Now the Premier 12 tournament is over, it is time for a review.
What was a success and what went wrong?
In sporting terms, the tournament was a success, despite the lack of (current) MLB players. Especially the fact that Korea blocked the way to the final for Japan was a major surprise. And the fact that Mexico went this far with a team that was created ad hoc, was surprising as well.
But when it came to attendance, the tournament was a failure. Especially in the first round, only the games of hosting nation Chinese Taipei drew a lot of fans. During all the other games, the stadiums looked as empty like games of the Gulf Coast League. The same with the quarter finals in Taiwan and semi finals in the Tokyo Dome. With Chinese Taipei eliminated, hardly any fans showed up. When Japan played, the Tokyo Dome was packed. but with the other game between the United States and Mexico, the stadium was hardly filled. But that is the problem with tournaments like this. AT&T Park in San Francisco also looked rather empty with the semi-finals of the 2013 World Baseball Classic because the USA was eliminated, but not as empty as the Intercontinental Stadium.
The information source of this tournament, the website, was hopelessly bad at times. Many times the site was not reachable or parts of it did not work. Next to this, the Youtube channel of the WBSC was hacked, so no games could be streamed through that channel. Kudos to the organization that they acted quite fast on this as they streamed their games through Ustream until the problem with their Youtube channel was solved.
Another problem with the website of the WBSC was the processing of the box scores and stats. Sometimes it took hours before the results were shown on the website.
If that wasn’t enough, there were also complaints from the Korean team about the way the organization of the tournament benefited team Samurai Japan. Of course this tournament was organized as an eyecatcher for baseball to become an Olympic sport in 2020, during the Olympics in Tokyo, but according to Korean fans the Premier 12 was planned and managed strictly in the interests of co-host Japan. While other participating countries each played at least one day game, with some playing as many as three, Japan was the only country whose games were all played at night, due to broadcasting contracts and the influence of Japanese corporate sponsors.
Another complaint was that the semifinal, initially scheduled for Friday, was moved to Thursday at the last minute after Japan emerged as Korea’s opponent. The Korean team’s training session at the Tokyo Dome was then scheduled for Wednesday afternoon, meaning the players had to get up at 3:30 a.m. on that day to fly from Taiwan to Japan.
KBO official Jeong Keum-jo said, “We discussed the issue with the organizers and complained many times, but every time they asked for understanding for the sake of a successful tournament. Not a single meeting involving all participating countries was held during the competition; all decisions were made and announced unilaterally by the organizing committee.”
Looking to the problems that several teams had with getting a team together, you can conclude that this tournament was ill timed. While the Asian teams could use their best (non) MLB players from their own competitions, several Caribbean, Central- and South American teams and even the two European teams were bothered by the fact that some of their best players played in Caribbean and Central American winter leagues. And the clubs of those leagues did not want to let their players go. As a result, Italy could not field players like pitcher Tiago da Silva and Alex Liddi. Also the Kingdom of the Netherlands was not able to field Roger Bernadina, who was playing with the Yaquis de Bregon at the time.
With the current baseball calendar, it may be hard to fit in a next edition of the Premier 12. The winter leagues in the Caribbean and South and Central America will be up and running. Shortly after the climax of the winter leagues, the Caribbean Series, the Spring Training of MLB will start again, so it will be very unlikely that players will be granted permission to participate by their MLB organizations.
Even though the baseball fans among us have seen a lot of nice games during the two weeks of the Premier 12, with the problems as described above, it will take a while before the tournament will have some viability.