Why You Should Watch the WBC

Tonight the United States faces the Dominican Republic in the second round of the World Baseball Classic. The winner is guaranteed spot in the Championship Round, while the loser will have to face Puerto Rico in the losers' bracket.

The third edition of the tournament has lived up to the title of a classic. There has been no shortage of story lines so far. Italy's improbable run ended last night after the Italians blew their second consecutive lead in the late innings. Europe's other baseball power the Dutch will join Japan in the Championship Round after upsetting Cuba. Über-prospect Jurickson Profar will be joining the Netherlands before their semi-final matchup. The brawl between Mexico and Canada showed that the players are indeed taking this tournament seriously.

Tonight's matchup of the world's two largest baseball powers on paper is not without story lines either. The Dominican Republic is sometimes referred to as The Republic of Baseball by its residents. The DR has never won the WBC and suffered an embarrassing first round exit in 2009. Due to their elite players signing at 16, the Dominican has also been a non-entity in amateur competition. Winning the WBC means everything to that team and that nation.

The US has even heavier expectations. Even without stars like Justin Verlander and Mike Trout, the US has the most talented roster in the tournament. The Americans also just got out of the first round and needed to win a tight contest against Canada to move on.

For the most part all of the games have been close and compelling. With the classic only taking place every four years it can sneak up on fans. MLB moving more of the early round games to Asia ad all the games to MLB Network may not have helped raise the profile of the event in the US either. In other countries the WBC has raised the profile of the sport which is the point of the thing.

I'm sure a fair percentage of the people who read this blog are Red Sox fans first and baseball fans second and may not be following the WBC that closely. If that describes you tonight is the perfect time to start. With all due respect to Japan, tonight will have the two greatest baseball nations on the planet going head to head in what is a very important game. It should certainly be more compelling than anything else going on on a Thursday night in March.