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March 3, The WBC has been good so far, but it could be so much better. So why is it nearly impossible to find in-depth information on the WBC?
What is the fate of the World Baseball Classic beyond ? Would changes to the tournament give it greater success, and is it even worthwhile to implement those changes?
Why have they considered ending the WBC after this year? To begin to grapple with these questions we must understand the basic structure of the WBC, and we must look back at the state of baseball over a decade ago, when the WBC was first announced.
In , the International Olympic Committee voted to end baseball and softball in the Olympics, effective immediately following the conclusion of the Summer Games. In May of that same year, then-commissioner Bud Selig announced the start of the World Baseball Classic, which had been in the works for two years and which would debut in The WBC would debut in , with teams participating on an invitational basis.
According to a deeply archived press release from Dec. According to the Baseball-Reference page, the World Baseball Classic had been anticipated to debut in , but do to challenges with all these sanctions it was delayed until Team owners objected to the injury risks for their star players, while the union debated less strict drug testing.
There were also conflicts with the NPB and its players association regarding scheduling and representation, which were finally resolved after a four-month negotiation period.
After all these negotiations, Japan went on to win the WBC in both and The format of the WBC has evolved slightly each time since its inception. Most notably, after the first year of the championship, organizers ceased simply to invite teams to participate and instead made the process more inclusive with a series of qualifying tournaments, as well as guaranteed qualifying spots for each of the top three teams within each pool.
Initially there was a three-year separation between each World Baseball Classic, but with the removal of baseball from the Olympics this was changed following the competition so it occurs every four years. The locations for the tournaments vary, though each of the championship rounds has been held at an MLB stadium in California.
This year, the two major changes revolve around on-field play rather than the broader tournament formation. It is surprisingly difficult to find detailed information about its albeit brief history, or much of anything beyond results, predictions, and internet debates about the preservation of player health and safety.
In a dismal turn of events, Wikipedia serves as the most exhaustive source of information about the World Baseball Classic, and even there many of the cited links are broken, or take you to a error page.
This lack of information, while maddening in some circumstances, is also indicative of the fundamental goals upon which the WBC was founded. Its purpose is to expand the sport beyond its traditional borders, to people and to regions who may not have ever seen a game.
The purpose of the WBC is arguably more benign; organizers of the Classic seek to appeal to broader audiences and engage new fans and potential players by appealing to an inherent national pride.
To that end, the World Baseball Classic has been an astounding success. International ratings have been consistently excellent since early on, as evidenced by the fact that in one third of all TVs in Japan were tuned to the first three rounds of the WBC , which was a higher percentage than those who watched the Olympics.
The tournament itself also has been profitable since its inception, and the funds the WBC has generated have been dispersed to baseball organizations throughout the world.
There are also direct correlations between team success in the WBC and growth of baseball within the home countries.
An article in Baseball America cites Korea as a prime example of this. The Korean team was a finalist in and , and subsequently there has been a noticeable increase in Korean players in MLB.
There are, of course, a number of problems with the World Baseball Classic, which its detractors are quick to point out. Concern over injuries is a prominent source of disagreement and arguably one of the more legitimate complaints.
When it comes to responding to injury concerns, there really is no appeasing answer. Baseball takes a physical toll on the body, particularly for pitchers, and so there is always an inherent risk when a player participates in a game.
Instead, these games are considered unnecessary by many and representative of increased risk of injury for minimal reward.
Some might even argue there is no reward, and subsequently cite Edinson Volquez , Jake Peavy , and Daisuke Matsuzaka as proof of what could so swiftly go wrong.
Yet human beings are inherently at risk of injury at any given moment, professional athletes especially so, and it seems particularly odd to single out the WBC with these concerns.
Rather than view the Classic as a superfluous and unnecessary endeavor for MLB players, we should view it in a similar way that we view the Latin American winter leagues. It frequently has been suggested that the WBC change its structure to improve the popularity of the Classic.
Sure, it might attract a greater American viewing audience if it was played in November, following the World Series, and sure, it might be more popular for U.
The World Baseball Classic is not meant to be marketed for American baseball fans, nor is it designed to demonstrate the superiority of baseball in the United States. If the WBC offers anything specifically to American fans, it is a reminder that baseball is no longer an exclusively American game.
It was to give baseball a global platform.