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Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Musings on the World Baseball Classic Expansion

The World Baseball Classic is apparently expanding from 16 to 28 teams.  The wrinkle is that those 12 new teams, plus four of the mainstay countries in the last tournament, will compete in a "play-in" round during Fall 2012.  Four teams will emerge from this round to enter the main tournament in Spring 2013.

So, the teams guaranteed a spot in the Spring 2013 tournament are:
Australia
China
Cuba
Dominican Republic
Italy
Japan
Korea
Mexico
Netherlands
Puerto Rico
United States
Venezuela

They'll be joined by four of:
Canada*
Chinese Taipei*
Panama*
South Africa*
France
Spain
Great Britain
Germany
New Zealand
Colombia
Nicaragua
Brazil
Izrael
Thailand
Czech Republic
Phillipines
* = played in 2009 WBC

The "play-in" teams will be divided into four pools.  I don't know how that is going to work, but here's a guess, simply based on time zone geography:

Americas
Brazil
Colombia
Panama*
Nicaragua
Eastern Europe
Czech Republic
Germany
Israel
South Africa*
Eastern Asia
Chinese Taipei*
New Zealand
Philippines
Thailand
Western Europe
Canada*
France
Great Britain
Spain
Obviously the regional names are poorly chosen, as there are countries that don't fit.  But it helped me keep track of things to use a geographic name.  The biggest oddball is Canada, but I unfortunately don't see a way to put it in the "Americas" group with all of those countries being so close to one another.  Aside from that, it makes a lot of sense, and I wouldn't be surprised to see the WBC follow this very scenario.  It also has the advantage of having one "incumbent" team in each group.  Without knowing a lot about international baseball, I'd guess that they also would represent the putative favorites in each pool--although South Africa would seem to be the weakest of the bunch.  There was a small league (for a year) in Israel, and I'm pretty sure that Germany has some kind of semi-pro baseball league.

Anyway, I don't know how this will all shake out, but I enjoy thinking about stuff like this.