If you don’t want to read the WBC Q&A posts one by one, feel free to go below the jump to see the whole thing. In addition, don’t forget that Joe Connor’s WBC Guide remains on sale.
Part 1: The Basics
What is the World Baseball Classic?
The World Baseball Classic (WBC, for short) is a tournament run by Major League Baseball (MLB), the International Baseball Federation (IBAF), as well as the MLB Players Association and various other leagues and associations from around the world. It is, with very rare exceptions, the only international baseball tournament in which MLB players can take part.
When does this year’s WBC get started?
The 2013 WBC starts March 2nd. However, due to the fact that those games will be in Asia, you could argue that it will start at about 11:30 PM Eastern on March 1st in the USA, when Taipei and Australia face off.
When did the WBC get started, as a tournament?
2006 was the year of the first WBC, with the second one occurring in 2009.
Wait, so shouldn’t we have had a WBC in 2012 with that pattern?
After the 2009 WBC, the event was moved to a 4-year cycle. The reasoning for this was likely so that it wouldn’t end up colliding with years in which other major international events, such as the Olympics, would be occurring.
Okay, so why did the World Baseball Classic get started?
A) Baseball had been removed from the Olympics, primarily because no MLB players were allowed to play. The WBC could help make up for that by providing a international showcase for national baseball teams. In addition, the hope would be that eventually the WBC could show the Olympic movement that baseball is played by enough countries that it deserves a spot in the Olympics even if it doesn’t have the best players.
B) Connected to the previous one, it would help spread awareness of the sport and get money for smaller baseball countries that lack the revenue of larger ones such as the United States and Japan.
C) It could make those organizations involved (especially MLB) a lot of money, especially in overseas markets like Japan.
How successful were the first two WBCs?
It depends on how you measure success. While attendance figures have been hit-or-miss and public opinion on the event has been (and continues to be) quite polarized, the numbers don’t lie: the 2009 Classic’s television ratings were up greatly from 2006 even in the supposedly WBC-skeptical United States, for example, and set what were then all-time viewing records in countries such as Japan. And, although there are no statistics I can find from 2009, merchandising sales were also likely very good: in 2006, for example, more merchandise was sold in the first round than organizers had expected to be sold for the whole tournament.
In addition, it has helped reinvigorate baseball in other countries, such as Korea, where the local league has had record-setting attendance every season since the 2009 WBC.
Who won the first two WBCs?
Japan. They beat Cuba in the first one, and Korea in the second one. Daisuke Matsuzaka won the MVP in both tournaments.
How’d the USA do in those tournaments?
Team USA exited after the second round in 2006 and fell to Japan in the semifinals of 2009.
Okay, so long will this year’s WBC last?
The final game of the WBC this year will be on March 19, in San Francisco. So, in all, it’ll be a 17-day tournament (or 18, depending on how you measure with the fact there’s the international date line).
Part 2: The Game Rules
Okay, quick, do they use the DH in the WBC?
Yes, which is hardly surprising, since only two major leagues in the world (the NL and the Japanese Central League) don’t use the DH and it’s hard enough to get pitchers to play anyway.
Speaking of which, what are the pitch-counts for the WBC?
It depends on the round. It goes like this: 65 pitches in the first round, 80 in the second round and 95 in the semifinals and finals. Also, there are then rules on how long they have to rest if they pitch a certain amount. From the official WBC website:
- Not pitch until a minimum of four days have passed since he last pitched, if he threw 50 or more pitches when he last pitched;
- Not pitch until a minimum of one day has passed since he last pitched, if he threw 30 or more pitches when he last pitched;
- Not pitch until a minimum of one day has passed since any second consecutive day on which the pitcher pitched.
Note that a pitcher can go above his pitch count if it is needed to finish an at-bat.
Okay, so what about the mercy rules I’ve heard about?
In order to keep games between mismatched foes from being grandiose 22-1 affairs, a mercy rule is in effect. In essence, if a team is up by 10 after seven or more innings or up by 15 after five or more innings, the game is over.
Wait, if the pitchers have pitch counts on them, what happens if the games go into deep extra innings?
Actually, funny you ask, because WBC games- with the exception of the finals- have special extra innings rules created by the IBAF.
Okay, it’s like this: starting in the 13th inning, the team at bat starts with runners at first and second.
Two reasons. The first is the reason why it came into being to begin with: to make sure that games would end in a semi-timely manner during time-sensitive events like the Olympics. The second reason, unstated but the reason why it’s still around for the WBC, is that it helps to make sure a game ends before a team’s entire bullpen has been pitch-counted into oblivion.
Okay, any other rule differences?
None that really concern what’s going on in the field, although there are minor common-sense things such as allowing for more interpreters.
Part 3: Nationality and other Eligibility Stuff
How big are the rosters for the WBC?
A World Baseball Classic team can have 28 active players, of which at least 13 must be pitchers and at least two must be catchers.
What if somebody gets hurt?
They can be replaced, but the player who is inactivated is then out for the rest of the tournament.
Okay, so what about the whole eligibility rules? Why are there Americans on Team Italy and Venezuelans on Team Spain, and such?
Well, in order to somewhat even the odds a bit, and to provide the chance for some players to play if they want to if they aren’t selected by their usual country. Here’s what the official WBC site has to say about when a player is eligible:
- The player is a citizen of the Federation Team’s country or territory, as evidenced by a valid passport the player holds as of January 1, 2013; or
- The player is currently a permanent legal resident of the Federation Team’s country or territory, as evidenced by documentation satisfactory to WBCI and the International Baseball Federation (“IBAF”), or
- The player was born in the Federation Team’s country or territory, as evidenced by a birth certificate or its equivalent; or
- The player has one parent who is, or if deceased was, a citizen of the Federation Team’s country or territory, as evidenced by a passport or other documentation satisfactory to WBCI and the IBAF; or
- The player has one parent who was born in the Federation Team’s country or territory, as evidenced by a birth certificate or its equivalent; or
- The player presents documentary evidence satisfactory to WBCI that, even if he has not been granted citizenship or been issued a passport, the player would be granted citizenship or a passport in due course under the laws of the Federation Team’s country or territory had the player applied for such citizenship or passport.
So, in essence, a player is eligible if they are a citizen of a country, they were born in a country (which in some countries automatically makes them a citizen), they have lived in that country for a long time, their parents were either born or are a citizen of that country, or they would be able to get citizenship or a passport if they applied for it (this varies by country).
Are there any eligibility rules for managers, coaches, etc.?
No, anybody can manage or coach a team, and in fact several countries in the WBC are being managed and/or coached by people from other countries.
What if a player is eligible for more than one country?
Than they can choose who they play for.
If a player plays for a country in one WBC, can he play for a different one in another?
Yes. Alex Rodriguez, for example, infamously played for Team USA in the 2006 WBC but was going to play for the Dominican in 2009 (he ended up not playing due to injury).
Can a MLB team keep a player from playing in the WBC?
Officially, they can only do this if the player is coming off a injury or had some other type of surgery. Unofficially, though, they can heavily suggest things, although players can ignore them if they want or come up with some sort of deal.
What’s keeping a team from, say, getting raided of it’s entire roster?
Well, there is a rule in the WBC on the number of players a given team has to give up. It’s set at 14 in the organization or 10 from it’s active roster, although this can be waived if a club gives it’s permission (the Brewers, for example, apparently have more than that playing).
Part 4: Miscellaneous
You said that “with extremely rare exceptions”, the WBC is the only international tournament where MLB players take part, what are those exceptions?
Occasionally an MLB player is allowed to play in a international competition if it would provide the player an exemption from some sort of thing (such as military service) that would affect the player’s MLB career. For example, in 2010 Shin-Soo Choo was allowed to play in the Asian Games for Korea because a win would allow him to avoid Korea’s mandatory military service, which of course would have caused him (and the Indians) to lose a few years of his career to the military. Also, note that technically the Caribbean Series is an international tournament, but since it’s between the champions of the Caribbean leagues (with a few ringers showing up just for the series) and not national teams, it doesn’t count.
I heard somebody say that the Netherlands is the defending World Champions. Huh?
This is a reference to how the Netherlands won the 2011 Baseball World Cup, the last IBAF-run World Cup before it was discontinued in favor of making the WBC the official “World Championship” for national teams.
What was the Baseball World Cup?
It was, as the name suggests, the World Cup of Baseball, run by the IBAF. However, since neither MLB nor even NPB players played in it, it was more of a showcase for minor leaguers and amateurs. This allowed Cuba to traditionally dominate the event, winning it 25 times including a stretch between 1951 and 2007 where they won the tournament every time they entered it (they did not participate in a few editions for political reasons).
So if the Baseball World Cup no longer exists, why don’t they rename the World Baseball Classic the Baseball World Cup?
A good question, especially since one would think calling it the “World Cup” would give it more of a cache than the relatively traditionless name it has now. It’s possible that it might have it’s name changed in the future, I guess. However, the fact that MLB holds the marketing rights to the WBC, as opposed to the World Cup that the IBAF holds the rights to, makes it unlikely for monetary reasons.
I know you’ve said this before, but why do players from Curacao and Aruba and such play for the Netherlands?
Because the Kingdom of the Netherlands is a country that technically contains the Netherlands (AKA Holland), Curacao, Aruba and the other Caribbean holdings of the Dutch monarchy.
How are the teams selected for the WBC?
12 of the 16 teams automatically qualified due to having won at least one game in 2009. The other four (Canada, Taipei, Spain and Brazil) won qualifying tournaments in 2012. The original 16 countries that played in the 2006 and 2009 Classics (South Africa and Panama were in instead of Spain and Brazil) were selected due to their baseball talent levels, interest, geographical spread, and potential.
How is the tournament’s format this year compared to previous years?
In 2006, the tournament was two round robin rounds followed by one-game semifinals and finals. In 2009, the round robins were replaced by double-elimination brackets. This year, it will be a mix of the two: the first round will be round robins, but the second round will be double-elimination. The semis and the finals remain the same.
What channel will the games be on?
MLB Network will be having all of the games this year in the United States, and it wouldn’t be shocking if there is a heavy online presence as well, especially since it’s likely some games will be going on at the same time and there is only one MLB Network. The migration of the WBC to exclusively MLB Network (as opposed to in 2006 and 2009, where many of the keynote games were on ESPN channels) is a continued effort by MLB to make it’s network a destination for baseball fans (some playoff games were on MLB Network in 2012 for similar reasons).
Who umpires the WBC?
A mixture of MLB umpires and umpires from other countries and organizations.
Okay, last question: How do you say “baseball” in the languages of the WBC?
Well, in English, French and Italian, it’s just baseball.
In Spanish, it’s béisbol. It’s the similar beisebol in Brazilian Portuguese.
The Netherlands call it be various names, depending what part of the Kingdom that player hails. However, in Dutch, it’s honkbal.
In Asia, baseball is known as yakyū in Japan, yagu (or yagoo) in Korean and bàngqiú in Mandarin Chinese.
And now you know.
Do you have any other questions about the WBC? Feel free to ask them and I’ll try to answer them, perhaps in a addendum sometime in the future.