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The World Baseball Classic: Alpha Testing

As most of us know, the first World Baseball Classic tournament will be held in less than two months, at venues all over the world. Many teams are looking like powerhouses of talent, and it certainly will be exciting to see them play together representing their country, something that would be great to see in the Olympics if only the time conflict were not so pronounced.

The Boston Red Sox will have five representatives in the tournament. Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz will play for the Dominican Republic, an incredibly talented and DEEP team. Alex Cora will represent Puerto Rico, who is also expected to contend. The two Americans from the Sox are Jason Varitek and Mike Timlin, both outstanding faces for the franchise.

The tournament itself is not short. In case you're not familiar with its structure, here's the condensed version from the Official Site:

The World Baseball Classic will feature 16 teams in a four-round tournament. The 16 teams will be divided into four pools of four teams for Round 1. Round 1 pool play will be held in a round-robin format as all teams within each pool will match up one time (total of six games per pool). The top two teams by record* from each of the four Round 1 pools will advance to Round 2. These eight qualifying teams will be split into two pools for Round 2 and will again play one another in a round-robin format of games (total of six games per pool). The top two teams in each pool by record* will then advance to the two single-elimination Semi-Final games. The winners of the Semi-Final games will advance to the tournament's single-elimination Final. In total, 39 games will be played. The following National Baseball Federations are scheduled to participate in the World Baseball Classic: Australia, Canada, China, Chinese Taipei, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Italy, Netherlands, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Panama, Puerto Rico, South Africa, United States, and Venezuela.

Some of the matchups could prove to be legendary. Still others may be hilarious. Can you imagine Mike Timlin pitching to Manny?

I'm very excited to watch some of these games, and to see players play with "USA" or "Dominicana" on their shirts.

So, who's the favorite?