Fifteen of the sixteen teams for the fourth World Baseball Classic have been decided, and starting September 22 at MCU Park in Brooklyn, Brazil, Israel, Great Britain and Pakistan will compete for the 16th and final baseball golden ticket. Today, World Baseball Classic Inc. announced the rosters and coaching staff for the four teams as well as the game times for this modified double-elimination tournament.
Brazil advanced out of a qualifier in 2012 to make their first ever WBC last time around. This year, Barry Larkin returns as the manager of the Brazilians and he's brought along some high-powered help. Steve Finley is the Brazilian hitting coach and former Cub LaTroy Hawkins will serve as the pitching coach.
Nine of the 28 players on the Brazilian roster are currently in organized baseball, led by Andre Rienzo, who has spent time in the majors in each of the past three seasons. Rienzo is currently thriving as the closer for the New Orleans Zephyrs, the Triple-A affiliate of the Miami Marlins. Infielder Leonardo Reginatto (pictured) plays for the Twins Triple-A affiliate the Rochester Red Wings and second baseman Christian Lopes plays for the Double-A New Hampshire Fisher Cats in the Blue Jays organization.
Liam Carroll is the manager of the Great Britain baseball team. Carroll has been involved with British baseball since the mid-90s, although he did play junior college ball in California. Carroll will get some top-flight help though, as Trevor Hoffman will serve as the British pitching coach.
Great Britain will have 12 players that are currently affiliated with major league clubs, including four in Triple-A and one in Double-A. The biggest name is Chris Reed, who is Rienzo's teammate in the Marlins organization. Reed was born in London, even though he grew up in California and was drafted in the first round in 2011. Another Zephyr on the Great Britain roster is Jake Esch. Left-hander Michael Roth pitches for Triple-A Round Rock in the Rangers organization and catcher Chris Berset plays for the triple-A Louisville Bats in the Reds organization.
Israel is managed by Jerry Weinstein, who currently manages in the Cape Cod League but previously spent nine years coaching in the Rockies organization. I notice he also managed some Cubs affiliates in Geneva in 1993 and Williamsport in 1994.
Twenty of the 28 players on the Israeli roster are currently playing in the affiliated minor leagues, including four in Triple-A and eight in Double-A. On top of that, they have a few players with major league experience in Josh Satin, Craig Breslow and Ike Davis who have been recently released by major league teams. Israel will be the favorite in this group, but they were the favorite four years ago and Spain ended up beating them in the final.
The fourth team in the group is Pakistan, who is making their WBC debut. They are managed by Pervaiz Shah Khawar and have no players who are signed with major league organizations. In case you couldn't tell, they're the underdogs. But they've done well enough in international competitions over the past four years to just qualify for this tournament and that's quite an accomplishment.
The schedule of games is as follows:
QUALIFIER 4: Brooklyn, New York
BRAZIL | GREAT BRITAIN | ISRAEL | PAKISTAN
Match‐up (Home team in bold)
Thur., Sept. 22
Pakistan vs. Brazil
Thur., Sept. 22
Great Britain vs. Israel
Fri., Sept. 23
Israel* vs. TBD
Fri., Sept. 23
Great Britain* vs. TBD
Sat., Sept. 24
TBD vs. TBD
Sun., Sept. 25
Finalist 2 vs. Finalist 1
* Teams will play at listed game time regardless of whether they win or lose their opening game.
Broadcast information has yet to be announced, but if it's like the qualifiers in the past, all games will be available for free streaming online and the championship game will also be televised live on the MLB Network.
Al and I are both big fans of the World Baseball Classic, and I'm going to be providing nightly recaps of all the games of this qualifier and the 2017 tournament. So far, each World Baseball Classic has been better than the last one as they get the hang of putting on an international tournament like this. Sure, there are problems and there always will be. But there is little more exciting than watching fans cheer for their national team and the pride that players take when putting on the flag of their country. Japan won the first two WBCs and the Dominican Republic won the last one. Both teams were greeted by their home countries as heroes after winning the tournament. And that's what baseball should be all about.