And now, some thoughts and suggestions on the World Baseball Classic

The Dominican Republic can lay claim to being the champions of the 2013 World Baseball Classic, going undefeated in the tournament and shutting out Puerto Rico in the final game, 3-0. Robinson Cano was rightfully named tourney MVP, although one could also have made a case for Fernando Rodney, who saved seven games during the tournament.

While it was far from a perfect tournament, it had some great moments. There were the honkbal Dutch, proving that 2009 was far from a fluke by making it to the semi-finals, defeating the mighty Cubans twice on the way. There was Italy’s similarly amazing run. There were the great fans, who even in the less-attended games made the crowd seem several times bigger. And it had high drama, with Davids facing Goliaths, the old facing the young, and, in some cases, entire nations sitting on the edge of their seats.

And, yes, all of my reasons while the WBC is going to be sticking around are still valid.

Still, the WBC does definitely have room for improvement, so go below the jump for some of my suggestions:

Make it bigger and more constant:

No, not the main tournament itself, but rather the qualifying and lead-up cycle. One of the problems with the WBC is that it is dormant for a long time between games, to the point that when it comes around again people are like: “Oh, yeah, WBC.” By having more qualifiers, preferably spaced over greater amounts of time, it could keep the World Baseball Classic in people’s minds, at least slightly. In addition, by having more qualifiers, more teams would have a chance to possibly qualify for the WBC, although it’s unlikely any new teams added to the qualifiers would have much a chance against those already in the qualifying pool.

Thankfully, it appears this already will occur:

It will be interesting to see how these new qualifying rounds will work. One possibility is that there could be “qualifier qualifying”, in which teams could try to qualify for the qualifiers. Assuming there are still 4 qualifier spots for the World Baseball Classic tournament itself, this expansion could expand the tournament’s overall field from 28 to anywhere from 36 to 40 teams (depending on whether one team from the pre-existing qualifiers was relegated to the secondary qualifier with only one chance to advance out of the secondary qualifying pool, or whether two would be relegated but with two spots to get out of the secondary qualifying pool).

Given the sharp dropoff in talent that starts happening the more teams you add (even the 24-team qualifiers had some questionable teams like Thailand and France), it would probably be a good idea to expand to 36 instead of the 40, with the two lowest teams from each of the 2012-13 WBC qualifier pools being relegated, but with two spots being open in these “secondary qualifiers” for the qualifiers to advance.

The two teams that advance from each secondary qualifier would then enter the regular qualifiers played in 2016, with the teams that qualify from those making the 2017 WBC.

Be more creative with the hosting, but avoid cold-weather areas (except domes):

It’s a bit of a sad fact that, of all of the areas that hosted the WBC this time around, the finals were perhaps the site with the worst atmosphere. It was the result of a variety of factors: the ticket prices for San Francisco were set far too high to begin with, the bouncing of the Asian teams and Team USA removed the teams that would have most resonated with the Bay Area, and the sports fans of San Francisco may also be experiencing some “big event” fatigue after big playoff runs by both the Giants and the 49ers. But, really, it just wasn’t baseball weather. It was cold, and in the finals it was rainy.

So, in 2017, the WBC committee should make a point of having all games either in warm-weather areas or in domes. And, hopefully, they will continue to shift the games to some new places. The Dominican Republic, for example, has never hosted a WBC. With them now as champions, would it not make sense for them to host a pool of the WBC at Estadio Quisqueya? And Korea, despite being one of the countries that has shown the most excitement for the WBC, has never hosted a round. They are building a domed stadium, why not have them host a pool, much like how Taiwan had a pool this year?

And what of the finals? While it would make sense to have it in a warm-weather MLB city like Anaheim, Miami or Houston, could 2017 be the first time the WBC plays it’s championship round in another country? It is an interesting question, especially since the attendance at international games (with the exception of San Juan, although Hiram Bithorn Stadium is not large enough for the finals round) has been low when the home team hasn’t been playing. Could the organizers give the finals to Tokyo, Toronto or some other international city and risk possibly having an empty stadium if the “home team” doesn’t make it?

Make it easier to watch

It’s easy to see why the WBC was moved to MLB Network. On ESPN, it was just one of many things on the Worldwide Leader, competing for time on the schedule with College Basketball, the NBA, and whatever faux-controversy emerged out of the NFL off-season. On MLB Network, it was the star of the show.

However, far more people get ESPN than get MLB Network, so far fewer people could watch the WBC. This could have been negated if MLB provided a way to watch the games online… and did. However, they counter-intuitively made it available to people who had subscriptions to one of three service providers that had MLB Network, meaning that few if any people who didn’t have MLB Network could watch the WBC… and that no doubt included people who wanted to watch the WBC.

So, in 2017, MLB and the WBC should make it more available online, perhaps allowing people to pay a small fee to see the games, with that fee being waived if you are already subscribed to MLB Network. They could call it “WBC.TV” or something like that.

Require at least a minimum amount of players be born or an official citizen of the country they are representing

The lenient eligibility rules for the WBC are meant to give teams from non-traditional baseball countries a chance to compete. However, some countries, most notably Spain, abuse this. The Spanish team in this WBC had only one Spanish-born player on the team, and in my opinion that goes against the spirit of the rules, as it removes any incentive of actually building up a baseball program, instead encouraging them to simply find players who can fit the eligibility qualifiers. So, I suggest that a new rule be added in: a certain amount of players (perhaps five or six) must have either been actually born in the country OR be a full-fledged citizen of it (under current WBC rules, even players who could conceivably be citizens if they filled out enough paperwork qualify). This would allow countries such as Spain to still get ringers to help out, while also keeping a hefty incentive for developing domestic baseball programs.

So, there you go. What do you think?

14 thoughts on “And now, some thoughts and suggestions on the World Baseball Classic

  1. Man I just wanted to thank you for taking the time to build this blog. I think it was the best blog dedicated to the WBC and all your posts where really thoughtful, including this one.

    The only thing I disagree is with hosting the finals in another country like Japan.

    Look at what happened this year in San Francisco. I was able to buy a round trip from Miami to see the DR for $700(same day trip) and the the ticket to see the game cost me $100. The average worker in the in the DR makes about $400 a month… That’s why you had more Japanese at the park than Dominicans. Now imagine what the attendance would have been if the game had been played in Tokyo!!!

    I think the ideal location for this tournament would be New York City in a warm month(which is not going to happen either). The DR and PR are the two smallest countries playing in the tournament and there are over 1 million Dominicans/puerto ricans living in New York. Even if the final game is Italy Vs. Cuba, I’m pretty sure the stadium would be almost full.

  2. Agree with Emanuel great job. I enjoyed the healthy debates that went on. I was thinking tha Milwaukee would be a great venue because it would attract people from Chicago which has a diverse population. This would be a great place for early round. I would like to also see a actual live drawing that places teams in each pool. I guess just more marketing to hype it up!

  3. Good ideas about the WBC. I’ll be writing some articles on the WBCQs over the next few weeks exploring the same notions. I particularly agree with the citizenship rules: Spain was Team Caribbean and Israel was Jewish-Americans. I’ll be interested to see what MLB does with them, but I agree that spreading them out would be a good idea. I’m curious to see how they’ll handle Mexico’s qualification.

    • At least Team Israel made a point of having three or four people who actually were from Israel. Spain didn’t even do that.

      I wouldn’t be surprised if MLB puts Mexico (and maybe Australia) into an “easy” pool for them to get out of, sort of like how Canada and Taipei were both put into relatively easy pools.

      • I actually did not realise that there were multiple Israelis on the club. I only knew about Shlomo Lipetz. At least a few shows some commitment. I think Spain had one player, can’t remember if it was Ricardo Hernández, but I know it was a pitcher. I at least respected France going out and getting massacred with nothing but national team players.

        México will be in an easy pool, I guarantee it. I am also intrigued to see whether MLB will let them host the qualifier, which would be great and should be encouraged.

        I’ve put up one in a series of articles discussing the 2017 WBC and examining the WBCQs in more detail. Another up tomorrow or Saturday.

      • Yeah, Gabe. Shlomo was the “face” of the Israelis on the team and I believe the only one who got into a game, but there two or three others.

        I probably will also have some stuff on possibilities for the 2017 WBC.

  4. Pingback: The 2017 World Baseball Classic | Extra Innings

  5. If they do play a qualifier in Mexico it should be played in a northern city. I thought the 2009 games in Mexico City were a mistake. Any ideas on who the other countries could be if they expand the field?

    • I’d like to see the games played in several cities, though that would add to the budget so I’m not sure it would happen. I could see Monterrey having one if they do, although I’m not sure how many Texans would drive down.

      Short answer: If expanded, Argentina, Belgium, Indonesia, Pakistan, Sweden, and Switzerland would all have a shot, though I wouldn’t be surprised to see MLB push for places like the Bahamas, Hong Kong, and India.

      I’ll be covering all of these countries and about another half dozen that could be considered over the next couple months. The article I will post this weekend will go over them all generally.

    • I hope they have it in Monterrey. If memory serves that’s probably the best baseball city in Mexico (you’d probably know better than I) both support-wise and facilities-wise. In fact, it has even hosted MLB regular-season games and was a long-shot contender to get the Expos…

  6. Pingback: Expanding on my idea for future WBCs | The Baseball Continuum

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