6 Reasons South Africa Will Win the WBC...No, Really!
1.) Underdog; Dark Horse. No one will suspect it coming. ESPN lists a few things South Africa is known for on their team page. The first thing they wrote? "Anything but baseball." They're doing a good job at making people question the country's ability in the sport of baseball, which will make their victories that much sweeter.
2.) The Unknown; Element of Surprise. "When we qualified to play in the Olympics, the whole world was like, 'They actually play baseball in South Africa?' " South Africa's Ian Holness said about the world's surprise of team's success. Does anyone really know much about their players? Has anyone outside their neighbors ever played on the same field as 90% of their players? No. Only three South Africans on their 60-man roster have MLB contracts. Their secrets are safe within their own team. No one knows their strengths, which could be many more than people think and no one knows their weaknesses. That is, if they even have any.
3.) History. They've been playing baseball in South Africa since the late 1800's. That's over 100 years of preparation time for this year's World Baseball Classic.
4.) Endurance; Longevity. They play all year round in South Africa. Leagues play up until September and then others start up in October. It's intense.
5.) Numbers. Over 370 thousand play organized baseball in the south african country. That's more than the entire city of Cincinnati, Ohio. 1 out of every 125 people play in South Africa. They get to pick the 60 best from that crop? Comparitively, Japan and China combined only have a little over 300 thousand people who play organized baseball. That's only 1 out of 5000 people in China or Japan actually know how to pick up a baseball bat and perhaps throw a ball to first base. Hell, 1 out of 5000 know where first base is.
6.) Inside Info. Four names - Barry Armitage, Donvan Hendricks, Bruce McCleland, Paul Rutgers. Ring a bell? I didn't think so, which is exactly how the South African team wants it. These four gentlemen, believe it or not, have had or currently have contracts with MLB clubs in the United States. In other words, they've had time to watch and study the mechanics of the major league stars of other nations in their careers. Now they get to use that against them in the Classic. See, there may not be much, if any, film available on the South African squad, but most of the other teams involved in the tournament are made up of many MLB stars, whose mechanics and weaknesses are readily available to those who play for MLB squad. There's no question that these four players have had plenty of access to these films and have studied them tremendously in preparation for a future match up, a match up just like the ones that will occur this March. Coincidence? Perhaps not.
Oh, and Barry Armitage had a 1.79 ERA and 77 K's in 85 IP in 2004. Not too bad for a 25 year old in single A for the Kansas City Royals. Hitters beware!
So, when the Classic comes around and your team has to play South Africa (I'm looking at you Canada, Mexico, and the big, bad United States) watch out. If they're taken lightly the mercy rule will be put into play, and South Africa will be the only team happy with the results. And maybe Cuba. But that's just because they hate us.