World Baseball Classic Must Learn From World Cup
The 2002 United States Men’s National Team shocked the world and captivated us all going to the World Cup quarterfinals. That team outplayed but ultimately lost to Germany.
This 2022 team appears on the verge of doing the same. Christian Pusilic is a national hero. He was already known in the soccer community as such, and well, the rest of the US is learning that as well.
If you go back to the 2013 World Baseball Classic, it was a nickname bestowed upon David Wright.
Only, that homer and that team didn’t captivate America’s attention. In some ways, it didn’t even register with baseball fans all that much.
There are several reasons for this. All of these several reasons wrap themselves up into one big reason – the event isn’t as big as it could or should be.
Keep in mind, the WBC is just held at the wrong time of the year. Baseball players are not in their peak form. Really, they’re just getting ready for the season.
That goes double for pitchers who have much needed pitch counts. One of the biggest complaints of the modern game is magnified in this tournament.
The United States never sends its best players because the players aren’t ready or interested. To some degree, it made the US winning more special, and it could possibly be a reason why we’re seeing Mookie Betts and Mike Trout playing now.
You’ll note we’re still not seeing the best pitchers, at least not from the US. Chances are we never will. That is entirely due to when the tournament is held.
You could do it in November after the World Series. However, many players have shit it down and will have to ramp it back up. Certainly, baseball is probably also intimidated by competing with the NFL for ratings in November.
You’re still going to see pitchers opt out because of that reason as well as players not wanting to go through a postseason gauntlet followed by this tournament.
In fairness to MLB, it’s hard to know when is the right time. Do you do it mid season and punt the All-Star Game? They may not be willing to forgo that revenue even for the long term gains of growing the sport more internationally.
Keep in mind, the Premier League (and other soccer leagues) suspended its season for this World Cup. The NHL used to put its season on hold for the Olympics (they don’t anymore trying to get their own tournament off the ground).
In both cases, the professional leagues invested more in the growth of the sport than its short team bottom line. That begs the question for Major League Baseball – just how invested in baseball are you? A corollary to this is how invested in the WBC are you?
Having it in Spring Training will forever make it feel a little gimmicky. If you’re a cynic, it’s a quadrennial cash grab.
If MLB is truly invested in the growth of the sport and the WBC, it will have to host the event mid-season. They will need players performing at their peak to get the best possible baseball to showcase to the world.
It’s at that point you can really see the sport grow and captivate interest. Certainly, they’ll get more interest domestically and will see better players participate. That’s what we all should want.
Maybe then we will see a homer resonate domestically the way that Pusilic goal did. Keep in mind, while Americans may not care all that much about soccer, they love the big moment on the biggest stage.
Until the World Baseball Classic becomes the biggest stage in all of baseball, the sport of baseball will continue to cede the big international moments to soccer and baseball.