In what is quickly becoming a highly-anticipated event in baseball on a global scale, the 2013 World Baseball Classic is shaping up to be the most exciting one yet. All eyes are on powerhouses like the United States, Dominican Republic and two-time defending champion Japan as the teams to watch out for this year.
However, there is a dark horse in this race that can truly prove to add some intrigue to this year’s classic.
Mexico is fresh off of winning the Caribbean World Series, defeating the Dominican Republic in an 18-inning thriller. Upon its win, sports analysts everywhere were immediately jumping on the Mexico bandwagon, calling them contenders to look out for in 2013.
What makes them even deadlier is the addition of two Dodger stars: First baseman Adrian Gonzalez and third baseman Luis Cruz.
Gonzalez, a San Diego resident with family hailing from Tijuana, Baja California, has been a staple in Mexico’s offense in the past two classics. And since coming to Los Angeles in a trade from Boston which included Josh Beckett, Nick Punto and Carl Crawford, we have seen an offensive surge from the former all-star. Ending his 2012 campaign with 18 home runs and a .299 batting average in Dodger Blue, we could definitely see this continue for Mexico.
Cruz is easily one of the biggest, if not the biggest up-and-comers in the Dodgers organization. A native of the Mexican state of Sonora, the upstart manning the hot corner has delivered nothing but outstanding results on both ends of the field. Offensively, “Cochito” boasted a batting average of .322 with 40 RBI in the beginning of his young Dodger career in 2012. On defense, he has truly done it all, with a .984 fielding percentage while sharing the field with fellow defensive mainstays Mark Ellis and Hanley Ramirez.
Don’t be surprised if, among all the cheers, chants and vuvuzelas that will be heard during this year’s games, the familiar call of “CRUUUUUUZ!” runs rampant.
One factor that the Aztec nation has been consistent in during the WBC has been pitching. The secret to Mexico’s pitching prowess? Dodgers great Fernando Valenzuela. The man who brought us Fernandomania in the 1980s has served as Mexico’s pitching coach since the WBC’s inception in 2006.
This year’s Mexico team has the perfect timeline in Dodger history. Players young and old, with years of experience and with everything to prove, will be what makes our neighbors south of the border the team to look out for in 2013.