Whether you're waiting for it or not, the World Baseball Classic is approaching fast. The international shindig kicks off in Tokyo on March 5 and runs through the final at Dodger Stadium on March 23. In an attempt to get you quickly up to speed with what's going on, BLS will be running occasional team previews as the event nears.MEXICO
Pool: B, Mexico City
'06 WBC finish: Eliminated the United States 2-1, but went 3-3 overall and did not advance past the second round.
First game: Sun. March 8, vs. Australia
Five questions to ask about Mexico
Are they Mexican enough? Debate, along with a little tension, exists surrounding Mexico's provisional roster, which has nine players born in the United States. Some of the players speak little or no Spanish and their true cultural identity is questioned by some. But not by manager Vinny Castilla, who says he accepts his guys whether they're born in Naperville, Ill. like Jerry Hairston, or Monterrey, Mexico like Jorge De La Rosa.
Will they hit enough this time? Mexico's 2.77 team ERA was fifth in the '06 tournament, but its .673 OPS wasn't world class. Two of its top hitters in '06, Castilla and Karim Garcia, aren't playing this time.
Are Rey Mysterio or El Santo on the roster? Answering that would spoil the surprise, but the masked avenger on the right is probably Marlins outfielder Alfredo Amezega and not some Lucha Libre wrestler. The rest of Mexico's provisional roster boasts a bunch of familiar names and several very good players, including Adrian Gonzalez, Jorge Cantu, Matt Garza, Yovani Gallardo, Oliver Perez and Joakim Soria — the Mexicutioner.
Do we have an Erubiel Durazo sighting? He's on the provisional roster, which will be trimmed come tournament time, but he's there — answering a question former big-league teammate Huston Street could not this past season.
Can these guys win their pool? Cuba will be the favorites, and Australia and South Africa are hanging around, too, but Mexico knocked off the U.S. in '06, when Adrian Gonzalez was the only U.S.-born player on Mexico's roster. If many of the eligible guys play, Mexico could do a lot of damage in the tournament. The Mexicans have home-field advantage early and would benefit from a nearby pool of fans in future rounds if played in Los Angeles or San Diego.
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- Mexico City