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Israel continues to surprise in the World Baseball Classic

Thursday morning’s Say Hey, Baseball includes Israel's surprising run to the second round, Loek Van Mil, and the competitive nature of the AL East.

World Baseball Classic - Pool A - Game 5 - Netherlands v Israel Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images

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We're now through the first three days of the 2017 World Baseball Classic, and we've got our first pool winner. Before half the field has even started playing, we have what could very well end up being the biggest surprise of the entire tournament. After their win over the Netherlands on Wednesday night (at least for those of us in the U.S.), Israel has taken Pool A and remained undefeated for the tournament.

While the overwhelming surprise of the Israeli squad taking Pool A is certainly there, each and every game they've played has been a surprise. No one was expecting them to defeat the Korean team in the WBC opener, as the Korean squad was among the favorites on that side of the bracket. Beating Chinese Taipei wasn't a massive shock, but it was surprising to see Israel score 15 runs. Finally, beating a strong Netherlands team and going undefeated was the cherry on top. What's even better is that they've done it in every way, winning pitcher's duels, slugfests, and showing off defensive prowess.

This little run that Israel is on would be fun enough even if they were just a boring team that went about their business. That's not what that team is. They have plenty of fun, and it is all highlighted by their Mensch on the Bench. Cody Decker even took it with him to get through a carpool lane. More broadly, this is a team full of players you vaguely remember, as many have had very short Major League Baseball careers but have spent most of their time in the minors or in independent leagues. We'll see if they can keep surprising as they travel to Tokyo.

  • Not only is Loek Van Mil an amazingly tall pitcher, he helps us see how the game of baseball looks.

  • Scott Burcham made a huge play in the seventh inning by turning the double play and saving Israel from a potentially critical error.

  • If you want to keep track of all the WBC action, we've got you covered. Head over here for all of the scores and upcoming schedules.

  • Major League Baseball, and specifically commissioner Rob Manfred, has been obsessed with pace of play initiatives. That's fine, but what about some of the bigger issues?

  • For a while last decade, the AL East was the class of baseball. Are we getting back to that level of competition in that division?

  • The Rays are likely going to be picked to finish last in that division more often than not, but what if everyone plays up to their fullest potential?

  • The Yankees probably won't be picked to win, either, as they're seen as being a year away. What would it take for them to get to that point in 2016?

  • Atlanta is in a similar position. Is it possible for them to make a miracle run this season?

  • J.D. Martinez' revamped swing was a major part of the revitalization of his career. He had a colorful conversation with Travis Sawchik about the swing change.

  • It's now been three years since the Marlins selected Tyler Kolek with the second overall pick. The clock is ticking on him living up to that selection.