2022 was the year of the soccer world cup. 2023 begins with the World Baseball Classic (WBC). On February 10 (Korean time), the list of national teams participating in the 5th WBC was released. It is the largest and highest-level tournament in world baseball. After being eliminated in the first round for the past two tournaments in a row, the Korean national team will challenge the semifinals for the third time in their career. The WBC is the tournament at the top of world baseball. Although it is a large and growing sporting event, it differs from similar competitions in other sports in many ways.
■ Venues aligned with the World Baseball Industry Map
The 20 participating countries will be divided into four groups from March 8 to play the first round. Group A will play at Intercontinental Stadium in Taichung, Taiwan, Group B at Tokyo Dome (Tokyo, Japan), Group C at Chase Field (Arizona, USA), and Group D at Londipo Park (Florida, USA). This is the first time since 2006 that the first round has been held only in East Asia and the United States among the five tournaments. The second round, the quarterfinals, will be held in Japan and the United States, and the semifinals and finals will be held in the United States. It is a method that has been solidified since the 3rd tournament in 2013.
At the global level, it is clear that baseball’s industrial success was limited to the United States and East Asia. The WBC is a tournament created by the Major League Secretariat, which felt threatened by the fall in baseball’s status in its country. In addition, the Japanese baseball and sports industries have a significant stake in the establishment and operation of the WBC tournament.
■ Why not the ‘Baseball World Cup’?
The name of the world’s top national competition in soccer is the ‘World Cup’ held every four years. The World Cup in basketball, rugby, cricket, and field hockey is also of the same status. Ice hockey, volleyball, handball, lacrosse and many individual sports use the name ‘World Championship’. Both World Cup and World Championship can be translated as ‘World Championship’.
However, in baseball, the name ‘classic’ was added after ‘world’. The word is derived from the nickname of the World Series, the major league championship game, ‘Paul Classic (Autumn Classic)’. There is a story here. One of the WBC’s main partners is the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC). According to WBSC president Ricardo Fraccari, Major League Baseball originally envisioned the WBC as a world champion. The use of the title ‘World Champion’ required the consent of the WBSC, which governs world baseball. The WBSC accepted, but with three conditions. It was strengthening nationality standards, holding preliminary matches, and operating an anti-doping program in accordance with World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) regulations. However, MLB did not accept the terms. In the 2000s, the issue of banned substances was rampant in the major leagues.
So, the first competition in 2006 and the second competition in 2009 were held in the form of an ‘invitational competition’. Dissatisfaction with this is the reason why WBSC created a separate international competition called Premier 12. Now the WBC is a little closer to the World Cup or World Championship. The WBC has been running preliminary rounds since the 3rd tournament in 2013. Anti-doping programs are also subject to WADA regulations. Nationality standards have also been strengthened since this competition. Until the past, players could compete in the national team of the country where they were born if their grandparents, as well as themselves and their parents, had citizenship or permanent residency. From this time on, the ‘grandparents’ clause has been removed.
■ WBC is a growing competition
Starting from this tournament, the number of participating countries in the finals increased from 16 to 20. The top 16 countries will qualify for the next tournament. The bottom place in each group in Round 1 will be relegated to the preliminary round. Great Britain, the Czech Republic and Nicaragua will be participating for the first time. Great Britain was the first team to win the World Baseball Championship in 1938. In Europe, Italy, the Netherlands, and Israel (belonging to the European Baseball Federation) are participating in five teams, the second most after North and Central America (eight). Major League Baseball hosted the ‘London Series’ in the British capital in 2019. In 2025, a major league game is scheduled to be played in Paris, France. After 120 years since Al Spalding’s ‘World Baseball Tour’ in 1888-1889, it is exploring the European market again.
The growth of the WBC tournament is making the closed major leagues turn their eyes to the world. WBC average attendance increased by 28.8% from 18,900 in 2006 to 24,342 in 2017. The last tournament final (USA-Puerto Rico) had 3.1 million viewers, almost three times that of the previous tournament (1.1 million). Only MLB Network, which has broadcasting rights in the United States, had 2.3 million viewers for the final. It was second in MLB Network history. The 2023 tournament is also expected to record as the tournament with the most active major leaguers participating. The roster of 20 countries announced in February included eight former Major League MVPs and 67 former All-Stars. There are 186 active major leaguers and 332 players including minor leaguers.
■ How is the WBC winning pitcher decided?
Baseball is one of the sports with the most regular season games. March, when the tournament is held, is a period of preparation for the regular season. So, player health is important. This is also why many major league clubs are still negative about drafting players.
In particular, pitcher injuries are the biggest risk factor. So, the WBC adopts strict pitcher protection regulations. The number of pitches a pitcher can throw is limited to a maximum of 49 from the practice game before the tournament. The number of pitches in the first round is 65, the second round is 80, and the semifinals and finals are 95 or less. However, it is not replaced even if the pitch limit is met before the batter’s attack is over. Pitchers who have thrown more than 50 pitches must rest at least four days. 30 or more pitches, or a one-day break in case of two consecutive fights regardless of the number of pitches.
The requirements for winning pitchers are also different from those in the regular season of professional baseball. This is because it is difficult to meet the condition of ‘pitching more than 5 innings’. Like the All-Star Game, the winning record is given to “the pitcher who threw when the winning team had an initial lead that lasted to the end, regardless of starting or relief.” However, if the pitcher is battered, the scorer’s discretion may award the victory to the next pitcher who took the mound. 토토사이트
If the lead is 15 points after the 5th inning and 10 points after the 7th inning, the shortened game is declared to protect the pitcher. The WBC’s famous ‘fighting match’ was also advanced to the start of the 10th overtime. In the top of the 10th inning, the lead batter gets to bat with a runner on second base. In the 3rd tournament in 2013, the 13th overtime was applied, and in the last 4 tournaments, the match-up was applied from the 11th inning. The purpose is to reduce pitcher consumption by reducing the possibility of an overtime period being prolonged.
In the match-up, the possibility of scoring increases, so it has the effect of holding on to viewers. For the first time in this tournament, the ‘Otani Rule’, which allows a player who started as both a pitcher and hitter to remain on the batting line as a designated hitter even if he is judged as a pitcher, is applied. It is also a consideration for box office success.
■ Which winning team do betting companies pick?
The team that sports betting companies pick as the number one favorite to win this tournament is the Dominican Republic. Jeremy Pena, Manny Machado, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Wander Franco, Elroy Jimenez, Juan Soto, and Julio Rodriguez are among the best in the batting lineup. Next is the United States, which is evaluated as having the best team of all time. Los Angeles Dodgers left-handed ace Clayton Kershaw and active hitter Mike Trout are the main players of the American team. Kershaw won the Cy Young Award three times in the major leagues, and Trout won the MVP three times.
The third place is Japan, the team with the most wins (twice). Ohtani, Yu Darvish, Seiya Suzuki, Masataka Yoshida, and Lars Nutba, whose mother is Japanese, included five major leaguers in the national team. It is rated as the best ever. Puerto Rico, the runner-up in the last two tournaments in a row, is the favorite to win the fourth place. South Korea was ranked 5th to 7th along with Venezuela and Cuba.