It took the 2004 Olympics to get big-name stars back in international basketball as representatives of the United States. After Team USA finished third and took home the Bronze medal, the prevailing embarrassment that followed has given us two (2008, 2012) of the most dominant Olympic basketball teams of the modern era.

Team USA baseball finished fourth at the World Baseball Classic in 2009. After a full four years to think about that finish, MLB stars are rising from the ashes to bring the same fire and passion that LeBron James and Kobe Bryant brought back to U.S. basketball.

This year’s roster has a chance to get that excitement going.

For the first time in the three-year tournament history of the WBC, the United States will be one of the favorites. When looking at the roster (via, there’s a good reason why.


     2013 U.S. World Baseball Classic Roster             Notable 2013 Absences
Player Pos. MLB Team Player Pos Team
Mark Teixeira 1B Yankees Justin Verlander SP Tigers
Brandon Phillips 2B Reds Josh Hamilton OF Angels
Jimmy Rollins SS Phillies Mike Trout OF Angels
David Wright 3B Mets Prince Fielder 1B Tigers
Joe Mauer C Twins Matt Kemp OF Dodgers
Ryan Braun LF Brewers Clayton Kershaw SP Dodgers
Adam Jones CF Orioles Zach Grienke SP Dodgers
Giancarlo Stanton RF Marlins Jason Heyward OF Braves
Ben Zobrist INF Rays B.J. Upton OF Braves
Willie Bloomquist INF D-backs Justin Upton OF Braves
Shane Victorino OF Red Sox Ian Kinsler 2B Rangers
Jonathan Lucroy C Brewers Dustin Pedroia 2B Red Sox
J.P. Arencibia C Blue Jays C.C. Sabathia SP Yankees
R.A. Dickey SP Blue Jays Derek Jeter SS Yankees
Ryan Vogelsong SP Giants Troy Tulowitzki SS Rockies
Derek Holland SP Rangers Andrew McCutchen OF Pirates
Kris Medlen SP Braves Jered Weaver SP Angels
Craig Kimbrel RP Braves David Price SP Rays
Heath Bell RP D-backs Evan Longoria 3B Rays
Chris Perez RP Indians Cliff Lee SP Phillies
Vinnie Pestano RP Indians Cole Hamels SP Phillies
Luke Gregerson RP Padres Buster Posey C Giants
Glen Perkins RP Twins Bryce Harper OF Nationals
Steve Cishek RP Marlins Stephen Strasburg SP Nationals
Jeremy Affeldt RP Giants Matt Wieters C Orioles
Tim Collins RP Royals Jim Johnson RP Orioles
Mitchell Boggs RP Cardinals Joe Nathan RP Rangers

As you can see, manager Joe Torre will have a lot of talent to work with. His starting lineup would be a quality one in any MLB stadium, even if the starting pitching isn’t as strong as the coaching staff would hope.

Playing in Pool D, USA will get a good early test against Mexico. Italy and Canada round out the pool, but Team USA is fully expected to take care of business against those squads and be in a good position for the bracket round.

Big bats like Mark Teixeira and Giancarlo Stanton will be an expected spark in the middle of the lineup, while experienced veterans Jimmy Rollins, Brandon Phillips and Shane Victorino will need to provide a veteran leadership that helps some of these players who have never tasted postseason/pressure baseball.

That’s the kind of atmosphere that the WBC provides.

If you look at the table above, you’ll see that Team USA does have a fairly stacked roster. However, the names that are on the right side of the list provide a window into what this tournament could look like if everyone were geared up to represent their country.

To be fair, spring training and injuries have prevailed over general interest in a tournament that didn’t exist prior to 2005. However, Japan’s title run has piqued interest all over the world, and there’s a good chance the Dominican Republic squad has the same goal as the U.S. this year—prove the first two tournaments were a fluke without MLB stars.

That makes 2013 vitally important for the U.S. roster.

With a deep tournament run to the finals, the United States can send a message to the stars that have chosen either not to participate or shown so little interest that they don’t receive a call to join up.

That message is simple: Come play for your country, and have fun doing it.

We all know what happened after NBA stars failed to bring home the gold in 2004. With the same kind of stakes on the line for both the WBC being a talent-filled tournament on all sides and the United States sending its best competition each year, this is a crucial tournament for the current 28 Americans scheduled to put the Red, White and Blue on the line.

Granted, basketball is completely different than baseball in international play. The United States has held a considerable advantage over almost every country for the last 40 years, but baseball is a different story.

American players are some of the best in the world, but Japan, Cuba, Venezuela and the Dominican Republic all feature stacked lineups that would make any MLB manager jealous. That makes roster selection even more important in baseball than it is in basketball, because most countries are fishing with dynamite before the tournament even begins.

The stakes have never been higher for Americans and international baseball. It’s time for the American stars to rise to the challenge, and hopefully inspire the rest of MLB’s USA stars to come out of hiding for two weeks in March every four years.


Read more MLB news on