The idea of the World Baseball Classic sprung out of rejection. The Olympics were getting rid of baseball.
Spurned, the International Baseball Federation got together with Major League Baseball to stage their own international baseball event. Taking the ball and going home.
The first WBC was 2006. The idea was to stage one every three years. Japan beat Cuba 10-6 in the very first WBC final. Team USA didn’t even make the final four.
Three years later, Japan won again, beating South Korea 5-3 in ten innings.
After two events, questions arose. Is there a better time of year to stage it? Is three years between events too soon? How is it affecting players? Why does the US do so poorly?
The NHL shuts down every four years in the middle of their season so their players can participate in the Winter Olympics. What if they shut down baseball for a two week every two years, staged the WBC, then the All-Star Game, really made baseball an international event and put the spotlight on the sport? That idea was rejected. It was too logical. And anything that helps market the sport in a good light is almost instantly rejected.
What if they staged it after the season? No, pitchers are already operating on fumes.
So, preseason is where it stayed. Not the best timing, since it interrupts spring training, but that works best.
Then, it was decided to be every four years. So, the next WBC was in 2013. The Dominican Republic beat Puerto Rico 3-0. Four years later, in 2017, Team USA finally decided to take it seriously, winning for the first time, 8-0 over Puerto Rico.
Four years after that was 2021. Baseball, and really the entire world, was crawling out of COVID. Everyone was trying to return to normal. The last thing baseball needed was a WBC distraction. But they couldn’t move it to 2022 because of the anticipated labor fight.
So, now the World Baseball Classic is back. One prediction is undeniable.
If a player plays in the WBC (meaning, he will have a shortened spring training because he leaves his MLB team to go train with his country’s team) and starts the MLB season slow, it will be blamed on participating in the WBC. He didn’t get enough at-bats or innings pitched.
If a player plays in the WBC and starts the MLB season on fire, it’s because of the WBC. Those highly competitive at-bats and innings pitched jumpstarted his readiness beyond what lazy exhibition games could do.
If a player plays in the WBC and subsequently gets injured, it’s because he put himself at risk in games before he was properly prepared.
The World Baseball Classic starts Tuesday, March 7. Excuses for the 2023 season follow immediately thereafter.
RANGERS VS GUARDIANS, 2:05