Love it or hate it, the World Baseball Classic looks like it is here to stay.
The winner of tonight’s semi-final between Japan and Mexico will play the USA in tomorrow’s championship game.
By any metric you want to consider, this year’s WBC has been a smashing success.
From attendance to TV ratings, to quality of participation, to overall enthusiasm, any doubters who didn’t think the international tournament would work have been hushed and set aside.
The tournament is a great source of pride for many of the players – and that has been more evident than ever watching the pure, genuine outpouring of emotion during the games.
Take Saturday night for example – With the Americans trailing Venezuela 7-5 in the 8th inning, Trea Turner blasted a dramatic go-ahead grand slam which proved to be the decisive blow in the US’s 9-7 quarterfinal victory.
The pure excitement on the field and in the Miami stands was contagious.
Speaking of Miami, tell me the last time that stadium has ever been that full or that loud? – The answer is never.
My point exactly.. Detractors might try to downplay these games as “exhibitions,” but the tournament clearly means something to most others, especially the players.
For example, when Dominican Republic players were asked would they rather win the World Series or the World Baseball Classic, many of them, including superstar Manny Machado answered the WBC.
Now, I personally don’t agree with that opinion and many fans, even the most patriotic, were annoyed – but the fact remains, the players truly care about this tournament, and that is great to see.
The one downside, of course, is the risk of injury.
However, that risk is natural and expected in all sports, no matter when or where.. So it’s nothing to lose sleep over.
But good luck telling that to Mets fans who watched in terror as their superstar closer Edwin Diaz tore his patellar tendon while celebrating Puerto Rico’s 5-2 victory over the Dominican Republic.
Diaz had surgery and will miss the entire 2023 season, delivering an enormous blow to the contender Mets.
Now, it’s important to note that this was an absolute freak incident which happened while Diaz was CELEBRATING.. Not that it makes it any less frustrating or tragic however.
For the record, the Mets won’t be on the hook for a penny of Diaz’s 2023 salary.. MLB will cover it through insurance since the injury occurred during the WBC.
But anyone who wants to use that or any injury (such as Jose Altuve’s broken thumb in Venezuela’s loss on Saturday) as a reason to get rid of the tournament is acting short-sighted and not seeing the whole picture.
Injuries happen. They’re a part of sports. All sports. And they always will be. Period.
It may be a “stupid exhibition” to some – but I, for one, am excited to watch Team USA try to repeat as WBC champions tomorrow night.
Regardless of the outcome, the tournament will return in 2026 with more momentum than ever.
This year’s roster features stars such as Mike Trout, Nolan Arenado, Mookie Betts and Paul Goldschmidt.
The pitching staff surely leaves a lot to be desired – but thanks to how wildly successful this 2023 tournament has been, you can bet the talent pool will bolster tremendously for 2026.
Catch the WBC fever, baby!