The World Baseball Classic: Good or Bad for Baseball
March 31, 2023
The World Cup has always been famed for bringing the world together over the sport of soccer. Although every country has its differences, they all unite over the notorious tournament every four years. Yet, another tournament that receives much less attention has a similar effect. The World Baseball Classic, like the World Cup, is played every four years and has historically been one of the most viewed sporting events in many countries across the globe. While the World Cup is typically dominated by European and South American teams, the WBC often showcases incredible talent from other areas around the world, such as the Caribbean and East Asia. For countries such as Japan and the Dominican Republic, this tournament is considered the most important sporting event in the world. Millions of fans unite around their teams in hopes of knocking down a bigger country like the United States.
The WBC presents a special opportunity for players in the MLB and in other leagues around the world to take a break from their normal seasons and have the opportunity to represent their country through the game of baseball. Most MLB teams are composed of the best players from all over the world who work together every year in hopes of clinching the World Series title. However, every four years when the WBC comes around, many of these teammates part ways to play against each other, representing different countries.
While many of the MLB’s biggest stars have often sat out the tournament in fear of a season-ending injury, those who do participate see it as one of the greatest honors in their baseball careers. United States star, Trea Turner, had perhaps the most memorable moment of the tournament when he hit a go-ahead grand slam to take a two-run lead against Venezuela to send the U.S. to the semifinals. Turner, a World Series champion, claimed that this hit was the biggest of his career. “It’s probably No. 1, homer-wise,” he said in a postgame interview.
Even baseball’s best player was captivated by the WBC. LA Angels outfielder, Mike Trout, although one of the greatest players the game has ever seen, has only reached the MLB playoffs once in his career. Despite recording the final out in the championship game in a historic at-bat against his teammate, Shohei Ohtani, Trout was significantly impacted by the United State’s deep run in the tournament. “This is the funnest experience I’ve had on a baseball field,” he told a reporter following the tournament. This shows just how much the WBC means to some players. It is bigger than baseball. It is a golden opportunity for players to show off their skills on a global stage and play under the flag of their home countries. Although it receives criticism, the WBC is undoubtedly a great thing for the game of baseball.
Despite all the obvious success the WBC had this year, fans, pundits, and even some players have criticized many aspects of the event. Prior to the classic, many major league players denounced the timing of the event. Max Scherzer, a future Hall of Famer, and one of the best pitchers in the world, has never competed in a WBC. He says that if he pitches in this event, he would be “rolling the dice with his arm.” Scherzer is not alone in this and most of the best pitchers in baseball did not compete this year. A solution to this problem would be to hold the event over all-star weekend in the middle of the season. In his opinion, “you would get more pitchers participating and more importantly, I think it would be more exciting for the fans.” If this happened, the US’s starting rotation could consist of Jacob Degrom, Gerrit Cole, Justin Verlander, and Max Scherzer instead of Brady Singer, Merrill Kelly, Kyle Freeland, Lance Lynn, and Nick Martinez. The injury concerns of pitching before the season kept these pitchers out of the WBC and possibly cost the US a championship.
Another uproar of criticism against the event came when star players, Edwin Diaz and Jose Altuve, were injured during the event. Diaz, arguably the best closer in the league, suffered a torn patellar tendon while celebrating Puerto Rico’s victory against the Dominican Republic. This freak injury that he sustained while simply jumping up and down in joy, will sideline him for 8-9 months and will cause him to miss the entire MLB season. All across social media, many Mets fans, such as myself were sad, mad, outraged, etc. It was easy for us to blame this injury on the WBC and one famous Met’s pundit even tweeted that every other Mets player should return home immediately because staying at the event is unfair to the fans. And then a couple of days later, Altuve fractured his thumb in a game and is out indefinitely. This outraged a whole new fan base and caused many baseball fans and pundits to question whether the WBC is worth it.
Initially, I was angry at the WBC because my favorite player, Edwin Diaz, got injured. However, after thinking more, the benefits of the WBC outweigh the injury concerns that are associated with the event. People all over the world were interested in this year’s WBC. Just in Japan alone, a country of 125 million, 62 million viewers tuned in to watch Japan beat rival South Korea in a pool play game. The world record for the most viewed MLB game was Game 6 of the 1980 World Series in which the average viewership was 54.86 million. So in just a pool play game in this year’s WBC, the viewership record was broken. Thus proving how popular the WBC is. The WBC is vital to baseball’s popularity and it reaches people around the world that the MLB cannot reach on its own.