The 2023 World Baseball Classic displayed the game of baseball in its purest form for all the world to see. In the final moments of the championship game between the United States and Japan, it all came down to Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani. Arguably the top two best players in the world, teammates on the Los Angeles Angels, leaders for their countries, in a 3-2 ball game. You couldn’t script it any better than that.
Ohtani got Trout swinging on a diabolical slider after pumping 100 mph fastballs by him a few times. It was a tough matchup, and a very intense one. But it was this singular at-bat that perfectly encapsulated why the World Baseball Classic is necessary and absolutely, unequivocally, benefits the game of baseball. Trout said after the game it was, “the funnest 10 days I’ve ever had,” and added it reminded him of playing travel ball with his friends.
Unfortunately, there is a drawback to the WBC. Two major injuries to two major stars occurred, with Mets’ closer Edwin Diaz tearing his patellar tendon in a celebration with Puerto Rico after defeating the Dominican Republic. Diaz just signed a five-year, $102 million contract with New York this offseason, and will miss all of 2023. Additionally, Houston Astros star Jose Altuve is out eight to 10 weeks with a fractured thumb after being hit by a pitch while playing Team USA.
Colorado Rockies closer Daniel Bard is the one who hit Altuve, and he said he felt flat out awful about it. That’s baseball. Sometimes pitches get away, and you hate to see players get hurt. The good news is Altuve will be back on the field this year, Diaz will not.
Why the World Baseball Classic was a success and necessary
There was a big uproar online about if the WBC was necessary after Diaz’ freak injury. Mets’ fans are notably upset that their star closer won’t pitch this year because he was injured celebrating an “exhibition game.” It’s frustrating for everyone, fans, ownership, and I’m sure Diaz’ teammates are also upset, specifically Mets shortstop Fransisco Lindor, who was also celebrating with Team Puerto Rico.
Despite the injuries, people loved the WBC. Its viewership was through the roof compared to years past. In theory, March is a great time to do it because players would rather play for their country than play in meaningless spring training games (where freak injuries can also happen, by the way). The WBC does have to compete with March Madness to a degree, but all in all it seems like this is a perfect time do it every few years.
The World Baseball Classic gets fans, and players, excited for the season. Players who get extremely hot during this tournament, like Trea Turner, can carry that momentum into the regular season and benefit from playing in such emotionally charged games.
It should also be noted that the new MLB rules were not in effect during this tournament, and everyone was just fine with it and it was super exciting to watch.
Baseball pundits always talks about how it is important to “grow the game.” Well, there is no better way to grow the game than the World Baseball Classic. Players from different clubs are now teammates, representing their country, and having a blast doing it. If the players are having fun, fans will have fun too.
The viewership from fans, and the enthusiasm from players, prove that the MLB needs to make the World Baseball Classic a staple of their sport.