08 February 2013

2013 World Baseball Classic: USA

This is the second in a series to introduce everyone to teams participating in 2013's World Baseball Classic.  As this series progress, you will find all of the articles under this key world: 2013 World Baseball Classic.  Previously, we reviewed Previously, we reviewed Australia, Canada, Cuba, and Puerto Rico.

The body of the United States article was written by Jeremy Strain.

United States
IBAF Ranking (out of 74) 2nd
2013 Pool Mexico


2013 Players of Note R.A. Dickey, SP

Ryan Vogelsong, SP

Joe Mauer, C

Adam Jones, OF

Giancarlo Stanton, OF

2009 Record 4 - 4, 4th
2009 All WBC Jimmy Rollins, SS

2006 Record 3 - 3, 2nd Round
2006 All WBC Derek Jeter, SS

Ken Griffey, Jr.

Baseball has often been referred to as “America’s Pastime” for generations, which makes sense because ball and bats games have had an impact in many communities.  As far back as 1791, there were local ordinances in the Northeast banning the game within 80 yards of the town meeting house was made.  Much of the early history of baseball was discussed on Camden Depot's book club over a year ago. Briefly, the game bounced around in various forms over the next hundred years.  The first team to play under modern rules were the New York Knickerbockers, which was a social club founded in 1845. By 1857, the New York area had grown to 16 clubs and founded an organization, the National Association of Base Ball Players to govern the sport and introduce a championship. With help from the Civil War, players all over the country were soon adopting these rules and ways as they were exposed to players from various states, who would then take them back to their home states and spread the game.

The next 50 years saw the end of open ball parks and the rise of the home run.  The American and National Leagues established themselves as the premier leagues with hundreds of minor teams in dozens of leagues at any one time playing across the country.  This includes Negro Leagues, whose members were barred from joining the American or National Leagues or any league aspiring as a feeder league or competitor.

The great innovator, Branch Rickey, truly brought baseball into the modern era.  He led the slow charge to develop better ways to measure talent in players.  He championed the use of on base percentage and isolated power.  He hired a statistician to be part of his front office.  He saw the benefit in an organization owning minor league teams to raise their own talent.  Rickey also saw utility in harmonizing the teaching in his system in what some fans around Baltimore call the Oriole Way.  Rickey also was the first to put money into developing a permanent Spring Training facility.  More importantly, he saved baseball from itself by forcing through desegregation by giving Jackie Robinson the opportunity to show that he belonged in Major League Baseball.  

Over the years, the American professional game has remained the strongest in the world.  Major League teams have aggressively set up academies in other countries to spread the game in hopes of finding elite players.  As of 2012, 71.6% of MLB rosters were American-born, while 52% of all minor league players were born in the US. While this number moves around a bit year to year, it has stayed within 3% for the past 4 years.

MLB is a game dominated by the US, however international competition has been more uneven with professional players preferring not to play for the national teams.  In Olympic play, minor league talent led the US to a gold in 2000 and a bronze in 2008.  The International Olympic Committee decided after China to drop the game altogether from Olympic play.

For the WBC, the United States saw participation from many major stars from the Major Leagues.  They did not place.  In 2009 a younger group of largely less accomplished finished 4th. USA also won a silver medal in the Pan American games in 2011 with a team full of minor league talent. The 2013 team features an interesting mix of youth and veteran leadership with the strength of the team in a mashing OF of Adam Jones, Ryan Braun and Giancarlo Stanton. Other standouts such as David Wright, Mark Teixeira, and Joe Mauer join a pitching staff with some great relievers such as Craig Kimbrel, Luke Gregerson, and Chris Perez, but the weakness of the team for this season has to be the starting pitching. R.A. Dickey leads the staff, but young potential star Kris Medlen dropped out of the WBC leaving only Derek Holland as the other sound starter. Rumors have swirled this past week that Justin Verlander may consider playing for the USA which would be a HUGE gain to this squad’s chances this year.

USA will always continue to dominate the population of the sport housed within it’s borders, but part of that success has been the draw of foreign born players that would like to compete in the best league in the world. Players from various countries have been defecting or placing themselves for sale in order to get to the ML and compete against the best. With little league teams transitioning to travel teams, to high school teams and on to college before getting to the minor league systems, there is a pipeline of US talent constantly flowing, with only the cream of the crop ever making it to the Major Leagues. Players are being groomed for ML play from the first time they can hit off of a tee in the US, and while the sport has taken a hit in popularity over the years, it still produces thousands of ML hopefuls every year. With young talent showing an interest in representing the team, such as Stanton, Medlen, Jones, Braun, Kimbrel etc. it bodes well for other young talented players wanting to represent the country and keep the USA in contention each competition. Players such as Stephen Strasburg, Bryce Harper, Mike Moustakas and others lend a bright future to team USA potential, if they are willing to play.

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