The World Baseball Classic: Upsets, history, results, and critiques


ウィ貴公子 on Wikimedia Commons

The World Baseball Classic was an overwhelming success across the globe, despite scattered criticism.

Sam Dare, Staff Writer

With the conclusion of the 2023 World Baseball Classic, the defending champions, Team USA, were knocked off by Japan. Shohei Ohtani struck out his MLB teammate Mike Trout with a nasty slider on a full count in the top of the ninth to secure Japan’s 3-2 victory over the United States. 

This marks the third time Japan has won the WBC since its inception in 2006, in only five installments. The United States has one win, and the Dominican Republic also has one. 

Team USA fell short this year despite their impressive talent, assembling potentially the greatest roster ever, consisting of numerous MLB superstars. Japan won with a roster mainly consisting of NPB players, the Japanese pro baseball league. They also had a few MLB players: Lars Nootbaar, Yu Darvish, Masataka Yoshida, and the phenom Ohtani. 

Japan finished the WBC fully undefeated, not losing at any point from the group stage until the final. Japan’s dominance in the WBC is remarkable considering that the US is viewed as the top country in baseball.

Not only was the final exciting, but this WBC was also the most popular tournament so far. The tournament garnered over 1,000,000 fans to the stadiums, a 98% increase from the previous tournament. Over 44% of Japanese households watched the final, despite it taking place at 8 AM in Japan. In the United States, the final was the most-watched WBC game ever. Taiwan and Mexico saw more than a 100% increase in viewership for the tournament. Merchandise sales also spiked by 149%.

But despite all of this positive momentum for the tournament, it has its critics. When Edwin Díaz, MLB superstar and starting pitcher for the Puerto Rican national team, went down with an injury during a postgame celebration in the WBC, baseball fans held their breath. When it was revealed to be a torn patellar tendon and that he would be out for the season, many fans were upset. 

Many critics say that the tournament pales compared to the importance of the MLB and that if players get hurt in it, it is a liability and a danger to player safety. Simply put, an unnecessary risk.

It cannot be overstated how incorrect and disingenuous this argument is. By the same logic, Spring Training should be banned, as players get hurt severely in it every year, and it doesn’t impact the regular season. Astros star José Altuve will miss over 60 games for a broken thumb sustained in Spring Training. Phillies star Rhys Hoskins will be out for the entire season with a torn ACL, also sustained in Spring Training. There are countless others who have experienced this as well. 

Critics also argue that the WBC doesn’t matter compared to the MLB, and that would only be true if all the baseball fans in the world were American. Instead, this is every nation in the world’s main chance to see their country represented internationally for baseball (outside of Japan and the United States, the only countries with significant established leagues). The stands for every game were packed with people supporting their home country passionately. Numerous players themselves have said a WBC final win would be more important to them than a World Series win. 

This passion for the tournament is not just limited to international players and fans. The vast majority of MLB fans support the tournament, to be clear. American MLB superstars like Mike Trout and Trea Turner have already said they will instantly rejoin the team for the next WBC if invited and that it is the most fun they’ve ever had playing baseball.

Overall, the World Baseball Classic was a smashing success, breaking viewership records, audience records, and merchandise sales records. Every player involved was overjoyed with how it went, and fans across the world were glued to their screen. Despite what the critics say, the next World Baseball Classic in 2026 will be eagerly anticipated by everyone.