World Baseball Classic 2006

I told you he would be in every picture. I don’t care if this is an international event. I like Chipper.

Before we get into what happened, let’s go over some ground rules. There are 16 teams broken up into four “pools” at the beginning of competition. In Round 1, each pool plays a round-robin tournament in which the top two teams from each pool advance to Round 2. Two more pools are formed with four teams each. In Round 2, the two pools play another round-robin, and the top two again advance to the next round. The final round is a single-elimination bracket pitting the four teams left. The winner and runner-up from each pool face each other in the semi-final, and the winner advances to the championship. Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s get on to the action.

Pool A was of little surprise as South Korea and Japan advanced, leaving China and Chinese Taipei behind, but the fact that South Korea won the pool was a surprise over heavily-favored Japan. Pool B saw a more compelling finish as three team (Canada, Mexico, and the United States) each finished with a 2-1 record, but after tie-breakers were used, the United States and Mexico moved on because they gave up fewer runs than Canada. Pool C was similar to Pool A in that Puerto Rico and Cuba, the favored two, moved on over Panama and the Netherlands, but Puerto Rico surprised everyone by taking out Cuba. Pool D went as planned as the pool finished Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Italy, and Australia with the Latin Americans continuing on.

Round 2 saw some interesting battles. Pool 1 was expected to see the US and Japan move on over Mexico and South Korea, but the Koreans smacked the rest of the pool and went undefeated. The last three were caught in three-way 1-2 tie, but the Japanese narrowly edged out the Americans by .14 RA/9. Pool 2 wasn’t nearly as exciting. The Dominican Republic and Cuba moved on with records of 2-1 while Venezuela and Puerto Rico returned home after valiant efforts.

The first matchup of the semifinals was the Dominican Republic and Cuba. A pitcher’s duel saw the teams locked up in a tight battle, but the Cubans grabbed three in the seventh to take the game and move on to the finals. In the other semifinal matchup, the Koreans and Japanese were locked in a 0-0 dogfight until the seventh when the Japanese scored five runs and added another in the eighth behind Kosuke Fukudome and Hitoshi Tamura’s home runs. The final saw a predictable Japan-Cuba matchup. In a high-scoring battle, the Japanese pulled out the 10-6 contest with four runs in the top of the ninth to take the first WBC championship. The US officially finished 8th.

Daisuke Matsuzaka was the MVP for the winning Japanese team, and his performance would be the spark to the huge contract he would get the next off-season.

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