Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Clasica del Beisbol Mundial

For those of you who don't habla espanol, "Clasica del Beisbol Mundial" is Spanish for the World Baseball Classic. Of course, I don't speak Spanish either, so I probably butchered that title. Anyone want to correct me?

By now, you may have heard of the World Baseball Classic, the World Cup-style tournament tentatively scheduled for March of 2006. Starting the hype, next Monday's Home Run Derby will feature a hitter from eight of the expected competing countries.
Now, with the World Baseball Classic, "tentatively" is the key word. As mentioned above, the Classic is tentatively scheduled for March. This is a minor point of controversy, as it interferes with spring training for both the US and Japan leagues. Because of this, Japan, expected to be a host country, may pull out of the tournament. Also, Cuba's status in the tournament will depend on the US State Department's willingness to allow their national team to play in the US, and Fidel Castro's willingness to allow them to play in the tournament at all. The tentative host countries and competitors are:

Japan: Japan?, Korea, Taiwan, China
Puerto Rico: Puerto Rico, Cuba?, Panama, Italy?
US 1: US, Canada, Mexico, South Africa?
US 2: Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Australia, the Netherlands

US games will most likely be played at Arizona and Florida spring training stadiums. Countries with question marks are tentative participants.

Recently, I downloaded the same database used by Here's my first chance to use it. Drawing from a list of players who were not officially retired as of 2004, I created "all-country" teams based on place of birth. Now, this doesn't guarantee that a player is eligible to play for that country (since this is a database of MLB players, all Cuban-born players are ineligible by default, as they are all defectors - unless of course Fidel meets his untimely demise between now and next March). I also won't be able to list non-MLB players who may play for their national team. What I plan to do is comprise the best team possible given current (or relatively current) Major League players from each country. Live with it.

Before I begin looking at the countries who will be participating, I will give you an all-star team comprised of players who were not born in a World Baseball Classic country.

2B Orlando Cabrera (Colombia)
3B Jolbert Cabrera (Colombia)
SS Edgar Renteria (Colombia)
CF Andruw Jones (Curacao)
DH Randall Simon (Curacao)
RF Marvin Benard (Nicaragua)
1B Calvin Pickering (Virgin Islands)
LF Gene Kingsale (Aruba)/Midre Cummings (Virgin Islands)
C ?

Colombia represents the infield proudly with the Cabrera brothers and Renteria. That's a great way to start any lineup. The tiny Dutch island of Curacao provides the pop in the lineup with Andruw Jones and Randall (insert inappropriate comment about a guy who likes to beat sausage here) Simon. Next comes the recently retired Marvin Benard. (Is he retired, or did he just change his name to Marquis Grissom so he could keep playing for the Giants? It's hard to tell.) Gammonsesquity rules the bottom of the lineup as journeyman Calvin Pickering (.232 hitter for Baltimore, Cincinnati, Boston, and Kansas City) plays first and generic outfielders Kingsale and Cummings fight for the right field spot. There's apparently an opening at catcher - does anyone want to grab a mask?


SP Sidney Ponson (Aruba)
SP Lance Painter (England)
SP Vincente Padilla (Nicaragua)
SP Edwin Jackson (Germany)

Sir Sidney Ponson headlines this rotation, assuming he's playing well. Otherwise, that honor goes to the recently retired Lance Painter. (I'm predicting an "Oh wow" in the "I remember him" sense from Dave right about now.) The Padilla flotilla comes in from Nicaragua to help shore up the rotation, and young Edwin Jackson (debuted on his 20th birthday in 2003) rounds out the starting staff.

RP Steve Kent (Germany)
CP Danny Graves (Vietnam)

Not much of a bullpen here, is there? Kent is a cup-of-coffee guy; he pitched in 34 games for Tampa Bay in 2002. Chances are, he's still floating around in someone's organization. Danny Graves, meanwhile, has yet to lose his spot as the closer on this team.

Well, there's your first taste at this series. I'll try to break the countries down a pool a week, but I may have to go a country a week. Some countries will be easy - Italy, South Africa have no native Major Leaguers - others will be a little more interesting.