You have to like the World Baseball Classic if only for one reason–there are games in March that matter.
Japan, fresh off of the 2006 World Baseball Classic championship, will defend its title against 15 other countries again in March, 2009.
“I’m playing,” said Bobby Abreu, of the Yankees, who would suit up for Team Venezuela. “Doesn’t matter if they ask me or not, I’ll be there.”
WORLD BASEBALL CLASSIC FORMAT CHANGE
The format for this year’s Classic is different from the first one three seasons ago. Previously, it was a round robin format with all teams playing three games in their divisions. This made for some awkward situations like Team USA having to have Mexico not only beat Canada to advance, but also to have them score a lot of runs. Team USA beat South Africa 17-0 on the mercy rule while Mexico smashed Canada 9-1 to allow the USA to advance past the first round in 2006.
This time around, the teams will play a double elimination tournament in each of the first two rounds. This will make for some more interesting contests that will have the necessary drama to attract a television audience while most of America is usually glued to March Madness.
WORLD BASEBALL CLASSIC SCHEDULE
Round 1 — March 5-12
Pool A — China, Chinese Taipei, Japan, Korea at Tokyo.
Pool B — Australia, Cuba, Mexico, South Africa at Mexico City.
Pool C — Canada, Italy, United States, Venezuela at Toronto.
Pool D — Dominican Republic, Netherlands, Panama, Puerto Rico at San Juan.
Round 2 — March 14 – 19
Pool 1 — 2 each from Pools A & B at San Diego.
Pool 2 — 2 each from Pools C & D at Miami.
Semifinals — March 21 & 22
Pool 1 Winner vs. Pool 2 Runner-Up at San Diego
Pool 2 Winner vs. Pool 1 Runner-Up at San Diego
Championship Finals — March 23
Semifinal winners at Los Angeles.