World Baseball Classic

Jocelyn Gonzalez, Copy Editor

The World Baseball Classic is back! The tournament that consists of twenty nations has returned after a hiatus from 2017. Founded in 2006, there have been five World Baseball Classics. Due to the pandemic, the fifth and recent tournament was held this year when it was scheduled for 2021. 


The tournament started on March 7 with four different groups that competed among each other to strengthen their standing in order to advance to the next round. In Pool A, Cuba, Italy, Netherlands, Panama, and Chinese Taipei played in Taichung, Taiwan. Pool B, played in Tokyo, Japan, consisted of Japan, Australia, Korea, Czech Republic, and China. Playing in Phoenix, Arizona, Mexico, USA, Canada, Great Britain, and Colombia were in Pool C. Lastly, Pool D had Venezuela, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Israel, and Nicaragua who played in Miami, Florida. 


In order for a team to advance to the Quarterfinal Round, “the teams in each pool shall be ranked according to the percentages of games won in the First Round. The two teams with the highest such percentages in each pool shall advance to the Quarterfinal Round.” However, in Pool A, there was a five way tie. Each team had two wins and two losses. “The tiebreaker that decided Pool A was: fewest runs allowed per defensive out recorded. In other words, divide each team’s total runs allowed in pool play by the total number of outs they recorded on defense. The two teams with the lowest numbers advance.” Therefore, Cuba and Italy advanced. In the four games played, Cuba allowed fifteen runs and had 108 outs giving them a .139 runs/outs ratio; the lowest among the other countries in Pool A. Italy, the second country to advance, allowed 17 runs and had 108 outs giving them a .157 runs/outs ratio.  


In Pool B, Japan and Australia were the countries to advance. Japan won all four games played and Australia won three games and lost one. In Pool C, Mexico and USA advanced. Mexico and USA both won three games and lost one. For Pool D, Venezuela and Puerto Rico advanced as Venezuela won all four games while Puerto Rico won three and lost one. 


Within these first few games before entering the Quarterfinal Round, there were some games with very high score differences. For example, on March 8, Panama went against Chinese Taipei and won with a score of 12-5. On March 9, Cuba won over Panama with a score of 13-4. With a team having a certain amount of runs against their opponent, the game will finish at a certain inning according to the mercy rule. On March 12, Canada was winning against Great Britain by ten so in the seventh inning, the game was over. This happened in different games like the Korea vs China game where Korea won 22-2 by the fifth inning. These first few games among the Pools also brought highly anticipated games such as Mexico vs USA and Puerto Rico vs Dominican Republic. 


In the Quarterfinal Rounds, Cuba and Japan were the first two teams to advance to the Semifinal Round. Cuba won with a score of 4-3 against Australia and Japan won with a score of 9-3 against Italy. Team USA won against Venezuela, which was their first loss, with a score of 9-7. Lastly, Mexico won with a score of 5-4 against Puerto Rico. 


For the Semifinal Round, USA won against Cuba with a score of 14-2. Top players for this game were Philadelphia Phillies shortstop Trea Turner who had two home runs, St. Louis Cardinals first baseman, Paul Goldschmidt, and another from St. Louis Cardinals, Nolan Arenado who plays as a third baseman. When it came down to Mexico vs Japan, Mexico was in the lead by three runs; however, Japan tied in the seventh inning. Both teams scored during the eighth inning which intensified the game but Mexico was ahead by one run. That changed in the ninth inning with Japan’s walk-off win leading to a score of 6-5. Though Mexico was not advancing, they made history by reaching the Semifinals with the help of top players like Washington Nationals first baseman, Joey Meneses and Tampa Bay Rays outfielder, Randy Arozarena. 


On March 21, 2023, the Championship was held at LoanDepot Park, home to the Miami Marlins. It was team USA versus team Japan, both having outstanding players and stats. In the second inning, Trea Turner hit a home run giving team USA a lead. However, that changed when Japan scored twice in that same inning. In the fourth inning, Japan scored again but team USA did not stay quiet as they scored in the eighth inning. During the ninth inning, USA tried to catch up but did not succeed as Los Angeles Angels pitcher, Shohei Ohtani, with a full count, striked out his fellow teammate from the Los Angeles Angels, Mike Trout. This is Japan’s third time as World Baseball Classic champions making them the first country with the most titles. 


As many fans filled themselves with excitement due to the games, MLB team owners have opposite feelings towards it. They want to shut down World Baseball Classics because of the risk of injuries. Some fans saw New York Mets closer, Edwin Diaz, suffer “a torn patellar tendon in his right knee” after celebrating a victory with Puerto Rico as they were advancing to the Quarterfinal Round. With this injury, Diaz will be out for the 2023 season. Another notable injury was Houston Astros second baseman, Jose Altuve, who will be out for two months due to a 96 miles per hour hit to his right hand leaving him with a fractured thumb. 


To some fans and MLB team owners, these injuries are far too risky, therefore, they want the tournament to be shut down so players can be healthy during the regular season. Others argue that players can get injured when they play in the All-Stars Games and during spring training so they find no purpose in shutting the tournament. Some players have agreed to the idea that they want to play and represent their country.   


Despite the criticism, MLB Commissioner, Rob Manfred, has confirmed that the World Baseball Classic will return in 2026 and some players have already signed up such as Mike Trout.