The World Baseball Classic has developed into an international phenomenon, and the 2013 edition of the event will feature arguably the best lineup of stars that Team USA has ever had in this tournament.
Team USA is slotted in Pool D—alongside Mexico, Italy and Canada—and comes into this year’s event as one of the top contenders to win the entire WBC. With depth in the batting order and on the mound, it’s hard to argue with the Americans’ talent.
While the raw skill is undeniable, there are still serious question marks surrounding Team USA’s effort level.
Spring Training is in full swing and most players are worrying more about the 2013 MLB season instead of the WBC. The players that participate will undoubtedly be focused, but how much effort they are saving for the regular season is a serious issue.
There is so much intrigue surrounding Team USA coming into this tournament, and the expectations for the All-Star team are through the roof.
Let’s hope they take it seriously enough to dominate as they should.
Team USA’s Biggest Strength: The Lineup
When your team’s batting order consists of guys like Ryan Braun, Adam Jones, Mark Teixeira, Brandon Phillips and David Wright, there is no question that the squad will be one of the favorites on paper to win the entire tournament.
The World Baseball Classic isn’t played on paper, though.
Team USA has a great lineup, but the Americans must ensure that they are playing smart baseball and not treating this like an All-Star game. The United States needs to be looking for singles and doubles instead of home runs on every swing of the bat.
The batting order will feature plenty of contact hitters that can put up consistent numbers, and in a format that has many games in close proximity, Team USA must get hot at the plate and stay hot throughout the WBC.
Team USA’s Biggest Weakness: Effort Level
The biggest intangible for this United States team is the amount of effort the coaches should expect to get from these players. While they all may love baseball and their country, they have multi-million dollar contracts at home that they don’t want to compromise.
If Team USA views this tournament as a scrimmage and doesn’t take it seriously, they will be eliminated in the second round again like they were in 2006.
Where this year's team is built so much better than past teams is with the caliber of players on this roster who just genuinely play hard. Guys like Mark Teixeira, Brandon Phillips and David Wright are all going to leave it all on the field no matter what the circumstances.
If Team USA wants to win it all, the team better hope everyone is giving 100 percent effort.
Team USA’s X-Factor: The Pitching
As great as the hitting is shaping up to be for the Americans, there is an abundance of talent on the pitching side as well.
Huge names like R.A. Dickey, Gio Gonzalez and Craig Kimbrel make up a talented group, but how they each mesh and how much effort each gives will depict how far Team USA makes it in this tournament.
The United States has the ultimate ace-in-the-whole, though; Joe Torre.
Torre is a master of putting high-priced personnel in a position to win (see the New York Yankees), and just like coach Mike Krzyzewski and Team USA basketball, the former MLB coach will get the most out of his pitching staff.
If the managerial legend can get the Americans playing up to the expectations put on them, there is no doubt that Team USA has the sheer talent and depth to walk away from the WBC as champions.