Existence World Baseball Classic in doubt

According to a Tweet by ESPN reporter Cristian Moreno, the 2017 World Baseball Classic may very well be the last edition of the prestigious tournament. Of course it is all about the money.

Through the years the World Baseball Classic may have been a sportive success, but attendance wise it wasn’t. The first and second rounds that were played outside the USA, only drew a big crowd when the home teams played . The games of other teams were played in nearly empty stadiums.

Even with the home games of team USA in Phoenix’ Bank One Ballpark (or Chase Field as it is called now), the stadium even wasn’t sold out.

But that is a problem that similar tournaments always have to deal with. Take the last official World Championship in 2011 in Panama for example. The final between the Netherlands and Cuba was played in a near empty Rod Carew Stadium as well. Also with last year’s inaugural Premier 12 tournament, the games of the home teams in Japan and Taiwan were visited by massive crowds but with the other games the number of spectators didn’t come close by far.

So if the WBC wants to survive, the tournament must make big profits according to Moreno, who heard this from insiders.

The semi-final and final in San Francisco in 2013 did not attract many fans as well as you can see on the attached photos.

The stands during the 2013 WBC semi-final
The stands during the 2013 WBC final

It must be said that on the day of the final, a steady drizzle came down and the temperatures were rather low as well, so the circumstances for a baseball game were far from ideal.

To play the 2017 semis and final in Los Angeles may be a good move as the city is baseball crazed (when it comes to the Dodgers). But you can wonder if the many Latinos who are living there may root for team USA as most root for Mexico.

The choice for Miami as host of group C (Dominican Republic, Colombia, Canada and USA) may be a poor decision. Even though the older generations will likely root for team USA, the younger ones may still root for Cuba, which may lead to emtpy stands as well.

But how can a tournament like the WBC survive if it doesn’t even get the attention of American fans? And how do you draw more fans to stadiums when the home team isn’t playing. When you read another Tweet of  Moreno that may be explained by the fact that the organization has failed to advertise the tournament in a proper way and the marketing stayed behind as well.

I have always wondered how a tournament like this could survive with so little fans in the stands. Perhaps if the USA will advance to the finals and win it, the tournament may survive. If that does not happen, the 2017 edition may be the very last one indeed.

It would be a shame if MLB would stop organizing the tournament as baseball deserves a tournament at the highest stage. But if the tournament remains a money pit, it is quite understandable if MLB will call it quits.

Perhaps this is all premature but when you read the Tweets of Cristian Moreno, the future of the WBC looks very gloomy. And if the WBC dies, you can wonder if baseball will ever return on the Olympic agenda after 2020.


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