Last spring, qualifiers for the 2021 World Baseball Classic were just about to get underway in Tucson, Arizona, when all of baseball (not to mention everything else) was put on hold by the novel coronavirus pandemic. Later, the WBC itself was indefinitely postponed.
Barry M. Bloom of Sportico reports that the next World Baseball Classic will be held in 2023:
Major League Baseball has decided to move the World Baseball Classic from next season to 2023, a high-placed source told Sportico Monday. The announcement will officially come sometime after this COVID-abbreviated 60-game season and postseason.
Originally, the main tournament next year was slated to be played in Japan, Taiwan, Phoenix and Miami, with three rounds to be held at Marlins Park, including the semifinals and championship game. Those are still the probable sites in 2023.
The field was set to expand to 20 teams for the first time, with the 16 teams that competed in 2017 already seeded: Australia, Canada, China, Chinese Taipei, Colombia, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Israel, Italy, Japan, The Netherlands, Korea, Mexico, Puerto Rico, U.S., and Venezuela.
Bloom also notes that a new set of qualifiers will be held in 2022, and that “everything’s on the table,” per his source.
This all makes a great deal of sense. I’m a big fan of the WBC and so are the many major-league players who have participated for their home countries. This delay will give MLB and the various national baseball foundations time to reset everything and give extra time for planning qualifiers and set everything up at the various sites, including the ones noted above. Presumably, everything will be back to whatever our “new normal” is regarding the pandemic by then and baseball can be played as usual.
I look forward to hearing more about the qualifiers for the WBC as we get into 2022 and for the announcement of seeding and the tournament dates for 2023.