The World Baseball Classic, begun in 2006 and then quadrennially starting in 2009, has accomplished its goal — to increase awareness and interest in baseball worldwide. The USA won the last tournament in 2017 in exciting fashion in defeating Japan in the semifinals and Puerto Rico in the finals at Dodger Stadium.
Things were being geared up to play another WBC next year. Venues had been established in Taiwan, Japan, Arizona and Florida. There were qualifying tournaments scheduled for March in Tucson and Surprise, Arizona — the first to begin just a day after baseball shut down for the novel coronavirus pandemic. Those qualifiers were cancelled.
Tuesday, Enrique Rojas of ESPN Deportes reported that the 2021 WBC has been postponed:
Sources have told ESPN that the cancellation of the 2021 World Baseball Classic is imminent, with one source saying “it is not a priority right now.”
The tournament had been set for March 9-23, 2021, in the United States, Japan and Taiwan. Because the event was included in the current collective bargaining agreement, which runs through December 2021, the tournament would have to be renegotiated to feature MLB participation, sources said.
WBC organizers told ESPN they don’t see the event being played again until 2023.
The distinction between “postponed” and “cancelled” here appears to be semantic. As noted, the tournament had specifically been mentioned in the MLB/MLBPA collective-bargaining agreement. For MLB players to participate, it would have to be included in the next CBA. This doesn’t seem like an insurmountable obstacle, as MLB players have generally been enthusiastic participants in representing their countries. I would assume Rojas is correct and there will be a WBC in 2023.
It’s unfortunate, but so many events worldwide have been affected by the pandemic and the WBC is just another casualty. With baseball expected to be included in the rescheduled Tokyo Olympics next summer, there will be some worldwide tournament baseball played next year. MLB players aren’t likely to be included in the rescheduled Olympics, but at least there will be some international competition there.
I loved the WBC; I went to a Canada/Italy first-round game in Phoenix in 2013 and had a blast. I was looking forward to attending a game or two in the Phoenix area next spring. I’ll be sure to keep an eye out for the WBC schedule in 2023.