February 20, 2009
Whether you're waiting for it or not, the World Baseball Classic is fast approaching. 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.
Pool: C, Toronto
'06 WBC finish: Lost to Mexico 9-1 but finished 2-1 in pool play, which included a huge victory against the United States
First game: Saturday, March 7 vs. U.S.
Five questions to ask about Canada
How many goals will it take to win the World Baseball Cup? Ha, well, let's get a couple of things straight, eh? The only goal in the World Baseball Classic is to win the tournament. Canada might be better known for (and better at) its power play, but the Great White North's provisional roster includes nearly four dozen players currently in major league organizations. Some of them, such as Jason Bay, Russell Martin and Justin Morneau, are among the best players at their positions in the majors. Team Canada won't have the likes of Rich Harden, Jeff Francis, Erik Bedard or Eric Gagne on the mound, however, because of health concerns. No Ryan Dempster, either. Busy.
How much of a home-field edge is the Rogers Centre? It might depend on how many diehards show up. Blue Jays fans, adding a dose of nationalism and two doses of beer to the mix, could provide an electric atmosphere inside the former SkyDome which could push the Canadians to victory. "I fully expect that place to be pretty packed," Bay says. "I got a taste of the playoffs last year and I've got a pretty good feeling it will be something like that."
Should we expect an international incident? The U.N. reports that chances are good. Someone will hold a flag upside-down, or hold a hockey trophy upside-down, or hold Canada manager Ernie Whitt upside-down, or boo a national anthem. That's OK. Just gets the blood pumping quicker.
Will Stubby Clapp backflip into position again? One can hope. The "Mayor of Memphis" is now a hitting coach in the Astros system but still is angling to make Canada's roster. You can't stage an international baseball event, invite Canada, and forget to bring Clapp, who's only 36. "This will be it," Clapp said. "I'll hang my cleats up and give them to my wife and kids. I owe Houston a great big thanks for the time off and them letting me go and compete in this, and in the last couple. They've been really good to me."
Is it time to get blotto for Joey Votto? It's always time for that. He'll be DHing, because Morneau's at first base. With a possible second-round match-up against Italy (how much heritage can one guy give?), Votto promises to be a central figure in Pool C, which also features Venezuela (to which Votto has no known ties). "It's pretty special to be able to play for your country, but to be able to play in front of friends and family, and then afterwards go home and enjoy the experience with them, is going to make it extra special," Votto said.