Baseball Classic, Cuba lost to Japan in the Championship Game. There are currently 18 Cuban players in the Major Leagues including Cincinnati Reds pitcher Aroldis Chapman and outfielder Yoenis Cespedes of the Oakland Athletics.
IBAF WORLD RANK: 1
Dominican Repulbic: With more than a 100 players with Major League Clubs, the Dominican Republic contributes the most players in Major League Baseball and could be considered MLB's pipeline. Recently, the Dominican Republic National Team earned a spot in the 2011 IBAF Baseball World Cup by winning the 2010 Pan American Qualifying Tournament. However, the side failed to advance to the second round after a 3-4 record. The Dominican Republic has competed in both the 2006 and 2009 World Baseball Classic tournaments. In 2009, Ubaldo Jimenez set a new record for strikeouts by a starter during Round One against the Kingdom of the Netherlands when he struck out 10 batters over four innings in Team Dominica's 2-1 loss to the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Although the Dominican Republic was eliminated in Round One of the 2009 tournament, they finished 4th in 2006.
IBAF WORLD RANK: 13
Italy: Although their country is known for fast cars, wine and pasta and spaghetti Westerns, the Italian National Baseball Team won back-to-back European Champions and has won 10 European titles overall finishing first or second in 25 of their 32 appearances. They have qualified for the 1992, 1996, 2000 and 2004 Olympics and finished third overall in the last Intercontinental Cup in 2010. In the 2006 World Baseball Classic, Italy won their first game by defeating Australia 10-0 in a mercy rule shortened seven inning game. In the 2009 tournament, Team Italy knocked out Team Canada in Round One at the Rogers Centre in Toronto, Canada. Alex Liddi of the Seattle Mariners, who played for Team Italy in the 2009 World Baseball Classic, is the first Italian-born and developed player to play in the Major Leagues.
IBAF WORLD RANK: 9
Japan: The land of the Rising Sun is the two-time defending World Baseball Classic Champion with pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka being named Tournament MVP in both 2006 and 2009. Team Japan defeated Cuba 10- 6 in 2006 with Ichiro Suzuki scoring three of Japan's runs. In 2009, Japan faced Korea in the Final and had a 3-2 lead in the ninth when the Koreans scored a run off Yu Darvish to send the game into extra innings. In the 10th, Ichiro drove in two on a single to give Japan a 5-3 win. There are currently 12 players signed to professional contracts in the United States including Texas Rangers pitcher Yu Darvish and New York Yankees outfielder Ichiro Suzuki.
IBAF WORLD RANK: 3
Mexico: The Mexican National Team finished in 11th place in the 2009 IBAF Baseball World Cup after going undefeated in the first round of play. The team also earned bronze medals in the 2006 Central American and Caribbean Games and the Pan American Games. In the 2006 World Baseball Classic, Mexico finished Round One at the top of its pool finishing 2-1 and allowing only 7 runs over 27 total innings. They were eliminated in Round Two after losing to Korea and Japan. In the 2009 World Baseball Classic, Team Mexico advanced to Round Two but was defeated by Korea and Cuba to finish in 8th place. There are currently 16 players from Mexico in the Major Leagues including Yovani Gallardo of the Milwaukee Brewers.
IBAF WORLD RANK: 11
Netherland: The Dutch National Team is the all-time leader in European Championship titles, winning 20 titles out of 32 tournaments including 5 of the last 7 and finishing as runner-up in the two most recent years (2010, 2012). Their win in 2007 qualified them for the Olympics in 2008, in which they finishing in 4th place in Beijing. They defeated Cuba to win the most recent IBAF Baseball World Cup in 2011 to become the first European Champion. In the 2006 World Baseball Classic, pitcher Shairon Martis no-hit Panama to give the Kingdom of the Netherlands a 10-0 win in a mercy rule shorted game and their only victory of the tournament. In the 2009 tournament, the Kingdom of the Netherlands advanced to Round Two of the World Baseball Classic when they defeated the Dominican Republic twice in dramatic fashion.
IBAF WORLD RANK: 7
Puerto Rico: Although they are a commonwealth of the United States and a huge producer of rum and sugar, Puerto Rico stands out on it own in the baseball world. The Puerto Rican National Team has experienced success in international
competitions, including the World Baseball Classic where they have finished fifth overall in both the 2006 and 2009 tournaments. In the 2009 World Baseball Classic, Puerto Rico was undefeated throughout Round One. In Round Two, Puerto Rico defeated the United States in their first game 11-1 before losing their first game of the 2009 tournament 2-0 to Venezuela. Puerto Rico faced the United States for a spot in the Semi-Finals but lost 6-5 on a walk-off single in the ninth inning. There are currently 15 Puerto Ricans with Major League Clubs including Carlos Beltran of the St. Louis Cardinals.
IBAF WORLD RANK: 12
South Korea: The Korean National Baseball Team defeated Japan to win bronze at the 2000 Sydney Olympics in just their second Olympic appearance. Second place finishes in the 2002 Intercontinental Cup and 2005 IBAF Baseball World Cup soon followed and the team went on to win the bronze medal in the inaugural 2006 World Baseball Classic. In 2008, Korea defeated Cuba to win the gold medal in the 2008 Olympics. In the 2009 World Baseball Classic, Team Korea led the tournament in RBI, runs scored and shutouts pitched and advanced to the Championship Game of the tournament against defending Champion, Team Japan. The Championship Game went 10 innings before Japan scored two runs to win the game 5-3. There are currently 17 players from Korea signed to professional contracts including Shin-Soo Choo of the Cleveland Indians.
IBAF WORLD RANK: NA
Taipei: Taipei boasts this group's most extensive presence in American professional baseball, with 28 of its players under contract with Major League organizations. Of those, two are in the big leagues this season. Orioles rookie Wei-Yin Chen has established a place in his team's rotation, while MLB veteran Chien-Ming Wang has been battling injuries with the Nationals. The Taipei National team has participated in many past international competitions, including the 2006 and 2009 World Baseball Classics.
IBAF WORLD RANK: 5
Spain: Their most-prized talent, Alejandro Sanchez, signed a seven-year deal with the Atlanta Braves prior to the 2010 season. Sanchez, an infield prospect from Valencia, Spain, inked the contract at the age of 17. As for the Spain National Team, the highlight of the past half-decade came at the 2007 European Baseball Championships, where Spain played to a third-place finish. The 2010 tournament didn't go as well, with Spain finishing ninth.
IBAF WORLD RANK: 16
United States: When baseball was officially granted Olympic medal status in 1992, Team USA secured their first official baseball medal in the 1996 Atlanta Games, defeating Nicaragua for the bronze. Team USA defeated two-time defending Olympic Champion Cuba to capture the gold medal at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. The US won gold at both the 2007 and 2009 IBAF Baseball World Cups and finished 4th in 2011. They have finished 2nd in the past four editions of the Pan-American Games. The 2006 World Baseball Classic was the first time American Major League players had an opportunity to compete in an international tournament. Team USA advanced out of Round One by going 2-1 including a 17-run victory over of South Africa. They were knocked out in Round Two but not before earning a dramatic win over eventual champion Japan, in which Alex Rodriguez drove the winning run on a walk-off hit in the bottom of the 9th inning. In the 2009 World Baseball Classic, David Wright drove in the winning run on a walk-off single to reach the Semi-Finals where they were knocked out of the tournament in by eventual champion Japan.
IBAF WORLD RANK: 2
Venezuela: The Venezuelan National Team has finished 7th in last two IBAF Baseball World Cups, making the semifinals in each. In the 2006 World Baseball Classic, Venezuela advanced to Round Two after shutting out both Italy and Australia in their two wins of Round One. In the 2009 tournament they finished in third place and lost only twice in the entire tournament, once to the United States and once to Korea. There are currently 95 players from Venezuela in the Major Leagues including Miguel Cabrera of the Detroit Tigers, the first Triple Crown winner in 45 years and the 2012 American League MVP.
IBAF WORLD RANK: 8
All 2013 World Baseball Classic games will be televised on MLB Network — the exclusive English-language partner in the United States.
First Round (Round Robin)(All Times Eastern)
Pool A: Fukuoka Yahoo! Japan Dome - Fukuoka, Japan
Game 1: Saturday, March 2 - Japan vs. Brazil, 5 a.m.
Game 2: Sunday, March 3 - Cuba vs. Brazil, 10:30 p.m.
Game 3: Sunday, March 3 - China vs. Japan, 5 a.m.
Game 4: Monday, March 4 - China vs. Cuba, 2:30 a.m.
Game 5: Tuesday, March 5 - Brazil vs. China, 3 p.m.
Game 6: Wednesday, March 6 - Japan vs. Cuba, 5 a.m.
Pool B: Taichung Intercontinental Baseball Stadium - Taichung, Taiwan
Game 1: Saturday, March 2 - Australia vs. Taipei, 11:30 p.m.
Game 2: Saturday, March 2 - South Korea vs. Netherlands, 6:30 a.m.
Game 3: Sunday, March 3 - Netherlands vs. Taipei, 1:30 a.m.
Game 4: Monday, March 4 - South Korea vs. Australia, 5:30 a.m.
Game 5: Tuesday, March 5 - Australia vs. Netherlands, 11:30 p.m.
Game 6: Tuesday, March 5 - Taipei vs. Korea, 6:30 p.m.
Pool C: Hiram Bithorn Stadium - San Juan, Puerto Rico
Game 1: Thursday, March 7 - Venezuela vs. Dominican Republic, 6:30 p.m.
Game 2: Friday, March 8 - Spain vs. Puerto Rico, 5:30 p.m.
Game 3: Saturday, March 9 - Dominican Republic vs. Spain, 11 a.m.
Game 4: Saturday, March 9 - Puerto Rico vs. Venezuela, 5:30 p.m.
Game 5: Sunday, March 10 - Spain vs. Venezuela, 12:30 p.m.
Game 6: Sunday, March 10 - Dominican Republic vs. Puerto Rico, 7:30 p.m.
Pool D: Salt River Fields at Talking Stick - Phoenix, Arizona
Game 1: Thursday, March 7 - Italy at Mexico, 3 p.m.
Game 2: Friday, March 8 - Canada vs. Italy, 2:30 p.m.
Pool D: Chase Field - Phoenix, Arizona
Game 3: Friday, March 8 - Mexico vs. United States, 9 p.m.
Game 4: Saturday, March 9 - Canada vs. Mexico, 2:30 p.m.
Game 5: Saturday, March 9 - United States vs. Italy, 9 p.m.
Game 6: Sunday, March 10 - United States at Canada, 4 p.m.
Second Round (Modified Double Elimination)
Pool 1: Tokyo Dome - Tokyo, Japan*
Game 1: Friday, March 8 - Pool A Runner-Up vs. Pool B Winner, 10 p.m.
Game 2: Friday, March 8 - Pool B Runner-Up vs. Pool A Winner, 5 a.m.
Game 3: Saturday, March 9 - Game 2 Loser vs. Game 1 Loser, 5 a.m.
Game 4: Sunday, March 10 - Game 2 Winner vs. Game 1 Winner, 6 a.m.
Game 5: Monday, March 11 - Game 4 Loser vs. Game 3 Winner, 6 a.m.
Game 6: Tuesday, March 12 - Game 5 Winner vs. Game 4 Winner, 6 a.m.
* Game times may be switched. Japan will play at 7 p.m. if they qualify, regardless if they are Pool A Winner or Runner-Up.
Pool 2: Marlins Park - Miami, Florida*
Game 1: Tuesday, March 12 - Pool D Runner-Up vs. Pool C Winner, 1 p.m.
Game 2: Tuesday, March 12 - Pool C Runner-Up vs. Pool D Winner, 8 p.m.
Game 3: Wednesday, March 13 - Game 2 Loser vs. Game 1 Loser, 7 p.m.
Game 4: Thursday, March 14 - Game 2 Winner vs. Game 1 Winner, 7 p.m.
Game 5: Friday, March 15 - Game 4 Loser vs. Game 3 Winner, 7 p.m.
Game 6: Saturday, March 16 - Game 5 Winner vs. Game 4 Winner, 1 p.m.
* Game times may be switched. the United States will play at 7 p.m. if they qualify, regardless if they are Pool A Winner or Runner-Up.
Championship Round (Single Elimination)
Semifinals & Championship: AT&T Park - San Francisco, California
Game 1: Sunday, March 17 - Pool 2 Runner-Up vs. Pool 1 Winner, 9 p.m.
Game 2: Monday, March 18 - Pool 1 Runner-Up vs. Pool 2 Winner, 9 p.m.
Game 3: Tuesday, March 19 - Semifinal 2 Winner @ Semifinal 1 Winner, 8 p.m.
Qualifying Round (Modified Double Elimination)
Qualifier 1: Jupiter, Florida - Roger Dean Stadium
Game 1: Wednesday, September 19 - Israel 7, South Africa 3
Game 2: Thursday, September 20 - Spain 8, France 0
Game 3: Friday, September 21 - Israel 4, Spain 2
Game 4: Friday, September 21 - South Africa 5, France 2
Game 5: Saturday, September 22 - South Africa 3, Spain 13
Game 6: Sunday, September 23 - Spain 9, Israel 7
Qualifier 2: Regensburg, Germany - Armin-Wolf Baseball Arena
Game 1: Thursday, September 20 - Canada 11, Great Britain 1
Game 2: Friday, September 21 - Germany 16, Czech Republic 1
Game 3: Saturday, September 22 - Czech Republic 5, Great Britain 12
Game 4: Saturday, September 22 - Germany 7, Canada 16
Game 5: Sunday, September 23 - Germany 16, Great Britain 1
Game 6: Monday, September 24 - Canada 11, Germany 1
Qualifier 3: Panama City, Panama - Rod Carew National Stadium
Game 1: Thursday, November 15 - Brazil 3, Panama 2
Game 2: Friday, November 16 - Colombia 8, Nicaragua 1
Game 3: Saturday, November 17 - Brazil 7, Colombia 1
Game 4: Saturday, November 17 - Panama 6, Nicaragua 2
Game 5: Sunday, November 18 - Panama 9, Colombia 7
Game 6: Monday, November 19 - Brazil 1, Panama 0
Qualifier 4: New Taipei City, Taiwan - Xinzhuang Stadium
Game 1: Thursday, November 15 - Philippines 8, Thailand 2
Game 2: Thursday, November 15 - Taipei 10, New Zealand 0
Game 3: Friday, November 16 - Thailand 2, New Zealand 12
Game 4: Friday, November 16 - Taipei 16, Philippines 0
Game 5: Saturday, November 17 - Philippines 6, New Zealand 10
Game 6: Sunday, November 18 - Taipei 9, New Zealand 0
Schedule courtesy MLB, logos courtesy World Baseball Classic