2006_01_scubaflag.gifCould a "World" Baseball Classic really be called that without one of the world's best baseball nations? Probably not, which is why it's great to hear that Cuba will be playing in the inaugural WBC. President Bush, former owner of the Texas Rangers, stepped in to help solve the issue. Each team that plays in the tournament is guaranteed 1% of the net profit with escalating amounts as they advance and any winnings Cuba would receive would be in violation of a U.S. trade embargo. Any proceeds that Cuba would get is going to be donated to Katrina victims directly by Major League Baseball. Gothamist wonders what the over/under is on Cuban defections during the tournament. The Times notes that the Cubans travel with extra security (more security than players!) to international games to prevent defections. Is there a Vegas line on this? We're going to go with ± 3.5.

Cuba will be in Pool C with Puerto Rico, Panama and The Netherlands. They have to be considered as one of the two likely teams to emerge from that pool into round 2. Looks like Andruw Jones, Mark Mulder, Robin van Doornspeek and Dirk van 't Klooster, on The Netherlands might be in trouble (we don't know who the last two are, we just love the names). Why is Mulder playing with the Dutch? Well, he's from South Holland. South Holland, IL. If that's not nutty enough for you, the WBC will also be played with a "mercy rule" - kind of like Little League. Games will be called if a team is up by 15 runs after five innings or by 10 runs after seven innings.