In an attempt to avoid the kind of convoluted tiebreaking procedures the World Baseball Classic rules committee instituted for the inaugural 2006 tournament, the round-robin format will be replaced in '09 by double-elimination to move teams beyond the first two rounds.
Also, unlike '06, there will be a crossover of teams from their originating four-squad brackets in the semifinals.
"Implementation of double-elimination and crossover games to the World Baseball Classic next year will make the games even more intense, and the tournament even more exciting for both players and fans," said Don Fehr, the executive director of the Players Association, which partners with Major League Baseball on the venture. "It will be an unforgettable experience."
In '06, each of the fours teams had to play three games in the first two rounds. Those with the top two records in each bracket ascended to the second round and the semifinals. If teams had identical records, a complicated formula of runs scored was used as the first tiebreaker.
Next year, as soon as a team losses its second game in each of the first two rounds, it is eliminated. Once two teams have lost out, the other two move on to the next round. The semifinals remain as a single elimination competition to qualify for the finals.
As far as the crossover goes, in '06 Cuba and the Dominican Republic emerged from one second-round bracket and Japan and Korea from the other. Those teams played each other in the semifinals, with Cuba ousting the Dominican and Japan vanquishing Korea. Japan defeated Cuba in the finals to win the tournament.
That will change in '09, when the final game for each pool will determine seeding for the following round. Thus, in the semifinals, the winners of each pool in the second round will play the opposite pool's runner-up in the single-elimination games.
In '06, then Korea would have played Cuba in one semifinal game, while the Dominican met Japan in the other. And who knows then what might have happened?
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.