The 2017 World Baseball Classic concluded earlier this week, with Team USA winning its first ever WBC title over Puerto Rico. The tournament has really grown over the years, and fan interest was at an all-time high for this year’s rendition of the WBC.
With the next WBC not scheduled until 2020, here are some ways to make sure that the next World Baseball Classic is the best one.
Reduce the Number of Teams
One of the trademarks of the WBC has been the field of 16 competitors. However, this may result in there being too many teams and not enough high-level games. For instance, Chinese Taipei, China, South Korea, Colombia, and Mexico combined to win 3 out of 15 games in the tournament, often playing much larger and more skilled nations.
Here, I am suggesting that the WBC could take a page out of the World Cup of Hockey’s book. The NHL’s version of a professional global tournament, the World Cup only featured 8 teams, 2 of which were compilation teams: Team North America and Team Europe. Team North America was made entirely of the best young guns under age 23 from any North American nation, while Team Europe brought together players from eight European nations that were not large enough to host their own teams, like France, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia.
The WBC could benefit by making some Super-Teams out of some of the geographically-similar nations. Teams USA, Puerto Rico, Japan, Netherlands, Dominican Republic, Cuba, and Canada are probably locks for future tournaments, but maybe eliminating some of the other teams and adding a Team Latin America, a Team Asia, and a Wild Card team that changes every year (presumptive nations would have a play-in tournament) could go a long way in creating the best field of 10 competitors.
Move the Host Cities Around the Globe
California is a great place for baseball. Dodger Stadium, PetCo Park, Angel Stadium, and AT&T Park are all quality stadiums, and weather is never a concern there. However, the WBC is mainly a television event. While 40,000 people will be lucky enough to see this tournament live, millions more around the globe are watching on television. And, simply put, having the biggest games take place on the West Coast in Pacific Standard Time was not ideal for much of the country.
With an average start time of 9:15 EST, the semifinal and final round games often ended the next morning. Not many baseball fans even enjoy staying up that late to watch the World Series, which begins at 8:00 EST. The WBC needs to start games early enough where all fans can see the conclusion of the game before they call it a night and go to sleep. Many Eastern fans missed out on some great baseball, and this is something that should be changed in the coming years. It would also allow more parts of the globe to be able to be host cities, which is always a great ticket opportunity for local fans.
Play the Tournament Every Two Years
The inaugural WBC took place in 2006, and was a massive success. The tournament was so great that the next one occurred just three years later, in 2009. After that though, an Olympics-esque 4-year break was suggested by the MLB. This would project the next WBC to take place in 2020.
But with interest at an all-time high in the tournament, the MLB would be wise to reconsider how often they host the WBC. Having the tournament every two years would be a happy medium; not occurring too often while still allowing for many more memories to be made.
Encourage More Star MLB Players to Join In
This is the toughest one to actually make happen, but the WBC would be insanely fun to watch if it truly featured the best of the best in the MLB. Team USA could’ve used a talent like Mike Trout or Bryce Harper, Team Cuba wasn’t the same without Yoenis Cespedes, Jose Abreu, or Aroldis Chapman, and teams such as Canada (Ryan Dempster and Eric Gagne) and China (Bruce Chen) had to rely on retired MLB players to fill out their roster.
The MLB needs to find a way to encourage more participation from the game’s biggest stars. Maybe adding in some sort of monetary incentive to the winning team (a la the NHL All-Star Game) or insurance to the player’s parent ballclub in case of injury would lead to more top players joining the tournament.
The latest installment of the World Baseball Classic was extremely successful. That doesn’t mean though, that the next one can’t be even better. There’s no doubt that the WBC is a growing part of the game of baseball. Some of these suggestions are farfetched, but making the event more streamlined and TV-Friendly could go a long way in making sure the next World Baseball Classic continues to improve over the years.