Make the WBC the Mid-Season Classic

MetsPolice WBC LogoThe other day Shannon wrote that he was not a fan of the WBC, that he thought it was stupid and a money grab.  In the comments section I disagreed with him.  I don’t see this as a money grab per se (jersey buying aside – and I am guilty of that as well), any more than the soccer and rugby World Cups.  Yes, each of the first 2 tournaments turned a modest profit, and the current tournament has broken attendance marks of the first two.  But money is not the immediate short term goal here.

This is an attempt to grow the game on an international level, which is even more important since the Olympics dropped baseball.    And you know what?   It’s working.  There are more teams in the tournament this year than in the first two, and the level of interest (outside the US) is greater than ever before.  There’s even a group trying to raise money to build ball fields in Ireland.  In fact, the only country where interest is not huge is the US.  But that’s ok because we are not the primary audience.  We already love baseball here, and there are other ways that MLB can increase participation and interest here.

Now that said, there are ways that the WBC can improve and it’s primarily around scheduling.  I don’t think keeping it during Spring Training is the right move.  Players aren’t quite ready (how many opted out to get in shape for the season), and neither are the fans.  This time of the year is meant to reawaken the baseball spirit that has laid dormant throughout the winter.  (A fellow commenter) dismisses the idea of doing the tourney during the All-Star break. I actually think this is a great idea.

Here is how I would plan it.  The WBC is a once every four year event so, once every four years the All-Star break is expanded to 2 week period.  The preliminary rounds of the WBC are still held during Spring Training but the double elimination round and championship round are moved to mid-summer, when baseball interest is high and it is the only sport going on.  Let’s say the first half of the season ends on a Thursday.  Then the break would play out as follows:

  • Friday: an off day
  • Saturday through Thursday: Double elimination round with double-headers each day.  Group 1 plays the first game on Sunday with Group 2 playing the nightcap.  The Groups then alternate each day through to the final games on Thursday.
  • Friday: the Futures Game and Celebrity Softball game (both I think could be eliminated if need be)
  • Saturday: WBC Semi-Final Game 1
  • Sunday: WBC Semi-Final Game 2
  • Monday: Home Run Derby
  • Tuesday: All-Star Game
  • Wednesday: WBC Championship Game
  • Thursday: off day
  • Friday: the season resumes

By doing the tournament in the summer you are not limited to warm weather sites in March. MLB could literally own a city for 2 weeks. The amount of foreign tourism dollars that could be generated would have cities bidding on this similarly to the way they bid on the Super Bowl.  The All Star Fan Fest now becomes an International Baseball Festival.

There will be critics who will warn about injuries and such. You are going to have those concerns whenever the WBC is scheduled so that’s a given regardless.  So then it comes down to the best time to generate awareness and audience. Baseball is a summer game – the “World Championship” should then be played in the summer.

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10 comments
Jonatan
Jonatan

Of course for shannon is just a money grab , and for a lot of americans is that or not as important as to me or my people here in PR. To us this is a chance to see MLB players play in person (something that to you is normal) , but to us its not because we dont have a team over here so i dont only want to see PR win but i havd the chance to go to games here and saw MLB players from PR and other countries. So to me theres nothing wrong with the WBC . You sometimes have to look at things from another perspective and support your team ! About playing it in the summer , i dont agree with it , it would interrupt the acfual season and maybe affect the swing of thing , i think is good as is , and i would love to see mora interest from the americans in this tournament. btw i think PR should have an mlb team here , prob wont happen but i will continue to dream ..

Shoes
Shoes

As someone who genuinely enjoys the WBC, I wouldn't want it at any other point in the season. It gives me competitive games at a time when I'm genuinely craving baseball and is much more enjoyable viewing than anything that happens over All-Star weekend. But, with that said, I like it where it is. Give me pretty fun baseball when interest is highest, then let me go enjoy my team uninterrupted all season. It works for me.

DCA
DCA

I never thought of doing Round 1/pool play during Spring Training. That really makes it a lot easier to fit in the rest of the tournament during July. But I think the All-Star events should be cancelled in WBC years. The WBC would be more than enough and still holding the ASG might encourage players to compromise by skipping the WBC and just playing in the ASG. In that case you'd have to nix its deciding home field advantage for the World Series. You'd still have an All-Star team selected as a formality (just like the NFL All-Pro team award) so you wouldn't have to worry about anybody harming their Hall of Fame résumé. And I think it would be great to award hosting duties to a different country every year. All things considered, I still think the most important step to take in facilitating the growth of international play is to shorten the MLB season. 162 games is a completely inordinate amount. Among the major non-offseason leagues: NPB - 144; KBO - 133; LMB - 111. Players (pitchers esp.) simply can't handle the mental exhaustion and physical strain. They played 154 games as recently as 1961. We've got to lower it to that at most.

Brian Erni (@brianerni)
Brian Erni (@brianerni)

i hear you, dan. but the problem is MLB kicked around all these ideas prior to '06, and early march won out because it's the lesser of all evils. think players skip out now? imagine the fit organizations would throw if their star pitcher (imagine a strasburg situation) went to throw extra innings in a midseason tournament. you'd get a lot of the same pull quotes from players saying, "i feel like i have a responsibility to help my team down the stretch, etc." and have them skip out. yes, currently the innings they throw are more high stress than spring training innings, but the numbers work out to roughly the same number of innings. no manager/GM/owner is going to want their starters, no less closers or middle relievers, to throw extra innings on top of their regular workload. the only way to make it the same workload and not have some players play extra games is to trim MLB games off the schedule. as you know, the owners are not letting that happen. also, as an NHL fan, i can say that watching the league go on a two week break every four years is awful. and that's the olympics, which carry a bigger worldwide cache than the WBC. it stops the momentum of the season during a time where the country has only two big four sports choices: hockey or basketball. for the MLB to cede their captive audience, it wouldn't be good business. honestly, i think it works exactly as it is. i think the biggest reason it hasn't gained more traction in the US is because the US really disappointed the last two times out. outside of wright's walk off single against puerto rico in '09, there hasn't been a big US moment. now, the team is clicking, and american fans are taking notice. i think the WBC will fully entrench itself with US fans once the US gets to/wins the finals. and once a US team wins, watch how many more american players choose not to skip next time out. that's just my $.02.

Media Goon
Media Goon

Better Idea. Instead of having it during spring training and the All Star game, how about November and December? Yeah, Yeah I know football season is in full swing. but just have the games on days that the NFL isn't playing.

DCA
DCA

As to your NHL point, an aim of the WBC is to grow the sport. As someone with little more than a passing interest in hockey, I became extremely interested in the sport during the Olympics and followed the NHL closely for the remainder of that season and the following one. The idea is to generate interest among casuals and midseason marquee international events do exactly that.

Dan Twohig
Dan Twohig

Just because they tossed out the idea before doesn't mean they still can't change it. They've already shown a willingness to tinker with the tournament's structure. As for the analogy with the Olympics, I hear what you are saying but it's not quite the same. During the Olympics there are a myriad of other sports that are going on, and hockey isn't played every day. With my proposal baseball remains the focus throughout the 2 week period with no distractions and no interruptions (to the game at large). Yes, owners may object to the disruption, but the additional revenue MLB would reap both short and long term would more than compensate for that. I don't think this will change by 2017, but perhaps by 2021. The WBC is gaining popularity but I think it has a ceiling if it continues to be played during ST. By moving it to the summer the opportunities for growth, expansion, and revenue expand exponentially.

Dan Twohig
Dan Twohig

Football, hockey & basketball are all either in full swing or are getting into it. Last thing baseball needs is the competition. PLus baseball is a summer game.

Media Goon
Media Goon

True Baseball is a Summer game, but not all the world has summer at the same time. The WBC can be played on other continents. You have hockey and basketball going on right now while the WBC is going on and it doesn't seem like it has deterred from the viewing.The only sport you would have to worry about is football and again just play days the NFL isn't on tv.

Dan Twohig
Dan Twohig

In November you have NFL games 3 days a week, and college another day. That leaves only 3 days during a given week for the WBC. Beyond that, most players will have been off for at least a month. No way are they dragging themselves back to the diamond. Finally, you wouldn't be able to start it til the second week of November. Two issues arise - if the World Series is a sweep then we have gone over 2 weeks without baseball. The moment is passed. Second, the Championship Round would then be pushing up against Thanksgiving. No way people are paying attention

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