The 2023 World Baseball Classic is Just a Hint of What’s to Come

Is it more exciting than our own World Series? Could it get as popular as the World Cup? MLB needs to keep up!


Puerto Rico Shortstop Francisco Lindor celebrates with teammates after scoring in the fifth inning against Nicaragua. (Photo courtesy USA Today Sports)

Jayden Gonzalez, Editorial Board

Baseball rarely dominates the headlines in March, with the NCAA tournament, NBA and NHL seasons, and NFL free agency happening at the same time. What is the reason? The return of the World Baseball Classic, an international baseball tournament held around the world for the enjoyment of millions of people worldwide. The fifth World Baseball Classic, which was last played in 2017, made a triumphant return after being postponed in 2021 because of the COVID-19 Pandemic. The tournament featured 20 teams ranging from Nicaragua all the way to Chinese Taipei, but it was Samurai Japan who emerged victorious against the United States, in a historic 3-2 game at LoanDepot Park in Miami, Florida. With historic ratings of attendance, television viewership, and other sales records setting the event seen as the best of its history, it wasn’t just the entertainment that made the tournament widely successful.

As great as the World Baseball Classic was, there were many that were clamoring for the tournament to be canceled, with some calling it “a worthless event.” This stemmed after a group stage game between Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, in a win-or-go-home game that would decide who would advance. In the bottom of the 9th, Puerto Rican closer and icon for the New York Mets, Edwin Diaz, struck out Teoscar Hernandez to advance to the quarter finals to face Mexico. During the celebration however, Diaz fell to the ground and was unable to put any weight on his right leg, leaving LoanDepot Park in a wheelchair. The next day, the Mets announced that Diaz suffered a “full-thickness tear of the patellar tendon in his right knee” and that he was out for the rest of the season. Diaz’s freak injury comes off the heels of a gigantic 5 year, $102 million contract extension with New York, with the club poised to make a run to the World Series in 2023. As Mets fans understandably complained about their players participating in the tournament, many athletes came to the defense of Díaz and the World Baseball Classic itself. After the injury, Team USA player Mookie Betts said, “You can always try and place blame on the WBC, but that’s just a freak accident that could happen to anyone at any given time…this is so much fun. It’s so much fun. This is way better than getting four bats on the back field, you know?” Betts’ endorsement of the World Baseball Classic was echoed throughout the rest of the fanbases, with some even calling the WBC “more important than the World Series.”

LoanDepot Park in Miami, Florida (Photo courtesy Getty Images)

The tournament ended in dramatic fashion, coming down to an electric matchup between Shohei Ohtani and Mike Trout, two of the best players in baseball. The two Los Angeles Angels teammates became rivals as it came down to one final pitch to decide the winner of the WBC. With a full count and two outs, Ohtani struck out Trout to seal Samurai Japan’s third tournament championship in a 3-2 victory against Team USA. After the victory, Ohtani was quoted calling the win “the best moment of my life.” According to Forbes, the tournament was able to draw in record attendance in Miami, with the championship selling out to 36,058 fans, and totaling 1,306,414 overall. The WBC also generated historic viewership nationwide and internationally. According to Forbes, 42.4% of Japanese households were glued to their TV’s watching the final against the United States, even though the game was being played at 8 AM in Japan. As well as that, a Japan quarter finals game against Team Italy had 48.7% of households watching the game, making it the most watched game in World Baseball Classic History. Nationally, the championship was the most watched game in WBC history, generating an average viewership of 5.2 million viewers and peaking at 6.5 million viewers during Ohtani’s strikeout of Trout.

The increase in viewership, attendance, and other sales bodes extremely well for baseball, especially MLB, who are in the beginning stages of their regular season. According to Forbes, MLB has experienced a steady decrease in viewership and attendance over the past 9 seasons, for several reasons, including the slowness of the game and the lack of action compared to leagues like the NFL. Simply put, some fans are less willing to watch 3+ hour baseball games from April to October almost every day. This year, MLB has announced a few rule changes that are designed to make the game faster and more action packed than ever before. These changes include a pitch clock, bigger bases, and limits to the defensive shift. In Spring Training, these rules seem to do what it is supposed to do, with the average baseball game lasting 2 hours and 37 minutes compared to the 3 hour and 6 minute time length last season. Hopefully MLB can emulate what the WBC could do by standing above the other professional sports leagues and generating historic ratings.

Above, Japan celebrates after the final out of the World Baseball Classic championship seals its defeat of Team USA 3-2. (Photo courtesy Getty Images)