This is a series that will profile the World Baseball Classic, or to be more specific, the teams. The first team that will be covered is The Netherlands.
The Netherlands is a country in Europe, northwest of Germany, northeast of France, southeast of Great Britain, and southwest of Denmark. It has or has had territory in the Carribean, in fact, that is where most of the Dutch baseball talent comes from, in particular, the Netherlands Antilles.
Major League baseball players, current, former, and future, on the 2013 team include Boston Red Sox top prospect Xander Bogaerts, a shortstop, Washington Nationals outfielder Roger Bernadina, Atlanta Braves second baseman Andrelton Simmons, Minnesota Twins pitcher Shairon Martis, Baltimore Orioles infield prospect Jonathan Schoop, and former Major Leaguers Andruw Jones, Wladimir Balentien, Bert Blyleven, and Hensley Meulens; the last two of whom serve on the Dutch coaching staff.
The Dutch baseball team was one of the original sixteen nations that participated in the first World Baseball Classic. They played in Pool C at Hiram Bithorn Stadium in Puerto Rico, along with Cuba, Panama, and host Puerto Rico. In their first tournament, the Dutch were easily dispatched by Puerto Rico and Cuba, but pulled a save-face 10-0 win over the inexperienced Panama team to save them from finishing at the bottom of the pool.
Three years later, the Dutch, who were in Pool D with the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and Panama, surprised many by pulling off a 3-2 upset win over a heavily favored Dominican Republic team. They then went to the winner’s bracket where they lost to Puerto Rico in another close game, then shocked the world again by beating the Dominican Republic a second time, 2-1, giving them a rematch against Puerto Rico in the Group final. Again, they lost, but moved on to the second pool, where they competed against the United States, Venezuela, and Puerto Rico. Unfortunately, the Netherlands could not kill anymore giants, as they bowed out quickly after losses to both the US and Venezuela.
On Saturday, the Netherlands started their third tournament, in a group that contains Australia, Chinese Taipei, and 2009 Classic runner up South Korea, which is arguably the weakest of the four groups.
The Netherlands started off with another giant-killing, as Diegomar Markwell headed a four-hit shutout of Korea, while Bernadina led the offensive charge with two RBI in a 4-0 win.
On Sunday, the Netherlands will play Chinese Taipei, who, thanks to a strong pitching effort from Chien-Ming Wang, beat Australia in the first game of the Classic. They will finish on March 5th against Australia.
The Netherlands look to be a dark horse in the Classic again. With a convincing win against the 2009 runners up, there is every possibility that the Dutch will come out of this pool as winners. However, it would take a favorable draw for them to get past the second round, and by that , they would have to hope for, at the best, another upstart nation to finish second in their pool, or maybe even Japan, who is considerably weaker than in the previous tournaments, as evidenced by their wild win against upstart Brazil. If the Netherlands however, can live up to the giant killer moniker once again, expect this team to go far in the tournament, possibly even to the quarterfinal.