From now until the World Baseball Classic begins on March 6, we’ll be helping you get to know each team involved in baseball’s global tournament. Today’s team: Chinese Taipei.
The team from Chinese Taipei had high expectations when it competed in 2013’s World Baseball Classic, and it even made a decent showing with an upset in the first round. But things are a little different this time around.
The Chinese Taipei team is dealing with a fairly significant boycott, which essentially boils down to which governing body should be (or wants to be) making the decisions about the team the country is fielding for the WBC. The Chinese Taipei Baseball Association, which is recognized as the governing body of the Taiwan’s baseball program by the Taiwanese government, is making all the decisions about the nation’s WBC team. Since it deals with amateur baseball, that makes sense, as it is also recognized by the International Olympic Committee and the World Baseball Softball Confederation.
That doesn’t sit well with the Chinese Professional Baseball League (CPBL), which is like Chinese Taipei’s MLB. Since the WBC team was going to be using primarily professional players, the CPBL felt it should have had a say in things, like the manager position and which players should be rostered. And because the CPBL didn’t get any input, it decided to boycott.
So in essence, what’s happening with the Chinese Taipei national team is like if MLB boycotted the WBC. But while the CBPL is boycotting, it’s letting the four teams in the CBPL make their own decisions about supporting the national team. Three teams have decided to support the WBC and let their players attend, and one team has decided to boycott.
The whole thing is messy and complicated. But what it comes down to is that the seven rostered players from the Lamigo Monkeys, the team that has decided to boycott, won’t be able to play in the WBC. And those players will be sorely missed by the team.
Schedule details: Chinese Taipei is in Pool A, which plays in South Korea. It will play its first game against Israel on March 6. That’s followed by a March 8 game against the Netherlands and a March 9 contest against South Korea.
‘13 finish: There were high hopes for that 2013 team, especially after it knocked out the Netherlands in the first round of play. But its time in the tournament ended after two losses in round two: it lost a close one to Japan, and suffered a less-close 14-0 defeat to Cuba.
Biggest stars: A lack of big names is the issue with this team. Between the boycott and injuries, there aren’t a lot of notable players. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t *any*. There are four CBPL players who have impressive offensive numbers, even for the offense-heavy CPBL. Che-Hsuan Lin, Chih-Sheng Lin, Chih-Hsien Chiang, and Kuo-Hui Kao have 121 homers between them in the last season, and they’re all hitting above .300. (In fact, Chih-Hsien Chiang hit above .400.)
Notable absence: Pitcher Wei-Yin Chen of the Miami Marlins has withdrawn at the request of the Marlins. He’s the only Taiwanese player currently in the MLB, so his absence is a big deal.
Player you should get familiar with: Shao-Ching Chiang is a 23-year-old pitcher in the Cleveland Indians minor-league system, and he’s been moving up through the minors since 2012. His experience in the U.S. could prove extremely useful to a team that’s missing veterans like Wei-Yin Chen and Chien-Ming Wang.
Do they have a chance to win? Not really. If Chinese Taipei had a full squad, it could have pulled off an upset or two like in 2013. But the roster is missing a number of impact players, and those are the guys you need to pull off an upset.
THREE BIG QUESTIONS ABOUT CHINESE TAIPEI
How badly will the boycott affect them? It’s not good. They’re missing some talented guys from the Lamigo Monkeys, the most notable being Po-Jung Wang. Wang exploded onto the scene in 2016, hitting .414/.476/.689 with 29 home runs. He took both Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player honors in the CPBL, and so his absence is a big blow to not just the team, but to baseball-watchers who will miss out on seeing some bright, new talent. Plus, he’s an insane bat-flipper. And since bat flips are awesome, it’s disappointing that he won’t get a chance to show them off in international competition.
Are there any positives for this team? This preview has been mostly gloom and doom, but it’s not all bad. While Chinese Taipei is missing some notable players from both MLB and CPBL, its offense is stacked with some great CPBL bats. The team has a number of offensive standouts who could make a tremendous difference if an opposing pitcher stumbles. All it takes is one pitch and one swing, and the opposition could be fighting a baseball battle it didn’t think it would have to.
Could they play the underdog? There’s always a chance. The China Post has said that the entire team is intensely preparing for the WBC, and that the reduced expectations are only making it want to fight harder. Their offense is serious, and while their pitching is hurting from the absences of established major-league talent, their hurlers are no joke, either. If Israel or the Netherlands fail to capitalize on their improved rosters, Chinese Taipei will be ready to take advantage.