World Baseball Classic deserves attention: While We’re Waiting

Sports Illustrated

I hope everyone is watching the World Baseball Classic. Drudging through March Spring Training baseball can be such a slog, but not so every fourth year. The excitement brought forth by playing for their country brings out the true spirit of competitive baseball. Even better, it is the ONLY time that professional players from Italy, the Netherlands, China, Korea, and Japan can demonstrate their capabilities against those from MLB. The entire event is wonderful and the 2017 edition has had no shortage of close games and dramatic finishes.

There are complaints about the tournament that continually arise. Some are worried about injuries (Kansas City Royals catcher Salvador Perez injured his knee playing for Venezuela) though injuries can happen in Spring Training too (Jason Kipnis anyone?), and MLB teams have strict usage rules on the pitchers they lend out. Others complain about the gimmicky runners on first and second base to start innings 11 and beyond that has happened a whole grand total of once thus far (doesn’t belong in MLB but I’m not going to worry about it in an international tournament). Still others bemoan that the players are non-representative of the country on their uniform due to some rather lax rules. Team Israel has made it to the second round utilizing almost entirely American-born Jews. I’m not sure I understand why it is bad for the game or the tournament. People of Jewish faith seem to be rallying around that team throughout the United States and back in Israel.

Those complaints are missing the point. The WBC has embraced multi-culturism to the fullest degree. There are bat flips, dog piles, chanting fans, drums, flags flying, and more throughout each contest. Having half of the Round 1 games in Miami has also allowed many of the Carribean island fans to travel to add an extra element of fervor. Due to the other half of the games being in Asia, baseball fans in America have had games on when they wake and games on at night. It has been wonderful.

On Tuesday night, a true treat was watching Puerto Rico take on the Dominican Republic. The Ricans had never defeated the Dominicans in the WBC. In fact, no one had defeated the Dominicans since 2009. Both of those changed as Puerto Rico won, 3-1. It was a game filled with intensity and highlight plays including a play at the plate in the first inning.


Plenty of flair was happening at this game as Javi Baez even went no-look with the tag.

Ken Rosenthal had a great piece on the joy of the tournament. Please read the whole thing but his closing captures why the WBC is needed.

Tradition is both baseball’s biggest advantage and greatest burden; players routinely celebrate big plays in football and basketball, and hardly anyone blinks. Maybe the lesson of the WBC is that we need to recalibrate our standards, for fan behavior, for player behavior, for the way we view the sport.

Less judging. More acceptance. More joy.

The Dominican fans have been the most raucous thus far. They were loud for Canada and Nelson Cruz had high praise for them after the game against the United States. I haven’t seen a statement from him yet after Tuesday, but both sides seemed to top anything outside October baseball in decibals.

“Thursday was loud,” said Cruz, referring to the Dominican’s opening game against Canada. “But today was unreal.” (in reference to the game against the United States)

Carlos Rondon also noted that the WBC has all of the emotions flowing through him.

Rondon to join Team Venezuela for the second round of the World Baseball Classic .

“I feel it’s going to be intense for me, and exciting, too,” said Rondon, the former Cubs’ closer. “I feel like the adrenaline is going to be like playing in the World Series.”

Rather than continue to type why you should be watching the WBC, I’m going to just show you.

Israelis are learning just how complicated baseball rules can be.

Lots of ways to show spirit for one’s country including with golden plantains. Yes, a player keeps it in his pants for good luck.

Kippahs are worn during Israeli anthem.



Seems like every game had a late inning rally.

Fans enjoy it.

Miggy helping punch a ticket with a 9th inning bomb to tie Italy.

Let’s not deny Italy a highlight of their own with a spin-cycle double play.

Team Israel is not impressed.

WBC is pro-bat flip.

Respect the Dominicans and their exuberance.

You think these guys care? Seems like they care.

Yeah, I’d adjust my cup after that one too.

I believe Terry Francona found his Jason Kipnis injury replacement.

Did I mention the WBC was pro-bat flip? Even better, it is so pro-bat flip that it is only a single if you hit the ball off the wall.