The World Baseball Classic was great, now let’s make it better.


Now that the World Baseball Classic has ended (USA!), I want to share how the tournament could be even better than it was. The 2017 WBC was the most attended, attracting more than a total of a million fans to the stadiums, but those numbers and TV ratings could skyrocket if the tournament, or at least part of it, was held in the summer. I consider myself a die-hard baseball fan and I found it hard to get into the games until the semifinal rounds and I barely watched the first two rounds. While I was watching the games and I continuously found myself thinking of ways to improve the tournament. My solution is the same as the one Joe Girardi talked about recently. He suggested that every four years Major League Baseball should start the regular season a few days earlier and have an extended all-star break that includes the semifinals and finals of the WBC. There would be a ton of advantages for everyone involved if the WBC championship rounds were moved to the middle of the summer.
Picture Credit: Gary A. Vasquez | USA TODAY Sports

Girardi went into detail about his plan and it makes perfect sense, everyone will benefit from the WBC concluding during all-star week. He proposed that the WBC should start in the last two weeks of MLB spring training, allowing players – especially pitchers – to really build up their strength. This would obviously help the players avoid injury, which every MLB team is hesitant about when sending their players to play in the tournament. Girardi’s main concern is player health because the Yankees have been hurt a couple of times by injuries in the WBC. In the 2013 tournament, Mark Teixeira injured his wrist and that plagued him for multiple seasons afterward. During this year’s tournament, Didi Gregorius injured his shoulder and is now going to miss a significant amount of time. 

In Girardi's plan the WBC would start around the middle of March and play the pool rounds up until the semifinal games and then it would pause until July. Regular season games end the Sunday before the All-Star Game, everyone would have Monday off and then the semifinal rounds would resume on the Tuesday with two games. The final round would be played on Wednesday. This would push the All-Star Game festivities later into the week with the Home Run Derby on Thursday and the game on Friday. After the game, everyone would get the weekend off and then resume regular season play on Monday.

But player health isn’t the only thing that will benefit from this proposal, the fans will as well. According to MLB.com, this year’s tournament set WBC records for fan attendance, TV ratings, digital consumption, and merchandise sales. The final championship game drew 3.1 million viewers on MLB Network and set a WBC record on ESPN Deportes. These championship round numbers could be even larger if the games were played in July. One of the biggest talking points about this year’s WBC were the start times of the games. On the east coast, the semifinals and finals all started at 9:00PM and the games didn’t end until around 1:00AM. This is a problem for youth baseball fans because the majority of kids aren’t going to be up long enough to see the end of the game. By moving the final rounds to July the game times can be moved up and the games can be held all over the country. The majority of the WBC games have been in warm weather cities such as Miami, Los Angeles, and San Diego. If the games were played in July they could be held in New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, or other northern cities.

Another big selling point is the fact that in the middle of July, baseball is the only major US sport being played. The WBC games would be on TV in every bar in America, and every sports show would have no choice but to cover it. Major League Baseball could basically corner the market to force people to watch the WBC. This would even help them sell the rights to a national network to give the event even more exposure. Major League Baseball executives are always talking about how they want to grow the sport and make it more international and this is a way for them to do that. The way for them to grow the sport is through the youth of America and changing when the games are played will allow MLB to sell the product to the kids. The MLB’s main goal of this tournament should be to get kids to dream to play in it.

I actually think the next World Baseball Classic will be set up similarly to this, especially now that the All-Star Game no longer determines home-field advantage in the World Series. I think the teams and the MLB Players Association will put some pressure on the league to make these changes for the health of their players. Another possibility I thought of was to shorten the MLB regular season and eliminate the All-Star Game every four years to make room for the two weeks of WBC play in the summer. That idea seems very unlikely but Joe Girardi’s idea could get some real attention going forward and I completely agree with him.

Article by: Paul Alvaro



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