I wonder how many people that follow sports know about Team USA playing their opening game of the World Baseball Classic (WBC for short) against Colombia is tonight at 6 pm. I would probably guess that a very small percentage have a clue that this game is taking place tonight. As a matter of fact there’s probably a very small percentage of people whether they are hardcore or casual sports fans even realize that this tournament is taking place. For those who are unaware of this tournament (I don’t blame you one bit) the World Baseball Classic is a tournament held once every four years during spring training. Sixteen nations compete in this tournament comprised mostly of MLB players. It was created by Major League Baseball in 2006 and the fourth edition of this tournament began this week. I’m probably in the majority, I just don’t give a shit about this tournament. But the question should myself and others tune in and pay attention to this tournament and at least watch our country compete for gold?
I think it starts with being able to market the product and sell it to crowds of all ages. Currently you can watch every WBC game on the MLB Network. Even though it’s 2017 there’s still a good amount of people that don’t have the MLB Network, and also it’s not everyone’s first choice when it comes to watching live sporting events. Most of us would expect this tournament to be shown a major network. Look at ESPN for example, they have the rights to the FIFA World Cup and they have drawn good ratings from that tournament that is coming from a sport that is not as popular as the 4 major North American sports. It would be much easier to draw more viewers from a channel that is easily accessible and well known, I think bringing in any of MLB’s TV partner will draw more interest and viewership such as ESPN and Fox.
This is another one of these tournaments that takes place during the preseason and it’s difficult for people to get interested in baseball during spring training. When the NHL brought back the World Cup of Hockey in 2016, that also took place during the preseason. As much as I love Olympic hockey I just never found any interest in the World Cup. It also didn’t help that USA had a poor performance and didn’t win a single game. But the timing of the tournament in my opinion plays a big factor. There’s always a buzz for Olympic hockey or basketball because the Winter Olympics is held during hockey season and the Summer Olympics is held during the NBA off season not too far after the conclusion of the playoffs. I can’t get hyped up for a baseball tournament when a single regular season game hasn’t been played.
I mentioned marketing the tournament before, I think the lack of baseball marketing it’s own players definitely takes a hit. It’s the one sport where the best players should get more face time but baseball is so old school that the casual fan has no idea who are the best of the best. I can bet there’s a good amount of casual sports fans out there who have no idea who Mike Trout is. I had to look up who’s on the USA roster for this year’s WBC and as somewhat of a hardcore baseball fan we are looking pretty stacked and should definitely contend for gold in this tournament. If you follow the other sports when it comes to international play, there will be a decent amount of coverage leading up to the tournament. The FIFA World Cup always kills it and I personally love watching that tournament during the summer when there’s only one other sport going on. Timing, marketing, and coverage is what the World Baseball Classic could use if they want to make it a major tournament that people can care about. I mean if Team USA makes it to the finals and wins the entire thing will people even care at that point? It remains to be seen. The US hasn’t won this tournament yet, but we have to realize it’s still a relatively new tournament. I probably wouldn’t invest into this tournament unless Team USA makes a deep run. Right now I’m too invested in the Bruins, Celtics, NFL free agency, and soon enough March Madness.
Throwback to the last WBC in 2013 when Team USA apparently made a run to the semifinals: