Is Cuba Still No. 1 Internationally? Goode Question




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What do you do when you stay home from work? If you're Scott Goode, you come up with a ranking system for international baseball.

That's how the International Baseball Federation started ranking teams, and those rankings will be on display for the first time in a noticeable fashion during the World Baseball Classic.

"It really was kind of fun to watch the qualifiers and see the rankings on the screen," Goode said. "It was the first time I'd seen it, but there it was on the TV."

Goode just did what comes naturally to a baseball fan who also is also in the rankings business. He's the sports information director at Division II Harding (Ark.), which is also his alma mater.

A West Memphis, Ark., native, Goode has been an international baseball fan since he was a teenager, when he would venture over to USA Stadium in Millington, Tenn., which at was USA Baseball's home field back in the day. Goode and his brother went in 1988 and '92 to see Olympic teams train, and he worked as a statistician for the '96 team.

"I remember Matt LeCroy getting so sunburned after an off day at the lake that he couldn't put on the catcher's gear for four days," Goode said. "Or Braden Looper fishing out there at that lake and the team eating what he caught for dinner. And that Billy Koch story is true—he did eat a tomato out of the dumpster. It was at the Wendy's in Millington.

"It was the best summer of my life."

Goode's job has put him on ranking committees in many different sports, and he is accustomed to seeing where teams are ranked at the college level. While he was home watching the 2008 Olympics due to illness, he noticed that NBC Sports used world rankings in a variety of individual and team sports. He also noticed that the baseball tournament (which turned out to be the last in the Olympics) had no such rankings. So he put his passion together with his work.

"I researched other team sports and saw how they are calculated in volleyball, how they are calculated in soccer, and started from there," he said.

The next step was publishing them, and Goode wound up doing that on a website called baseballdeworld.com, which focuses on international baseball. That led to contact from IBAF in 2009.

Dr. Harvey Schiller was president of IBAF at the time, when baseball had just been removed from the Olympic slate. Paramount on Schiller's agenda was getting baseball back into the Games, and Goode said IBAF saw the world rankings as a part of baseball's argument for its wide appeal. The rankings helped show how many countries play and how competitive the sport was becoming.

Baseball's road back to the Olympics looks steeper as Schiller, in spite of his leadership and experience in international sports, couldn't get baseball back in, and the International Olympic Committee has continued to mystify Western sports fans by eliminating wrestling. But IBAF has kept the rankings and now is applying them in all of its tournaments, including the World Baseball Classic, which is operated as a subsidiary of Major League Baseball but is sanctioned by IBAF.

Why Didn't I Think Of That?

As a Baseball America veteran, I've done too many rankings to count, but despite covering international baseball since 1998 I have never tried to do our own international rankings. Goode's system has been tweaked over the years, and will continue to be, including a stipulation that only IBAF-sanctioned events will count in the rankings. Those events include tournaments at all age levels—the new 12-and-under and 15-and-under designations, as well as 18-and-under and new 21-and-under events, plus the WBC and Premier 12.

The rankings, released at the end of the year, remain subordinate to what actually happens on the field. The top 12 finishers in the WBC will qualify for the Premier 12, which replaces the World Cup as IBAF's main senior tournament. But IBAF did use the rankings in helping set the fields for the four WBC qualifying tournaments played in the fall, and Goode expects them to be influential again in helping set up future tournament fields.

Cuba remains the No. 1 team in the current rankings, based mainly on success in tournaments that had been grandfathered into the rankings but which will no longer be used going forward. Cuba's only tournament wins since 2005 have come in non-IBAF events such as the World University Games and the World Port tournament in the Netherlands. Cuba's 766.02 score edges out the United States at 733.25, and Goode said the gap is the smallest it has been since he started keeping the rankings in 2009.

The rankings stack up 74 nations that have entered IBAF events. No. 20 Brazil is the lowest-ranked WBC entrant and plays No. 18 China head-to-head in pool play in Japan. The loser of that game likely gets relegated to qualifier status in the next WBC—and gets dropped in IBAF's next rankings.

They can direct their complaints to Scott Goode.