The United States took home the 2017 World Baseball Classic crown for the first time in four tries Wednesday night.
This year gave us more memorable moments than any other WBC in the past – from Javier Baez no-look tag, Adam Jones incredible catch of Manny Machado’s near home run, and Marcus Stroman’s near no hit Championship game performance.
So what is next?
Baseball is coming back to the Olympics in 2020, and will people get excited about the Olympics and the WBC? Will MLB players leave their teams for the Olympics when they complain about letting them play in the WBC? Doubtful.
In my mind this whole tournament turned a corner this year. The excitement, the energy, even some trash-talk and controversy. Ian Kinsler almost caused an international incident with his slightly racist comments about the Latin clubs showing “too much emotion” – emotion that is sorely lacking from even post-season games.
“They were raised differently and to show emotion and passion when you play. We do show emotion; we do show passion. But we just do it in a different way.”
Did you see when Yadier Molina threw out Jurickson Profar at first base after a single?
Emotion. Passion. Intensity. What baseball is all about – in other words.
Buster Olney suggests that MLB needs to go all in and possibly do this WBC tournament every year, but I don’t think that would be a good idea. To get the international community every year and change their season schedules would be too much. Likewise the luster would be lost, the intensity doused to try and re-create this every year.
Of course the intensity can’t be brought to regular season games – not when the season is 162 games long. Yet in a round robin style tournament it is absolutely essentially and keeps the fans in it more than many post-season games. The bleached hair of the Puerto Ricans, the Japan trumpets and whistles in the crowd and chants of “U-S-A” all added to a carnival atmosphere of the World Baseball Classic.
The games were fun to watch, and attendance overall for the tournament was over a million fans. Meanwhile the rest of baseball were playing meaningless spring training games. Luke Gregorson was closing games for Team USA while new Giants closer came on in a setup role. Eric Gagne pitched meaningful, effective innings of relief for Team Canada, and Wladimir Balentien was mashing.
So let’s keep the WBC as it is – and with the US winning I expect Mike Trout on this team next time around. The players who played certainly had more fun than playing in Spring Training, and the lack of any major injuries(despite a scare with Salvador Perez).
Baseball is great and the WBC goes a long way not only in bringing in more international fans, but showing all of the baseball community just how fun this game can be.