Seven Cardinals in World Baseball Classic?

There are some potential Cardinals surprises on the provisional rosters for the March WBC tournament.

On Wednesday, MLB announced the 60-man provisional rosters for March's World Baseball Classic. There are 394 major league players on these provisional rosters for 15 of the 16 teams participating. Only Cuba, whose participation in the tourney is tied up in political wrangling, has not yet provided its player list.


Being on the provisional roster does not mean that all players will participate, but it defines the overall pool of those who are willing to do so. Going forward, no new names can be added. Final 30-man rosters for each team must be locked in by the start of the event on March 3.


For the Cardinals as a supplier, their contingent could be one of the smallest of all 30 major league teams. There is a wide range by team from the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, with only five names, to the Minnesota Twins and New York Mets, with 23 possible players each.


The average MLB organization is supplying 13 players, so the Cardinals are getting off very easy in terms of potential disruption to their Major League camp compared to most other organizations. Only the Devil Rays are assured of providing fewer.


This will undoubtedly sit a bit better with Tony La Russa and his staff, who like most all other major league staffs seem to be quietly against the WBC. Publicly, of course, all comments are positive to demonstrate solidarity with the Commissioner, or perhaps to avoid unpleasant and embarrassing fines.


Looking at the Cardinals' list confirms the earlier decision by closer Jason Isringhausen to skip the WBC. Earlier, catcher Yadier Molina and outfielder John Rodriguez expressed interest in playing for Jose Oquendo's Puerto Rico squad. Both of them are on the list of 60.


First baseman and reigning National League Most Valuable Player Albert Pujols is set to play for his homeland Dominican Republic squad, and new Cardinals outfielder Juan Encarnacion may join him. Finally, another recent Cardinals' addition, reliever Ricardo Rincon, is a possible participant for Mexico.


But, there are also some surprises.


Sidney Ponson, already knighted in his native Aruba, is on the list of possibles representing the Netherlands. I guess colonial ties are close enough. Another potential member of the Dutch powerhouse is South Holland, Illinois native Mark Mulder.


Others provisionally on the Netherlands' roster include former Cardinal Danny Haren, who interestingly is also on the USA's list, and Toronto's Shea Hillenbrand, along with their only superstar, Atlanta's and Curacao's Andruw Jones. At least 45 of the other remaining Dutch names are guys I have never heard of.


Here are the Cardinals on the provisional rosters:


Cardinals Player WBC Country
Encarnacion, Juan Dominican Republic
Molina, Yadier Puerto Rico
Mulder, Mark Netherlands
Ponson, Sidney Netherlands
Pujols, Albert Dominican Republic
Rincon, Ricardo Mexico
Rodriguez, John Puerto Rico

There is no confirmed word yet as to whether either Ponson or Mulder actually plan to participate. However, the WBC website clearly implies Mulder is committed to play, while Ponson is characterized as much less likely. If I had a vote, I would side with Tony La Russa and Dave Duncan in their likely wish that both remain very close to Jupiter, Florida during March.

Even with perhaps "only" seven players gone, it could be for a long time - as much as three weeks of spring training. With several players in pivotal roles for the 2006 Cardinals, it is easy to see how the World Baseball Classic could be an inhibitor to La Russa's charges coming together as a team.

Yet, for many of these men, the pull to represent their home country in the WBC is strong – in fact, in many cases, a matter of national pride. Yet, in other cases, ancestral ties make for some real stretches, as shown above.

Let's just hope that the WBC will never be cited by anyone as an excuse for problems that occur later on during the 2006 season. There should be no debate as to what is most important.

WBC or not, for every one of the Cardinals' players, the primary goal should be a World Championship as measured by winning the final game of the postseason come October. 

Brian Walton can be reached via email at
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