The World Baseball Classic is designed as a showcase for the sport worldwide. Yet once the United States dropped out, most casual fans in this country stopped caring about anything happening.
Unfortunately those people will be missing a great showdown between Netherlands and Dominican Republic in the Championship Round on Monday night.
Not to sound self righteous, but if you are a fan of baseball, even a casual one, the list of reasons to continue watching this event is vast. You could sit around and come up with 100 right off the top of your head.
Even if you aren't invested in the outcome—attendance dropped in Miami when the United States and Dominican Republic drew 34,366 fans (per Miami Sun-Sentinel) compared to 19,762 (per WBC.com) for the Puerto Rico-U.S. elimination game the next night—here is why you need to make a point to tune in for the Netherlands vs. Dominican Republic.
Heavy on star power
Casual fans tune in to games hoping to see stars. The result of the game is secondary to the list of names in the starting lineup.
Admittedly, most of the star power in this game resides on the side of the Dominican Republic. The starting lineup features Robinson Cano, Hanley Ramirez, Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Reyes and Carlos Santana.
If you put those five players at the top of a lineup in Major League Baseball, it would be the most dangerous unit in the sport. The combination of speed, power and on-base skills is incredible.
Looking at the pitching staff, again mostly for the Dominican Republic, you can see Edinson Volquez and Fernando Rodney.
Stars sell tickets and draw ratings, and there is no shortage of big-name players to keep fans invested in this game.
My favorite area of the game is tracking players through the minor leagues and watching them graduate to the big leagues. Given how popular the draft has become in recent years, it is clear I am not alone in this thinking.
What if I were to tell you that this game will feature Andrelton Simmons (who doesn't have rookie eligibility left, but has only played in 49 career games), Jurickson Profar, Xander Bogaerts and Jonathan Schoop?
That is an embarrassment of riches for the Netherlands, with manager Hensley Meulens struggling to find enough playing time, especially considering Simmons, Profar and Bogaerts are all shortstops.
If you want to see the next great wave of talent that will be coming to the big leagues within the next two seasons, the Netherlands and Dominican Republic clash has you taken care of.
David vs. Goliath
Everyone loves a good Cinderella story. Since the NCAA Tournament is set, everyone wants to find the upsets that will make them look like a genius as they fill out their brackets.
The World Baseball Classic this year has seen its share of dominant teams taking control of the event (Dominican Republic, Japan) and under-the-radar surprises (Puerto Rico, Netherlands).
More often than not, the slipper usually falls off Cinderella's foot. Butler can advance to the NCAA Championship Game, but Duke still wins the title.
The Dominican Republic has been the best team in the World Baseball Classic. Its roster is far superior, on paper, to the Netherlands.
The Netherlands has no depth on its pitching staff, which puts more pressure on the offense. Yet somehow, someway, this team has found a way to come through when it counts.
Cuba had this team on the ropes in the eighth inning, but Andrelton Simmons hit a game-tying two-run home run and then a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the ninth kept the Netherlands' hopes alive.
This is not exactly like, say, the New York Yankees vs. San Diego Padres in the 1998 World Series, but the Dominican Republic deserves to be a heavy favorite in this game. Don't sell the Netherlands short, because every time you count the team out, they find a way to do the impossible.
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