Can the WBC be fixed?

While this year’s iteration of the World Baseball Classic has certainly experienced success, it does not have the juggernaut status that the Football World Cup or the Olympics currently hold. While the Classic will probably never approach the success these two international tournaments have, it does have the potential to spread baseball interest and expand the game around the world, particularly in places like Europe or China. In order for baseball to grow, it has to reach new fan bases outside of the United States, which appears to be at the max of its potential. The WBC is a nice touch to baseball’s international growth, but it needs a few modifications to truly reach its potential.

The problem with the current round-robin format is the attendance figures and interest level with the games involving two lesser-known countries. In pool A, three out of the six games drew less than 5,000 fans, while the other three had more than 10,000 fans each, and two drew more than 25,000. The attendance figures in pool B were even more extreme. three of the games drew less than 2,000 fans, while the other three drew more than 20,000 each. To combat this problem, there have been numerous suggestions about modifying the tournament to turn it into a single elimination format, as Dave Cameron suggested in his post “Fixing the WBC”. This format is definitely the best option for the tournament, as it would increase the interest and attendance in each game given the win or go home nature atmosphere. Hopefully, since all the games would pit a high-seeded team against a low-seeded team, the low-interest games of less than 5,000 fans would be eliminated.

The other advantage to the single-elimination tournament is the elimination of the silly WBC rules and tiebreaking procedures. Run differential would no longer be the difference between advancing out of a pool and going home. The pointless games to determine seeding at the end of the second round would also be eliminated. Perhaps the pitch limits would go away as well because teams would play fewer games. The tournament would no doubt gain some relevancy if the silly rules and restrictions were eliminated.

Most of the potential changes to the WBC involve shortening it to a week or so. While most would agree that the current format is too long, MLB might not bite on a change that shortens the tournament to a mere week. The solution: why not expand the number of teams to 32? The current 16 teams would stay, and all the teams that participated in the qualifier would be added as well. That adds up to 28 teams. I wasn’t really sure what the four other teams could be, so I came up with Pakistan, Russia, Belgium, and Austria. I’m sure there might be better teams out there, but let’s proceed with these four teams to make it easy. To determine the format, I divided the tournament into four conferences: Northwest, Euro, East, and South:

East:                                                    South

  1. Japan                                    1. Venezuela
  2. South Korea                        2. Australia
  3. Taiwan                                 3. Brazil
  4. China                                    4. Colombia
  5. Israel                                     5. South Africa
  6. Czech Republic                   6. New Zealand
  7. Pakistan                               7. Philippines
  8. Russia                                   8. Thailand

Euro:                             Northwest:

1. Netherlands                     1. Dominican Republic
2. Italy                                    2. United States
3. Spain                                  3. Puerto Rico
4. Germany                            4. Cuba
5. United Kingdom              5. Canada
6. France                                6. Mexico
7. Belgium                              7. Panama
8. Austria                               8. Nicaragua

The current March timing for the WBC works OK, but it’s not perfect. The All-Star break doesn’t work either because MLB would never agree to nix the “beloved” event. That leaves the winter. I’m not sure the middle of the winter makes sense because the offseason is in full swing and free agents wouldn’t want to do it in fear of getting injured. That leaves November and February. Both of these times make sense to me, but I think the players would be less than thrilled to participate right after the postseason. That leaves February. The absence of football is a plus, and players wouldn’t have the excuse of spring training to avoid participation. Assuming that Spring Training starts March 1, here are some potential dates:

February 14: 4 East First Round Games

February 15: 4 South First Round Games

February 16: 4 Euro First Round Games

February 17: 4 Northwest First Round Games

February 19: 2 East Semifinal Games

2 South Semifinal Games

February 20: 2 Euro Semifinal Games

2 Northwest Semifinal Games

February 22: East Final Game

South Final Game

February 23: Euro Final Game

Northwest Final Game

February 25: East Winner vs. South Winner

February 26: Euro Winner vs Northwest Winner

February 28: Final Game

The close proximity of these games might require them to be played in a single country as opposed to the international format used now. I’m not really sure how many countries could host the two-week tournament besides Japan and the United States. Perhaps Japan and the US could alternate until other countries become viable alternative solutions. Or the regional tournament games could be held in that specific region and the winners could meet up for the semis somewhere else, like the current format. It would be great if European countries or other big countries like India could host the WBC, but currently it doesn’t seem likely.

Overall, this format offers some significant advantages to the current one. This version of the classic would have 31 games, only eight less than the current format, which would appeal to MLB because the new version could generate a comparable amount of revenue. However, individual teams would play fewer games, potentially attracting the big stars currently holding out. Already, we have seen players like Chase Headley, Jurickson Profar, Gio Gonzalez, and Kenley Jansen join the Classic in the later rounds when there are fewer games to play. Additionally, players competing for a job in spring training would be more enticed to join the classic because it provides another opportunity to showcase their talent to teams. The injury risk would be less because 1. there are fewer games to play and 2. players would have a longer period of time to recover from injury. Yes, baseball would start earlier, but hopefully this format would attract players the same way the World Cup does for soccer. With increased player participation, more exciting games, more teams involved, and a time frame that doesn’t compete with baseball’s own spring training, these changes make sense for MLB, the players, and most importantly, the fans.




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Calvin
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Calvin
3 years 2 months ago

I don’t think the solution to a bunch of unattended games between non-local bad teams is to add more non-local bad teams. Given baseball, a large block of time set aside for everybody to possibly play or possibly not play is kind of a pain. It might work better modeled after the Davis Cup or World Cup qualifying. Times are set aside, say, 1-2 per year, where MLB takes a few days to a week off and national team games are played. Then it can be a single elimination, or some kind of single elimination with first-round byes, where each match is a best of 3 (or a split best of 5 like the division series, but cross-world travel could really suck.. maybe you just do that for the finals or semis and finals).

Replacing the idiotic “meaningful” all-star game with national team games is a huge improvement to begin with, and if you can schedule it so you only need two breaks a maximum of once every four years (presumably a year containing the semis and finals), it’s not even that disruptive.

Newcomer
Member
Newcomer
3 years 2 months ago

I like Calvin’s proposal above. For the article, though, I see a few too many issues. Teams are reluctant to let their players play partially because they’re playing meaningful games when they’re not in season shape yet. The current WBC is during the time of year when players are more concerned about getting reps and building endurance than the results of games.

Moving the WBC even earlier magnifies these issues. Instead of an extended spring training that allows players (especially pitchers) time to prepare before the WBC, they would now need to begin their spring program in January. January-February would take the place of a normal spring training, then the pitchers would be expected to continue pitching and preparing for the season throughout March. GMs would balk at the idea of adding that much time to the length of their pitchers’ years.

With the current format, at least the players are playing WBC games instead of spring training games, minimizing excess risk. Playing WBC games in addition to spring training games would markedly increase risk.

I hate to be Debbie Downer here, and I applaud you for considering how to improve the WBC. However, placing it in February seems to combine the downsides of having it in the winter and having it in March, and see no corresponding upside.

AaronB
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AaronB
3 years 2 months ago

I think the tournament needs to be held two years before the Summer Olympics first of all if Baseball/Softball gets reaccepted back into the Olympic Program (this is highly unlikely). That way you can give 1-4 guaranteed spots in the Olympics from the WBC and legitimize it a bit more. This tournament shows that development of the game worldwide is progressing, but moving it up to 32 teams is stretching it too much. I actually agree with the double elimination format, because let’s face it even the Marlins will win 50 games this year.

IF you make it an Olympic qualifier you risk the notion of losing MLB players since MLB players do not play in the Olympics. I would love the All Star Game to get suspended every four years (won’t happen) so MLB shuts down (the NHL does it) for 2 weeks, but its not feasible.

So back to the drawing board right? Well I love the idea of moving it to February. Spring training needs to get cut down anyway, especially since most players these days aren’t coming to camp completely out of shape (save for Johan Santana). You can cut a week of ST, have minor league and fringe players come a week early and have the WBC in the last two weeks of February. MLB teams share revenue from games played in parts of the US to compensate for the loss of ST games, and go with four 4 team double elimination tournament played in four cities. One in the US, one in Japan, one in DR/PR, one in Sout America. Winner of each group goes to the Semis, where one final double elimination tournament takes place in the US. Boom.

Randy
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Randy
3 years 2 months ago

Thank you for calling them Taiwan.

adam
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adam
3 years 2 months ago

Put it in the olympics, have MLB shut down for 2 weeks and boom WBC is an OLYMPIC EVENT!

Cidron
Member
Cidron
3 years 1 month ago

I dont see Japan being a rotating host with the USA. Simply put, the money. Yes, it may generate local money (asian that is). But, the international money/revenue would not be generated. The time change is similar to the Australian Open. And what time is that on in the US, let alone Europe? WBC, to be financially successful should be in the western hemisphere. USA, or Caribbean, and/or Central America would be interesting, and it would maximize the financial aspect.

Bud Selig
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Bud Selig
3 years 1 month ago

this article is completely plagerized… please report this

Gio Gonzalez
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Gio Gonzalez
3 years 1 month ago

This man is a registered sex offender

Pablo Sanchez
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Pablo Sanchez
3 years 1 month ago

Me gusta jugar beisbol. Este articulo es terible

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