In the first World Baseball Classic in 2006, Team USA finished an embarrassing eighth out of 16 teams, losing their final two games to Korea (ouch) and Mexico (ouch), despite a team that boasted dominant MLB ballplayers like Alex Rodriguez, Derrek Lee, and Chipper Jones. This year will be different, at least if you listen to the analysts at MLB Network, who are hoping that coverage of the Classic will be a coup for their network as well.
Harold Reynolds, a former All-Star and Gold Glove winner for the Seattle Mariners and now an analyst for MLB Network believes the ‘06 USA team was physically unprepared to play against teams that had been playing ball year round. “I think across the board major league players weren’t quite ready,” Reynolds said in a conference call with reporters on Tuesday. He was quick to point out that it was ill-preparedness rather than a lack of patriotism that sent Team USA to the showers early.
“As one of the broadcasters in MLB Network who actually played in the inaugural WBC for Team USA, I can tell you we were immensely [disappointed],” said former big league pitcher Al Leiter.
MLB Network will televise 16 WBC games along with a nightly studio program, World Baseball Classic Tonight. Some of the network’s reporters, like Reynolds and Leiter, who are typically in the studio, will be helping to call games. The team of Reynolds, Leiter, and Matt Vasgersian will cover games being played in Miami while Victor Rojas and Joe Magrane handle those in Toronto. MLB Network president and CEO Tony Petitti is overseeing the coverage.
Petitti sounded like a big league manager himself when he spoke of the crew he has in place to cover the WBC. “It’s a really deep team with a lot of experience…versatility; that was really important, we wanted our team to be plugged into a lot [of different aspects of coverage].”
Sounds like MLB Network is ready for the World Baseball Classic. Let’s just hope Team USA is too.
The WBC begins March 5. Team USA’s first game is against Canada on March 7 at 2 p.m.