Outlook - The United States has taken over from Cuba the dominance in the World Cup, winning the last two events. They do that with mainly minor leaguers, while the major leaguers who play in the World Baseball Classic have yet to get to a final four. The United States also has the third best record in World Cup competetion, just behind Japan. Something tells me that they will surpass Japan to move into second place in won/loss record, but fall short to Cuba for the championship. The United States has never won more than three World Cup’s in a row. The last time they won two World Cups was in 1973 and 1974, but Cuba didn’t particpate in those.
World Cup Record - 167-75
Top Three Finishes - 15, though the first world cup there were only two teams and the United States finished second place to Great Britain. The Great Britain team was filled with veteran ball players who learned their skills in Canada, while the United States team was filled with bright eyed 18 year olds. They had no idea this 1938 series would be called the “World Cup” until it was over and Great Britain had beaten the United States at what was touted as their own game. The United States team was under the impression that the first world cup event was just an exhibition series to promote baseball.
Best Player - There have been many great ball players to play in the major leagues, but the legend is still Babe Ruth, even though the Japanese thought he struck out too much when he played a couple exhibition series there.
Roster: The numbers below are their minor league numbers
Catcher: Travis d’Arnaud (Blue Jays, .311, 21, 78), Tuffy Gosewisch (Phillies, .247, 13, 66)
First Base: Matt Clark (Padres, .292, 23, 83),
Middle Infield: Andrew Garcia (White Sox, .218, 10, 63), Tommy Mendonca (Rangers, .278, 25, 87), Jody Mercer (Pirates, .255, 19, 69)
Third Base: Joe Thurston (Marlins, .300, 13, 59 ), Chad Tracy (Rangers, .259, 26, 109)
Outfield: Brett Carroll (Red Sox, .270, 16, 63), Jordan Danks (White Sox, .257, 14, 65), Brett Jackson (Cubs, .274, 10, 58), A.J. Pollock (Diamondbacks, .307, 8, 73)
Left handed Pitching: Jeff Beliveau (Cubs, 6-2, 1.57), Drew Smyly (Tigers, 11-6, 2.07), Andy Van Hekken (Astros, 9-6, 3.40), Randy Williams (Red Sox, 1-1, 1.41), Royce Ring (Red Sox, 3-3, 5.30)
Right Handed Pitcher: Pete Andrelczyk (Marlins, 9-3, 2.26), Justin Cassel (White Sox, 0-1, 1.99), Chuckie Fick (Cardinals, 5-3, 2.30), Jeff Marquez (Yankees, 6-5, 3.71), Scott Patterson (Mariners, 4-4, 3.54), Todd Redmond (Braves, 10-8, 2.92), Matt Shoemaker (Angels, 12-7, 3.15)
Players to Watch - Travis d’Arnaud is an All Star catcher and won the MVP of the AA Eastern League. He is a catcher that can play defense and hit. Chad Tracy is a late addition to the roster, but his 109 RBIs will be useful in a lineup that lacks big run producers. Brett Jackson will be the leadoff hitter that will ignite the offense. Expect him to be the starting centerfielder for the Cubs next year. One thing the United States team can’t say is that they lack lefthanded pitching. They have five lefthanders on their roster. There are no real prospects on this roster. Just a number of grizzled veterans who have waged war in the minor leagues. Sometimes that is better than high priced veterans with no motivation when doing battle against the Cubans.
Strange Fact - Andy Van Hekken has a name that makes you think he plays for Netherlands. When he tells you he was born in Holland it makes you do a double take. But he was born in Holland, Michigan. In his first ever major league game against the Cleveland Indians in September 2002 he threw a complete game shutout. It is his only major league victory of his career (1-3, 3.00). The World Cup could get him exposure to Korean, Japanese and Taiwan teams looking for help in their rotations. He is currently 32, a little too ripe to make it back to the major leagues.