The World Baseball Classic is in full swing, ladies and gentlemen!
Baseball’s version of the World Cup has come once again, and there have already been some stunning results. The Czech Republic, with a roster built mostly on part-time players that are accountants, firefighters, investors, and the like, upset China at around 4:30 AM Eastern Time off a home run by outfielder Martin Muzik in the ninth inning. Australia also managed an 8-7 upset over South Korea early Thursday morning.
Case in point, no matter what the rosters look like, nobody is guaranteed to win anything. Even the Dominican Republic, with its stacked roster, could run into a buzzsaw. This same sentiment is one that Team USA has to keep in mind when the team starts their own path tonight with a game against Great Britain.
Some fans have started to panic about the chances that the Americans have this year, firstly in light of a shaky rotation featuring Adam Wainwright, who is on the bump tomorrow, Lance Lynn, Miles Mikolas, and a few other major league starters who for the most part would be seen as serviceable to above average in MLB. The lineup is lethal, featuring Mike Trout, Mookie Betts, Nolan Arenado, and more, but the average looking rotation and shaky bullpen have raised concerns.
These concerns were exacerbated in the eyes of some when Team USA played in an exhibition game against the roster of the San Francisco Giants on Thursday, losing 5-1 and only managing four hits. Is this not a time for panic? How can we expect Team USA to put on a show against loaded rosters like the Dominican Republic or Puerto Rico if we’re losing to a regular MLB team? Aren’t we in trouble?
I’m here to simply say this. No. We are not in any trouble. Team USA will be just fine.
In order to fully contextualize this, Team USA’s roster should be compared to the other nationals playing in Pool D: Mexico, Great Britain, Colombia, and Canada. Upon first glance, some of these roster seem pretty nice – all of them have at least a couple MLB players, if not more. Mexico in particular has an excellent roster, highlighted by Julio Urías and José Urquidy anchoring the rotation and the likes of Randy Arozarena, Alex Verdugo, and Nationals legend Joey Meneses in the lineup. But outside of Mexico featuring some solid MLB players, the rest of Pool D is somewhat underwhelming.
Great Britain has sixteen players who play within MLB organizations, but only Trayce Thompson of the Dodgers and Ian Gibaut of the Reds are actually on major league rosters, rather than playing in the minors. The most notable name on Colombia’s roster is Gio Urshela. Canada does have decent talent, namely through Freddie Freeman, Abraham Toro, and Cal Quantrill, but their overall roster doesn’t carry the talent of Team USA.
What am I trying to say here? It’s that none of the teams Team USA will play in the group stage have the talent level of a typical MLB roster. The Giants will go into 2023 carrying a solid rotation featuring Logan Webb, Sean Manaea, Ross Stripling and more, a rotation about on par with the American WBC roster, and one better than any team our boys would face except for the Dominican Republic, Mexico, or Venezuela. The same holds true with a lineup featuring Brandon Crawford, Mitch Haniger, Michael Conforto, and young catching phenom Joey Bart. The Giants, as with the majority of Major League rosters, are better than the significant majority of what the USA may run into at the WBC.
While Team USA carries some questions that pertain to their pitching ability and offensive production, the truth is that the ferocity carried by the offense cannot be dismissed simply because of a warm up game against a roster full of major league players. A lineup featuring multiple former MVPs, some of the best hitters in the game, and an at worst solid rotation is not one that requires concern so early on. If things fall apart and the team drops a game to Great Britain or Colombia, things will change. But as for now, going into this game tonight, there is nothing to be worried about. The bats will deliver, and Team USA will find itself competing for the world baseball title again in no time.