The fourth World Baseball Classic is now just around the corner, with the first round set to begin Monday, when South Korea will host Israel in the opening game.The Classic runs from Monday through March 22. In the U.S., games will air live exclusively in English on MLB Network and
The fourth World Baseball Classic is now just around the corner, with the first round set to begin Monday, when South Korea will host Israel in the opening game.
The Classic runs from Monday through March 22. In the U.S., games will air live exclusively in English on MLB Network and on an authenticated basis via MLBNetwork.com/watch, while ESPN Deportes and WatchESPN will provide the exclusive Spanish-language coverage. MLB.TV Premium subscribers in the U.S. will have access to watch every tournament game live on any of the streaming service's 400-plus supported devices. Internationally, the tournament will be distributed across all forms of television, internet, mobile and radio in territories excluding the U.S., Puerto Rico and Japan. Get tickets for games at Marlins Park, Tokyo Dome, Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul, Estadio Charros de Jalisco in Mexico, Petco Park, as well as the Championship Round at Dodger Stadium, while complete coverage -- including schedules, video, stats and gear -- is available at WorldBaseballClassic.com.
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As the tournament approaches, MLB.com is breaking down some of the key facts to know about the teams in each of the Classic's four pools. First up: Pool A.
March 6-10 -- Gocheok Sky Dome, Seoul, South Korea
Teams: Korea, Chinese Taipei, Netherlands, Israel
• Of the four teams in Pool A, Korea has come the closest to World Baseball Classic gold. The Koreans placed third in the inaugural Classic in 2006, then made it to the finals in '09, where they lost a 10-inning heartbreaker to rival Japan after rallying to tie the game off Yu Darvish in the ninth. The Netherlands made the semifinals of the most recent Classic before losing to the eventual champion Dominican Republic, while Chinese Taipei made it to the second round for the first time in the three tournaments. This will be Israel's first time in the World Baseball Classic.
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• South Korea, the Netherlands and Chinese Taipei were in the same pool in 2013, and Korea and Chinese Taipei have been in the same pool in all three World Baseball Classics, so these teams have plenty of history against each other. Korea won its pool in '06 and '09, but Chinese Taipei and the Netherlands advanced on tiebreakers in the '13 Classic, at Korea's expense, after all three teams went 2-1 in pool play.
• With a 14-5 record in the first three Classics, South Korea (.737) is second to only the Dominican Republic (14-4, .778) in winning percentage in the tournament's history, and trails only Japan (17-7) in overall wins. But of the three countries, only Korea does not have a title. As for the other teams in Pool A, the Netherlands has a 7-10 record in Classic play, Chinese Taipei has gone 3-7 and Israel is 0-0.
• Pool A has two of the top four teams in the World Baseball Softball Confederation rankings. Korea is third and Chinese Taipei is fourth, with the two countries trailing only Japan and the United States. The WBSC, the world governing body for international baseball and softball, assigns rankings via a point system based on a country's results in international play.
• Pool A has 10 players on Major League 40-man rosters. Cardinals closer Seunghwan Oh will play for Korea; Reds right-hander Scott Feldman, Orioles left-hander Richard Bleier and White Sox right-hander Brad Goldberg are on Team Israel; and Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts, Angels shortstop Andrelton Simmons, Yankees shortstop Didi Gregorius, Orioles second baseman Jonathan Schoop, Rangers infielder Jurickson Profar and Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen are on the Netherlands' roster.
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• There are four MLB All-Stars among the Pool A ranks: for the Netherlands, Jansen (2016, Dodgers), Bogaerts ('16, Red Sox) and right-hander Jair Jurrjens ('11, Braves), and for Israel, right-hander Jason Marquis ('09, Rockies). Pool A also features a two-time National League Gold Glove Award winners in Simmons and a two-time American League Silver Slugger Award winner in Bogaerts.
• Four players in the pool will have played in every World Baseball Classic -- Oh for Korea, and Robbie Cordemans, Yurendell de Caster and Diegomar Markwell for the Netherlands. Oh, in nine career Classic games (the most of any Pool A pitcher), has a 2.70 ERA and two saves, with 10 strikeouts in 6 2/3 innings. Cordemans and Markwell have both been regulars on the Dutch pitching staff, with Markwell going 2-1 with a 3.07 ERA over a team-high 14 2/3 innings in the Netherlands' run to the semifinals of the 2013 Classic.
• Aside from Oh, every player on South Korea plays in the Korea Baseball Organization (first baseman Dae Ho Lee played for the Mariners last year before signing a contract to return to the KBO). The Korean roster includes some of the KBO's top players. Outfielder Hyoungwoo Choi (Samsung Lions) was the 2016 KBO batting champion, hitting .376, and he also led the league in hits (195) and RBIs (144) while hitting 31 home runs. First baseman Tae Kyun Kim (Hanwha Eagles) finished second to Choi in batting, hits and RBIs in KBO play, and he led the league in on-base percentage (.475) over Choi. Left-handed ace Hyeonjong Yang (Kia Tigers) finished among the top five in the KBO in ERA (3.68) and strikeouts (146), and outfielder Ah Seop Son (Lotte Giants) was among the leaders in hits (186) and runs scored (118).
• Korea has had seven players named to a World Baseball Classic All-Tournament Team. Of the seven, Kim is the one returnee for the 2017 Classic. Kim was a unanimous selection to the '09 All-Tournament Team, batting .345/.486/.690 with a Classic-leading three home runs, 11 RBIs and nine runs scored as he helped lead Korea to the silver medal.
• Kim's 15 Classic games, three homers, 11 RBIs and 22 total bases are the most of any player in Pool A. However, if you include the qualifying rounds, then Israel first baseman Nate Freiman edges out Kim in home runs, with four. Chinese Taipei infielder Yung-Chi Chen has the most hits (13) and runs (11) in Pool A, 13. Chen's six doubles are also the most in the pool and tied for the third-most in Classic history.
• Chien-Ming Wang, one of the most famous Taiwanese baseball players, returns to Team Chinese Taipei for the 2017 Classic. Wang, a nine-year Major League veteran and the '06 AL Cy Young Award runner-up with the Yankees, has starred for Chinese Taipei at the Asian Games, the Olympics and the World Baseball Classic. In the '13 Classic, the 36-year-old didn't allow a run in 12 innings -- the most scoreless innings of any pitcher in the tournament. This year, Wang is in Chinese Taipei's designated pitcher pool, meaning he could pitch in subsequent rounds if the team advances.
• The Chinese Taipei squad includes many stars of the Chinese Professional Baseball League, especially on the offensive side. Outfielder Kuo-Hui Kao (Fubon Guardians) and infielder Chih-Sheng Lin (Chinatrust Brothers) tied for the CPBL home run crown last season, with 34 apiece, while infielder Chih-Hsien Chang hit .402 with 30 homers for Chinatrust. Chin-lung Hu of the Guardians -- who played parts of five MLB seasons with the Dodgers and Mets, and whose 34 Major League hits and two home runs are the most of any Taiwan-born player -- will also return for his first Classic since the inaugural tournament in 2006.
• Simmons returns to the Dutch team in 2017 after an impressive Classic debut four years ago. In '13, Simmons -- known for his elite defense at shortstop more than his bat -- was one of the best hitters in the tournament. He batted .333/.382/.633 with three doubles, two homers, six RBIs and a Classic-leading 10 runs scored and was one of the keys to the Netherlands advancing to the semifinals.
• Netherlands outfielder Wladimir Balentien is Japan's Nippon Professional Baseball single-season home run record-holder. Balentien hit 60 home runs for the Tokyo Yakult Swallows in 2013, breaking the mark of 55 originally set by Japanese legend Sadaharu Oh in 1964.
• Dutch right-hander Shairon Martis is the only pitcher to throw a no-hitter in the World Baseball Classic. Martis threw a seven-inning no-hitter vs. Panama in the 2006 Classic, when he was only 19 years old. He's one of only two pitchers to throw a complete game in Classic play, and the only one to throw a shutout.
• While most of Team Israel's players are Jewish Americans, pitchers Dean Kremer and Shlomo Lipetz are both Israeli citizens. Kremer, a right-hander in the Dodgers organization who has dual U.S.-Israeli citizenship, became the first Israeli player to sign with a Major League Baseball team after Los Angeles drafted him in the 14th round in 2016. Lipetz is a native Israeli who was born in Tel Aviv and now pitches in the Israel Association of Baseball.
• Marquis is one of several players in this year's Classic for whom the tournament might present an opportunity to engineer an MLB comeback attempt. The 38-year-old most recently pitched in the Majors in 2015, but he's a 15-year big league veteran who could be the workhorse for Team Israel, like he was in the qualifiers. Marquis started two of Israel's three games in Brooklyn in September, including throwing four perfect innings in the final against Great Britain, when Israel clinched the final spot in the World Baseball Classic's 16-team main draw.
David Adler is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @_dadler.