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World Baseball Classic: who's playing?
Posted by Gus Papadopoulos at 2/27/2006 2:45:00 PM
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Based on our latest info, here's a look at the current projected lineups and key reserves for four of the major contenders at the WBC:

Starting Lineup:  IF, Mark Teixiera, Chase Utley, Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez; OF, Ken Griffey, Johnny Damon, and either Vernon Wells (quad, day-to-day) or Randy Winn; C, Jason Varitek; DH, Chipper Jones or Derrek Lee.
Bench:  Michael Young, Matt Holliday, Michael Bennett.
Starting Pitchers:  Jake Peavy (vs. Mexico), Dontrelle Willis (vs. Canada), C.C. Sabathia, Roger Clemens(?).
Closer and Key Relievers:  Billy Wagner, Brad Lidge, Huston Street, Dan Wheeler, plus a half-dozen other closers.
Notes:  Team USA's most significant defections (Barry Bonds, Lance Berkman, Carl Crawford, and maybe Wells) have all come from the outfield; that's a much weaker group than one would have expected. If Wells really can't play, Chipper Jones could get the call to play left field. If the Americans win this thing, it'll be because they can throw a fresh arm out there every two innings night after night and not miss a beat.

Starting Lineup:  IF, Albert Pujols, Alfonso Soriano, Miguel Tejada, Adrian Beltre; OF, Manny Ramirez (or Jose Guillen), Willy Taveras, Vlad Guerrero; C, Alberto Castillo; DH, David Ortiz.
Bench:  Jhonny Peralta, Moises Alou, Wily Mo Pena, Pedro Feliz, Juan Brito (the only other catcher on the roster). Maybe Sammy Sosa, too.
Starting Pitchers:  (tentative) Bartolo Colon (shoulder, probable), Miguel Batista, Odalis Perez; we'll see Pedro Martinez (toe) in Round Two.
Closer and Key Relievers:  Guillermo Mota, Julian Tavarez, Jorge Sosa, Francisco Liriano.
Notes:  The big defections have come in the bullpen, as Francisco Cordero, Jose Valverde and Armando Benitez have all ruled themselves out, as did Ervin Santana and Felix Rodriguez. Losing Miguel Olivo also hurts, as there's a huge dropoff from Olivo to Castillo. Aramis Ramirez also sent his regrets, but with Beltre playing third, that's not a huge loss. Best offensive lineup in the tournament, but pitching is a question mark.

Starting Lineup:  IF, Tomas Perez, Edgardo Alfonzo, Carlos Guillen, Miguel Cabrera; OF, Bobby Abreu, Juan Rivera, Endy Chavez; C and DH, Victor Martinez and Ramon Hernandez (both will probably start and they'll take turns catching).
Bench:  Alex Gonzalez, Omar Vizquel, Marco Scutaro, Henry Blanco; not sure who the fourth OF will be.
Starting Pitchers:  Venezuela will use the tandem system in the first round, with two starters throwing 50-to-60 pitches apiece, scheduled as follows: Johan Santana and Carlos Zambrano (vs. the Dominican Republic); Freddy Garcia and Victor Zambrano (vs. Italy); and two of Gustavo Chacin, Kelvim Escobar or Carlos Silva (vs. Australia).
Closer and Key Relievers:  Frankie Rodriguez, Jorge Julio, whoever doesn't start.
Notes:  There are some holes in that position lineup with the defections of Melvin Mora, Magglio Ordonez, Alex Cabrera and Alex Ramirez (the last two opting to stay with their Japanese clubs). If Alfonzo plays the whole tourney at 2B, he'll lead the WBC in errors. Like Team USA, Venezuela will be able to throw a lot of arms at people; that should get them at least as far as the semis.

Starting Lineup:  IF, Carlos Delgado, Ruben Gotay, Alex Cora, Jose Valentin; OF, Carlos Beltran, David DeJesus, Jose Cruz; C, Pudge Rodriguez; DH, Bernie Williams.
Bench:  Javy Lopez, Eduardo Perez, Alex Cintron, Ricky Ledee, Bengie Molina.
Starting Pitchers:  Javy Vazquez (vs. either Panama or Cuba), Joel Piniero (vs. the Netherlands), third starter TBD. Dicky Gonzalez (now pitching for Yakult in Japan) looks like the best bet. Really.
Closer and Key Relievers:  Fernando Cabrera, J.C. Romero, Kiko Calero.
Notes:  This team has been hit with some huge defections in the past few days, losing their double play combo (Jose Vidro and Felipe Lopez) and their closer (Roberto Hernandez, who'll skip the first round due to family issues; he may be able to return for Round Two). This team should still beat Panama and the Dutch at home in the first round and still advance, but they now look unlikely to advance past the second round.

Getting WBC player availability news has not been easy. If you spot a mistake or have later info, feel free to pass along an update.

We'll do an update in the next couple of days and also hit Japan, Canada and Mexico, and drop some names to watch on the other teams. Thanks ...


You got to like the Dominican and US lineups, but if Pedro's toe is an issue, the US will have a big pitching advantage.

I wonder how seriously the players will take the competition, though. Are they going to see themselves on display as a marketing gimmick, or will that fade once the games start and turn into something compelling?

Still, it's a very useful list because it's going to affect the preparation of all of those players in some way - whether it's positive or negative remains to be seen.
Posted by cliss at 2/27/2006 11:57:00 PM
You raise a good question about the level of commitment players will bring to the WBC, Chris. I've no doubt that some players will treat it as an exhibition, and the one example that immediately comes to mind are the US citizens who have been drafted to play for Italy. Mike Piazza aside, that's a group of players who may not be much better than they guys who have been playing for Italy all along. If I'm in change of the Italian baseball federation, I'd have to wonder if I really want to play Mike DeFelice, for example, and bench someone who's taken time out of his life to play baseball for his country in the not-so-glamorous worlds of Olympic and European championship qualifying. I'm not necessarily picking on Italy, but I can see some examples of that elsewhere as well as the tourney unfolds.

On the other hand, I have absolutely no doubt that some teams -- Japan, the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Puerto Rico, and Cuba all come immediately to mind -- will be full of players who have been waiting for a tournament like this all their lives, and for them, this isn't an event, it's a championship. They'll play to win, it'll be readily apparent from the stands and from the TV that they're doing so, and it'll be those teams that bring the energy into this tournament. As the WBC starts, Team USA likely will be somewhere in between those two extremes; after all, when they were growing up, they wanted to win a World Series and never gave any thought to a tourney like this. When and if it becomes clear to the Americans that they'd better be in it to win it (say, perhaps, after they lose to Japan in the opening game of the second round at Anaheim), if the remaining players left on Team USA respond in kind, then we'll all have a reason to get excited about this tournament.
Posted by sixsigmagus at 2/28/2006 9:29:00 AM
Meanwhile, some updates on Team Puerto Rico, which released their 30-man roster late Tuesday, right after the original post here went up. David DeJesus of the Royals wasn't put on the roster after all, so figure either Ricky Ledee or Luis Matos will start in the outfield. Javy Lopez evidently will see action at either 1B or DH (if it's the former, then figure Delgado will DH). Bengie Molina extended his regrets, but his brother Yadier will be on the squad as the backup to Pudge. Javy Vazquez will start the opener against Panama, and Dicky Gonzalez will indeed be the third starter and go up against Cuba.
Posted by sixsigmagus at 2/28/2006 9:32:00 AM

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