The 2017 World Baseball Classic began Monday with a big upset: Israel, competing in its first-ever WBC and having just a few players with Major League Baseball experience, upset South Korea 2-1 in 10 innings. So perhaps anything is possible for Team Canada in the quadrennial event. The Canadiens are +5000 to win the tournament on Sports Interaction WBC baseball odds.
Team Canada WBC Odds
There’s always a “Group of Death” in soccer’s World Cup, and it appears that Team Canada is in the “Group of Death” for the WBC as it shares Pool C with defending tournament champion Dominican Republic, the United States and Colombia. Only the top two teams in each pool advance after round robin play, which will be held at Marlins Park in Miami for that group, and it would be an upset if that’s not the Dominicans and the Americans – the two betting favourites to win the WBC.
Team Canada, managed by Ernie Whitt again, has played in all three previous Classics but never advanced. It nearly did in 2006 with a 2-1 first-round record but lost on a tiebreaker. Canada is without four of its most accomplished MLB position players in Blue Jays catcher Russell Martin, former Blue Jays outfielder Michael Saunders (now with Phillies), Reds first baseman Joey Votto and free-agent second baseman Brett Lawrie, who played for the White Sox last year but was recently released. Martin and Saunders both originally planned to play, but Martin – who was going to play shortstop — had to bow out because of insurance-related issues on his big contract with Toronto. Saunders wanted to dedicate this spring to his new team.
Whitt’s best player by far is Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman. He was born in California, but Freeman’s parents are both Canadian. His father Fred will be in attendance for the first-round games but Freeman’s mother, Rosemary, passed away after battling melanoma when Freddie was just 10. He’s playing for Team Canada to honor her. Freeman hit .302 with 34 homers and 91 RBIs last season with Atlanta.
Also on the team is former NL batting champion Justin Morneau. From 2006-2010 he was one of the best hitters in the American League with the Minnesota Twins. Injuries then started hampering Morneau. He did have a huge bounce-back season in 2014 in winning the batting title with Colorado. However, injuries then struck again the next two years. Morneau played only 58 games in 2016 for the White Sox and remains a free agent. Blue Jays outfielder Dalton Pompey is also on the team.
The two biggest pitching names are retired big-leaguers Ryan Dempster and Eric Gagne. The 39-year-old Dempster hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2013 with the Red Sox. Gagne, 41, was arguably the majors’ top closer from 2002-04 with the Dodgers. Gagne won the Cy Young Award in 2003, the only NL reliever to do so this century. He last pitched in the majors nine years ago with Milwaukee. Team Canada saw A’s reliever John Axford pull out of the WBC on Sunday.
WBC Pool odds
Canada plays the Dominican Republic on Thursday, the Colombians on Saturday and the Americans on Sunday. The DR beat Puerto Rico 3-0 in the championship game of the 2013 Classic. It surprisingly failed to advance in 2009 and made the semifinals in the inaugural 2006 Classic. The Dominicans have several big-name MLB stars on their roster, led by the Blue Jays’ Jose Bautista, Orioles’ Manny Machado, Mariners’ Robinson Cano and Nelson Cruz, Rangers’ Adrian Beltre, Red Sox’s Hanley Ramirez, Pirates’ Starling Marte and pitchers Johnny Cueto of the Giants and Jeurys Familia of the Mets. The DR is the +225 co-favourite at Sports Interaction to win the event.
The United States has advanced past the first round in all three Classics but is yet to win it. The Americans are also +225. They are full of big-name players as well, including the Rockies’ Nolan Arenado, Diamondbacks’ Paul Goldschmidt, Royals’ Eric Hosmer, Nationals’ Daniel Murphy, Orioles’ Adam Jones, Pirates’ Andrew McCutchen, Marlins’ Giancarlo Stanton, Giants’ Buster Posey and pitchers Marcus Stroman (Blue Jays), Chris Archer (Rays) and Andrew Miller (Indians). Toronto lefty J.A. Happ is in the USA’s Designated Pitcher Pool. Those players are on the active roster and eligible to participate in one or more consecutive rounds. After each round, they can be replaced with another player from the Designated Pitcher Pool.
Colombia is playing in its first WBC, beating out Panama, Spain and France in a qualifier. The Colombians are lacking in any star position players but do have two very good starting pitchers in the White Sox’s Jose Quintana and Braves’ Julio Teheran. The Colombians are +15000 to win the WBC.
There are pitch counts in place for this event. It’s 65 for first-round games and rise each round. The designated hitter rule applies for all games. Should any go into extra innings, starting in the 11th teams automatically start with runners on first and second base. This is to help avoid those 18-inning marathons as MLB doesn’t want to see any players hurt.
The top two teams from Pool C advance to San Diego’s Petco Park for the second round from March 14-19. They are joined by the top two teams from Pool D, most likely Venezuela and Puerto Rico.