The World Baseball Classic has always been right in Baseball America’s wheelhouse. No one covers the game around the globe like we do, and we always viewed a world cup-style tournament for baseball as a great engine for the game’s growth.
We were in on the ground floor of reporting the creation of the tournament, way back in 2005, when we broke the news that the first World Baseball Classic would be staged in 2006.
“Tentatively called the ‘World Baseball Classic,’ the tournament will be staged across three weeks next March and will be the first full-scale event involving major league players representing their home countries,” our Alan Schwarz wrote in February 2005. “Olympic tournaments included only amateur players from 1984-1996, after which professionals have been eligible. Because of scheduling conflicts, however, international competition has generally involved minor leaguers.”
Schwarz, who now works for the New York Times, went on to enumerate the many logistical concerns that Major League Baseball and the Players Association had to overcome to make the event happen.
And as our John Manuel wrote, having major league teams make their best players available for the event has always been the World Baseball Classic’s most serious challenge.
“Several teams, most vocally the Yankees, have expressed concerns both privately and publicly about their high-priced stars possibly getting injured before the season starts,” we wrote then. “The Yankees also have been reluctant to release their minor leaguers for USA Baseball’s teams in 1999, 2000, 2001 and 2003.”
Even then, however, the injury risk proved to be overblown, with Schwarz writing after the 2006 event: “Contrary to predictions that players would fall like ducks in a carnival booth, only one big leaguer (Luis Ayala) sustained a major injury during the WBC.”
On The Scene In Japan
Japan defeated Cuba 10-6 in the first event in 2006, and then beat South Korea 5-3 in the second World Baseball Classic in 2009. So it’s appropriate that the 2013 WBC began there, with pool play at Fukuoka.
Brazil, China, Cuba and Japan kicked the action off there on March 2, while at the same time a pool featuring Australia, Netherlands, South Korea and Taiwan played in Taichung, Taiwan.
For the first time in our coverage of the WBC, Baseball America had someone on hand for the action in Japan, as our international guru Ben Badler reported on all the first-round action.
Part of our interest in having a reporter on the ground in Japan is in expanding our coverage of the event, but we’re also motivated by the opportunity to get an up close and personal look at the Cuban team, away from the North American media crush. We also have never had a full-time BA staffer in Japan to watch baseball, so was great to have coverage of the game and the culture from a country where baseball is nearly as important as it is here.
The other two pools began play on March 7, with Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Spain and Venezuela facing off in San Juan, and Canada, Italy, Mexico and the United States playing in Phoenix.
We did not have a reporter on the ground for pool play in Puerto Rico or Taiwan, but we’ll have people everywhere else throughout the tournament. Again, we think this tournament is important, and as BA readers we’re sure you agree.
To get ready for the tournament, be sure to download Baseball America from the Apple Newsstand, if you haven’t already. We’ll have a special World Baseball Classic preview there, with loads of content, including team by team previews, that simply didn’t fit in print. You can download it for $2.99 and have a comprehensive guide to the tournament at your fingertips, whether on iPhone or iPad, as we move toward the championship round, March 17-19 in San Francisco.
Baseball America has been there from the beginning with the WBC, and we think this year’s event promises to be the best ever.