Why Baseball Needs The World Baseball Classic
USA! USA! USA! The 2017 World Baseball Classic came to a close and the United States came out victorious. The past two and a half weeks were filled with highlight reel plays, clutch moments, and moon shot home runs courtesy of Giancarlo Stanton. I think I speak for all of the baseball fans in the world and even those who don’t watch baseball often when I say: the 2017 WBC was fun to watch.
For a sport that is constantly looking for ways to speed the game up, the World Baseball Classic was a huge win. As a baseball fan and player, I have a strong bias towards the game and could never see it as slow. There are some people out there (we know them as buzzkills) who don’t appreciate the pace of play or little gems that baseball provides for us on a batter to batter basis.
However, for those less finely tuned minds, there is no denying that the guys playing in the WBC were having fun, and that’s something that always makes watching baseball enjoyable. That’s the way the game is meant to be played. This year’s WBC was a huge step forward for international baseball and was a win for baseball fans everywhere. Let’s look at some of the top stories from this year’s World Baseball Classic.
This story is one that is near and dear to my Jewish heart: the success of Team Israel. As cinderella of the WBC, the boys in blue surprised many as they won their pool and advanced to the second round. They won the hearts of fans all around the world through their humor, camaraderie, and of course, their mascot.
A team made up of mostly minor leaguers, Israel did not have much firepower on paper. The most notable players were Ryan Lavarnway, Sam Fuld, Jason Marquis, and Josh Zeid. However, their performances turned heads, as the stars of David knocked off Goliath foes like South Korea, Cuba, and the Netherlands. Jews and gentiles around the world rallied behind Israel and supported them throughout the tournament. While they did not achieve perfection and were eliminated from the tournament by world power Japan, they gained international attention and put on a spectacular performance. Sandy Koufax is surely proud, though it looks like they could have used his arm down the stretch. They also had by far the nicest hats in the tournament, but maybe that’s just my Judaism speaking.
As for a team that was made up of far from no names, the United States became World Baseball Classic champions for the first time. While this was an AWESOME win for the USA, I want to focus on what this means for international baseball. Team USA was made up of studs, but many all stars were left off of the roster because they did not want to take part in the WBC.
This was a loss for baseball and was unfortunate for all of the viewers who were tuning in to see the highest level of baseball possible. However, Team USA balled out and had some incredible moments along the way. Adam Jones made a ridiculous catch to rob a home run. Giancarlo Stanton hit a ball that should make you question not only what kind of substances he is ingesting, but whether or not he is the same species as you and me. Not to be outdone, Marcus Stroman threw a gem in the championship game, not giving up a hit until the 7th inning.
After such an exciting run, I can assure you that no USA baseball player or MLB fan will scoff at the next international baseball tournament. Baseball is returning to the Olympics in 2020, and the stage is now set for another intense international tournament. This year’s WBC drew much more viewers than the 2013 WBC, and the championship game drew MLB Network’s second most viewers ever for a game.
Team USA winning the WBC will bring more attention to the competition, and will raise the standard of talent for the next WBC. Having the United States’ elite players on board will bring more fans and more attention to the tournament. While the bragging rights are nice, bringing new viewers to the game of baseball is the ultimate prize.
Finally, hats off to the runner-up Team Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico gave us emotion during the World Baseball Classic and was nothing but enjoyable to watch. Javy Baez tagging a runner while already celebrating the out may be the greatest catch and tag of all time.
Yadier Molina picked off guys left and right like a sniper in the trees. And to top it all off, the whole team dyed their hair bleach blonde. Puerto Rico rallied behind their team, and the entire country sold out of blonde hair dye as a result. I’m not making this stuff up. Can you imagine living in “The Real Slim Shady” music video? That’s what I’m picturing the streets of Puerto Rico were like during the WBC.
So, for those who say baseball is a dying sport, I say think again. I’m hungry for more, and while the Little League World Series is entertaining, it doesn’t quite satisfy my hunger for more international baseball competition. The WBC will never reach the popularity level of the World Cup, but it is not unreasonable to say that the WBC may one day become baseball’s most prestigious title.
Follow Ben on Twitter @Ben13Porter