The Dominican Republic defeated Puerto Rico 3-0 to win the 2013 edition of the World Baseball Classic, but that was far from the main storyline of the tournament. Fighting off questions about playing time, injuries, format and general interest, the World Baseball Classic seems to be more of an enigma to viewers than the spectacle that the creators were hoping for.
Let’s begin with the good news: the games were fairly captivating for viewers. The United States advanced to the second round, when they were knocked out by Puerto Rico. Additionally, other baseball countries like the Dominican Republic and Japan advanced to the semifinal round, while I think most people are still trying to figure out how the Netherlands made their way to the semifinals with their only recognizable MLB player being a very rundown Andruw Jones.
While the United States didn’t make the deep run that most were expecting, they played many close games throughout, including two encounters with Puerto Rico and one with the Dominican Republic. All three of those teams are full of Major League talents.
But while the baseball itself was exciting, the World Baseball Classic still has many questions to answer. For one, why are the United States, the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico all on the same side of the bracket? While these three juggernauts were battling it out, Japan coasted through a bracket filled with the likes of China, Brazil, Australia and South Korea. This leads to a tournament where the early rounds are more interesting than a semifinals round that has the Netherlands in it.
I’m not here to be an American apologist. The United States team should have been able to beat out Puerto Rico to make it to the semifinals, but regardless, the WBC should have thought the bracket out better. This is a money-making tournament, and anytime you set up a bracket where one of the three powerhouses cannot make it to the semifinals, you’re setting yourself up for disaster.
The second issue is the relationship of the WBC to the MLB and its fans. Fans of MLB teams do not want to see their players get hurt, and while the WBC does not lead to injuries, there are myths being spread that the WBC should suppress. Although many New Yorkers are frustrated with the injuries to David Wright and Mark Teixeira that occurred during the WBC, the plain truth is that injuries are inevitable. If they didn’t play in the WBC, they’d be playing spring training baseball, where they would be just as injury-prone. The matter at hand here, though, is that the WBC should let the public know that injuries are not something they should be worried about. They should explain how getting some early competition, rather than picking daisies in south Florida, may be beneficial to players come opening day. The WBC has made a good first step in reimbursing the salary of players injured during the WBC to MLB clubs, but there is more to
Finally, we are forced to ponder if the WBC is really worth the time and the trouble. The tournament is unique in that sports like basketball, football and hockey don’t have similar competitions. In fact, I believe the WBC is in existence for the sole reason that baseball is no longer an Olympic sport. Is that a real reason to have the WBC? The presence of basketball at the Olympics is contested and has only become an excuse for NBA stars to add to their YouTube highlight collection (think Vince Carter and Frederic Weiss), while hockey at the Olympics is a real tournament with many contenders.
Where does baseball fall? Somewhere in the middle. Is the game global enough and captivating enough that we need to have an international tournament before the start of the MLB season? Maybe there’s a reason that baseball is no longer an Olympic sport.
To be honest, I’m not sure. There are arguments on both sides of the issue. The WBC was fun and sure was exciting, but anytime a Dutch baseball team is making the semifinals of a baseball tournament, it’s probably time to call the tournament into question.
Contact David Josselsohn at