The World Baseball Classic is nearly wrapped up and there has been a healthy mix of excitement, heartbreak and drama. The United States were defeated by Japan is about as high of drama as it can get. Shohei Ohtani struck out Mike Trout to close the deal.
Whether most American baseball fans want to admit it or not, the World Baseball Classic is a big deal and is more of a World Series than the MLB’s World Series. Yadier Molina once dubbed winning the event to be more important than the World Series. Adam Wainwright was quoted calling this experience the most fun he’s had in his 17-year professional baseball career. This tournament has brought new eyes to the product, as fans look to root for their country to make them proud and the players look to deliver on that.
In 2017, the Classic was such a big deal to Puerto Rico that crime dropped significantly during the two-week event. It was reported that there wasn’t a single murder on the island during the tournament. An exhibition with Japan saw a viewership of over 36 million people in Japan, which is more than this past year’s NBA Finals, which was viewed by 12 million viewers. The WBC is huge and is doing so much for the game of baseball.
Here are four arguments that don’t hold much weight in arguing against the World Baseball Classic:
4. They Should Be Preparing for the Upcoming MLB Season
Is there anything than can prepare you better than a playoff-type atmosphere heading into the MLB season? I think not. Although the stakes are higher, players aren’t playing much more than they would in Spring Training. The players that participated in the tournament are hopefully able to shake off any normal rust that would otherwise happen during Spring Trainer or even the beginning of the regular season and are ready to compete. It doesn’t matter if you try to protect players in the spring, injuries can and do happen. Regardless of the atmosphere, the possibility is there.
3. Players Make Their Millions to Play in the MLB
The statement that players get paid millions of dollars to play for the MLB and not the WBC is true. Therein lies the beauty of the tournament. The classic is built and only works because it’s reliant for success in regards to the love for baseball. Players aren’t receiving anything near $1 million, which would be laughed at in a negotiating room for any star player if it wasn’t met with complete offense.
2. It’s a Meaningless Tournament
Who is it meaningless to? Is it the sold out baseball stadiums for each game? It certainly isn’t for players like Manny Machado, who also dubbed the classic as more important than the World Series. Nor is it for players of the Czech Republic, who are everyday workers playing against the greatest baseball players in the world. Perhaps it is meaningless to a portion of MLB fans, but the WBC is bringing new eyes to the sport, which is something MLB has struggled with in some aspects. After just five tournaments, the WBC has been a huge success and brought a playoff atmosphere.
1. It’s Not Interesting
Opinions are opinions. We’re all allowed to have them, but that doesn’t mean they have to make sense. Such is the case for a baseball fan who would find no interest in seeing players like Mike Trout and Mookie Betts on the same team with a goal to represent their country. Team USA was an All-Star team, but with players motivated to actually win and do well. We may have witnessed the closest thing to seeing Mike Trout in a World Series. To each their own, but the fact is that major interest exists for the Classic and I expect the popularity of the tournament to continue growing.
I can’t wait to see “round two” as Mike Trout dubbed his matchup against Shohei as.