Big League Stew - MLB

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.



'06 WBC finish: No-hit Panama 10-0 in seven innings; finished 1-2 in pool play

First game: Sat. March 7, vs. Dominican Republic

Five questions to ask about the Kingdom of the Netherlands

The Netherlands. Is that, like, Holland? Yes, but not entirely. North Holland and South Holland are provinces within the Netherlands, a Dutch-speaking country in northwestern Europe. Its capital, Amsterdam, is a good place to order a Royale with Cheese at McDonalds, or a tall glass of beer inside a movie theater, and you don't have to be paranoid about certain police searches if you tend to be that way here. As for baseball, the Kingdom had island colonies in the Caribbean such as Curacao and Aruba, where we get ballplayers such as Andruw Jones (on the right) and Sidney Ponson.

Could Andruw Jones jump-start his sagging career by leading the Dutch Boyz? Not if Andruw's in no-man's land, as he is now. He's not on the provisional roster, so unless the by-laws allow an exemption via a note from agent Scott Boras, he won't be with his countrymen.

Is the guy who threw the no-hitter coming back? Shairon Martis, a prospect with the Nationals, is on the roster. In '06, he mowed down a Panamanian lineup that included sausage-beater Randall Simon and Carlos Lee. The game's length was shortened because of the slaughter/mercy rule (if only Bud had options like that at the '02 All-Star Game). Martis also picked up the save in the Futures Game this past July, got a taste with the big club down the stretch and could be a full-time major leaguer this season. But not until he tries to lead the Kingdom to the WBC promised land.

If they make it out of pool play, can the players count on being knighted by Queen Beatrix? That's right: the Netherlands is/are a constitutional monarchy, complete with a parliament and — even cooler, some say — a royal family. Beatrix seems more into soccer and horse jumping, but if knighthood happened for Sidney, Eugene Kingsale and Calvin Maduro in 2003, it also should happen for these guys if they win a couple of games.

Well, can they win a couple of games? Possibly, with Jair Jurjjens and Rick Vanden Hurk on the roster, but Pool D also has the Dominican Republic, Panama and Puerto Rico swimming around. Queen Bea ain't just gonna give out free suits of armor, not in this economy.

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Previous WBC previews: Korea (Jan. 9); Venezuela (Jan. 13); Australia (Jan. 21) Mexico (Jan. 27).

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