World Baseball Classic
The World Baseball Classic (WBC) is an international baseball tournament sanctioned from 2006 to 2013 by the International Baseball Federation (IBAF) and after 2013 by the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) in partnership with the Major League Baseball (MLB). It was proposed to the IBAF by Major League Baseball (MLB), the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA), and other professional baseball leagues and their players associations around the world. It is one of the two main senior baseball tournament sanctioned by the WBSC, but the only one which grants to the winner the title of "World Champion".
|Most recent season or competition:|
2017 World Baseball Classic
World Baseball Classic logo
|No. of teams||16 (finals)|
It previously coexisted with Olympic Baseball (until 2008) and the Baseball World Cup (until 2011) as IBAF-sanctioned tournaments, but baseball has not been on the Olympic program since 2008, after it was voted out by the International Olympic Committee in 2005. The final men's Baseball World Cup was held in 2011, and was discontinued in 2013, after an MLB sugestion to reorganize the international baseball callendar, WBSC accepted the sugestion after an executive meeting, giving the "World Champion" title for the WBC winner, on the condition that the Classic should have direct qualifications and follow international anti-dopping rules.
The tournament is the first of its kind to have the national teams of IBAF's member federations feature professional players from the major leagues around the world, including Major League Baseball. In addition to providing a format for the best baseball players in the world to compete against one another while representing their home countries, the World Baseball Classic was created in order to further promote the game around the globe.
After a three-year gap between the first two installments of the tournament, plans were made for the World Baseball Classic to be repeated every four years following the 2009 event. The third installment of the Classic was held in 2013, and the fourth was held in 2017.
Modeled after the FIFA World Cup and organized in large part as a response to the International Olympic Committee's decision to remove baseball as an Olympic sport in 2005, the WBC has grown into a major sporting event worldwide, though to a lesser extent in the United States. In fact, the final series in 2006 and 2009 rank among the highest-rated sporting events in Japanese television history.
The 16-team field for the inaugural 2006 tournament was pre-selected, featuring the countries judged to be the "best baseball-playing nations" in the world; no qualifying competition was held. The tournament format featured round-robin group play in the first and second rounds, followed by single-elimination semifinals and finals. The first game in WBC history saw South Korea defeat Chinese Taipei 2-0 before a crowd of 5,193 at the Tokyo Dome on March 3, 2006. South Korea went on to advance to the semifinals with a 6–0 record but lost to Japan (a team South Korea had beaten twice in the earlier rounds) for a berth in the final game. Meanwhile, Cuba defeated the Dominican Republic in the other semifinal. Japan then defeated Cuba 10–6 to be crowned the first champion of the World Baseball Classic.
The 2009 tournament featured the same 16 teams as 2006, but the controversial round-robin format from 2006 was replaced by a modified double-elimination format for the first two rounds (the semifinals and final game remained single-elimination). The eight teams advancing from the first round were the same as in 2006, except for a "Cinderella" performance by the Netherlands, which twice defeated the Dominican Republic to reach the second round. In the semifinals, South Korea defeated Venezuela while Japan defeated the United States. Japan then emerged victorious for the second straight Classic, winning the final game over South Korea 5–3 in 10 innings.
The buildup to the 2013 tournament included a qualifying round for the first time, with the four lowest finishers from 2009 having to re-qualify against 12 additional teams. This resulted in two new nations making their first appearances in the WBC, as Brazil and Spain respectively replaced Panama and South Africa. The round-robin format was revived for the tournament's first-round, while the second-round remained double-elimination. Italy was the biggest surprise in the early stages of the tournament, making it to the second round with wins over Canada and Mexico. The tournament ended in an all-Caribbean championship game, with the Dominican Republic defeating Puerto Rico, which had upset two-time champion Japan in the semifinals. The Dominican Republic also became the first (and to date, only) team to go undefeated (8-0) through the tournament.
The 2017 tournament returned to the format used in 2006, where both the first and second rounds were round-robin, though with the addition of tiebreaker games if needed. Colombia and Israel qualified for the first time, with Israel, using a roster mostly of Jewish American players, able to reach the second round in its WBC debut. Defending champion Dominican Republic extended its WBC winning streak to 11 games, dating to the 2013 tournament, before also being eliminated in the second round. The United States won its first WBC championship, defeating Japan and Puerto Rico in the semifinals and finals, respectively. Puerto Rico had been undefeated in the tournament before losing in the final, in game where its most important pitchers were not allowed to play due to WBC rules. In semifinals, Puerto Rico defeated Netherlands in a historic 4+ hour-game, while the United States defeated Japan in an unusually short game.
The first two iterations of the Classic featured the same 16 teams, chosen by invitation. A qualifying round was added leading into the 2013 tournament and takes place in the year before the WBC proper. The top 12 finishing teams from each WBC are automatically entered in the next edition, while the four lowest finishers (the teams that finish in last place in their first-round pools) are relegated to the qualifying round. Qualifying consists of four four-team modified double-elimination tournaments, with the winners earning the last four slots in the main tournament. The addition of qualifying has so far allowed four nations (Brazil, Colombia, Israel, and Spain) from outside the original 16 to compete in the WBC.
|Year||Final host||Final||Semifinalists||Number of teams|
|Champions||Score||Runners-up||3rd place||4th place|
After the conclusion of each WBC championship game, players from the losing team receive silver medals, followed by the winners receiving gold medals. The third-place team receives bronze medals at a separate date. The WBC does not hold a third-place playoff, so the ranking of the third- and fourth-placed teams is determined by the WBSC.
|Totals (7 nations)||4||4||4||12|
Performance of nations
A total of 20 nations have competed in the WBC proper, with 14 appearing in all four editions. Japan has been the most successful, as the only nation with multiple WBC titles (2006, 2009), the nation with the most wins in WBC play (23), and as the only nation to reach the championship round in all four WBCs. The Dominican Republic owns the best overall winning percentage in WBC games at .750 (18-6 record), bolstered by its 8-0 mark en route to the 2013 title. A surprising first-round elimination in 2009 stands out as the Dominican's only poor showing. If qualifying rounds are included, Israel also has a .750 winning percentage (9-3 record), with a 4-2 record in the WBC itself.
Along with Japan, three other nations have advanced to at least the second round in all four WBCs: Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the United States. The US posted an underwhelming 10-10 overall record through the first three WBCs, with only one appearance in the semifinals. The Americans broke through in 2017, going 6-2 on their way to their first WBC title. Cuba lived up to its history of strong international play by reaching the finals of the inaugural WBC in 2006 before losing to Japan. However, subsequent Cuban teams have failed to make a significant mark on the tournament, making three straight second-round exits and going just 2-7 in second-round games since 2009. Meanwhile, Caribbean rival Puerto Rico made consecutive appearances in the WBC finals in 2013 and 2017, albeit losing both, and stood second to Japan for the most all-time WBC wins (20) after the 2017 tournament.
The Netherlands, South Korea, and Venezuela have been other countries to reach the championship round. Other teams to have reached the second round at least once are Chinese Taipei, Israel, Italy, and Mexico. Conversely, of the 14 teams to appear in all four tournaments, three have never made the second round: Australia, Canada, and China.
Most Valuable Player
The most significant award for individual performance during the tournament is the Most Valuable Player Award. Whichever player wins it receives a trophy after the final. The inaugural winner of the award in 2006 was Japan's Daisuke Matsuzaka, who pitched 13 innings and finished with a 3–0 record. Soon after this performance, Matsuzaka received a multimillion-dollar contract to join the Boston Red Sox of America's Major League Baseball. Again in the 2009 World Baseball Classic, Matsuzaka received the world classic MVP, finishing with a record of 3–0 and an ERA of 2.54. In 2013, Robinson Canó won MVP after hitting .469 with two home runs and six RBI over the course of the tournament. Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Marcus Stroman took home the award in 2017 for the United States. Stroman posted a 2.35 ERA over three starts and no-hit Puerto Rico through six innings in an 8-0 win in the Finals.
|2006||Daisuke Matsuzaka||Starting pitcher|
|2009||Daisuke Matsuzaka||Starting pitcher|
|2013||Robinson Canó||Second baseman|
|2017||Marcus Stroman||Starting pitcher|
At the end of each edition of the World Baseball Classic, an all-star team is selected based on their play in the tournament. Three pitchers, eight other position players (one each at each position, including three outfielders), and a designated hitter are named to the team. Japanese pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka and Puerto Rican catcher Yadier Molina are the only players to be named to the All–WBC team twice.
Overall, players representing 10 different countries have been named to an All-WBC team, with Japan and Puerto Rico leading the way with nine representatives each.
The winning team of each World Baseball Classic is rewarded a large silver trophy as its primary recognition. The two trophies earned by Japan during the inaugural and second classics have been on display at the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame.
Rules of play
In addition to the standard rules of baseball, the World Baseball Classic employs the following additional rules:
A pitcher cannot pitch more than:
- 85 pitches per game in the Qualifying Round (all tournaments since 2013, when this round was introduced)
- 65 pitches per game in the First Round (all tournaments except 2009, in which the limit was 70)
- 80 pitches per game in the Second Round (all tournaments except 2009, in which the limit was 85)
- 95 pitches per game in the Championship Round (all tournaments except 2009, in which the limit was 100)
A pitcher can still finish a batter's plate appearance even if the limit is reached, but must come out after completing the plate appearance.
A pitcher cannot pitch until:
- a minimum of four days have passed since he last pitched, if he threw 50 or more pitches when he last pitched
- a minimum of one day has passed since he last pitched, if he threw 30 or more pitches when he last pitched
- a minimum of one day has passed since any second consecutive day on which the pitcher pitched
Games are called if one team is ahead by:
- 10 or more runs after any complete inning, beginning with the completion of the seventh inning, or;
- 15 or more runs after any complete inning, beginning with the completion of the fifth inning
Mercy rules do not apply during the championship round.
The designated hitter rule applies for all games.
Starting with the 11th inning, teams automatically start with runners on first and second base. The baserunners are the players in the two batting order positions previous to the leadoff batter for the inning (or substitutes called in to pinch-run for those players).
Video replay review
During the first and second rounds, video review is available only for "boundary" calls, such as determining whether a potential home run ball was fair or foul, did or did not clear the fence, or was interfered with by a fan. Such reviews can only be initiated by the umpires and cannot be requested by the teams. For the championship round, video review is available for all situations it would be during a Major League Baseball regular season game.
Unlike regular season play, where the number of runs by which a team wins a game is not relevant, the number of runs by which a WBC team wins may be relevant if a tie later develops in the standings. This caused problems during the 2013 WBC, where one game spawned a bench-clearing brawl between the Canadian and Mexican teams (Canadian hitter Chris Robinson had bunted for a base hit after Canada had already taken a large lead, causing Mexican pitcher Arnold Leon to throw three consecutive pitches at the next hitter, Rene Tosoni).
Eligibility and participation
- The player is a citizen of the nation the team represents.
- The player is qualified for citizenship or to hold a passport under the laws of a nation represented by a team, but has not been granted citizenship or been issued a passport; in this case, the player may be made eligible by WBCI upon petition by the player or team.
- The player is a permanent legal resident of the nation or territory the team represents.
- The player was born in the nation or territory the team represents.
- The player has one parent who is, or if deceased was, a citizen of the nation the team represents.
- The player has one parent who was born in the nation or territory the team represents.
In 2006, many high caliber players from both Major League Baseball and in leagues around the world participated in the World Baseball Classic. Amongst the players that made the All–WBC team were Americans Derek Jeter and Ken Griffey Jr. From Japan, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Ichiro Suzuki and Tomoya Satozaki were on the team. Other internationals included players from Cuba—Yulieski Gurriel, Yoandy Garlobo and Yadel Martí; and from the Dominican Republic—Albert Pujols, Pedro Martínez and José Bautista. The 2009 Classic saw a similarly high-profile field, with a number of players such as Hall of Famers Pedro Martínez, Iván Rodríguez and Chipper Jones and the major international debuts of Cuba's Yoenis Céspedes and Aroldis Chapman.
For the 2013 tournament, many high-profile players decided not to participate, including key players from the 2009 Japanese team such as Yu Darvish, Ichiro, and Hisashi Iwakuma. However, other prominent players came, such as Miguel Cabrera, David Wright, R.A. Dickey, Joey Votto, Adrián González, Robinson Canó, and José Reyes, among many others.
In 2017, former All-Stars such as Adam Jones, Chris Archer, Buster Posey, Paul Goldschmidt, Andrew McCutchen and others played for the United States. For the Dominican Republic, former All-Stars Adrián Beltré, Robinson Canó, Manny Machado, José Reyes, Edinson Vólquez, and more participated. Adrián González played once more for Mexico, and Yadier Molina and Carlos Beltrán represented Puerto Rico alongside up-and-coming stars such as Javier Báez, Carlos Correa, and Francisco Lindor. Venezuela's roster included José Altuve and Miguel Cabrera.
Involvement of professional leagues
The tournament was announced in May 2005 by Commissioner of Baseball Bud Selig. Major League Baseball had been attempting to create such a tournament for at least two years; negotiations with the players' union (MLBPA) and with the team owners had held the plan back. Owners, notably New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, had been concerned about their star players being injured in international play before the beginning of spring training, and the professional season. This was a concern for the MLBPA as well, but their primary objection was with drug testing. MLB wanted the stricter Olympic standards in place for the tournament, while the union wanted current MLB standards in place. Eventually, a deal was reached on insurance for player contracts and a fairly tough drug testing standard. MLB teams would not be able to directly block their players from participating.
Similarly, Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) and its players' association had a disagreement over participation in the tournament. While the owners initially agreed to the invitation, the players' union was concerned about the time of year the tournament was scheduled to take place, as well as their right to be better represented for the 2009 tournament. On September 16, 2005, after four months of negotiations, NPB officially notified the IBAF and MLB they had accepted the invitation. In September 2012, after having threatened to boycott the event despite its domestic popularity, Japanese players agreed to take part after reaching a compromise with tournament organizers on sharing sponsorship and licensing revenue.
Though the first two World Baseball Classic finals were shown on ESPN in the United States, the entire 2013 tournament was shown exclusively on MLB Network domestically. MLB Network also had the television rights for the 2017 Classic. Also at the moment, ESPN Deportes provides Spanish-language coverage and ESPN Radio has audio rights for the Classic. Sportsnet is the current broadcaster in Canada while ESPN America covers the tournament for the United Kingdom, Ireland and other parts of Europe.
Unlike comparable tournaments the FIFA World Cup and FIBA Basketball World Cup where one country hosts the entire event, each WBC has used multiple hosts spread around different parts of the world. Thus far, seven different nations have hosted at least one WBC pool, with each edition of the tournament featuring games played in Asia, Latin America, and the United States. The championship round is traditionally held at Major League Baseball stadiums in the U.S.
Host cities are listed with the number of WBC rounds they have hosted in parentheses. Each year is then listed along with the round hosted: 1st, 2nd, or Championship.
- Tokyo, Japan (5): 2006 1, 2009 1, 2013 2, 2017 1, 2017 2
- San Juan, Puerto Rico (4): 2006 1, 2006 2, 2009 1, 2013 1
- San Diego, California, U.S. (3): 2006 C, 2009 2, 2017 2
- Miami, Florida, U.S. (3): 2009 2, 2013 2, 2017 1
- Los Angeles, California, U.S. (2): 2009 C, 2017 C
- Phoenix, Arizona, and Scottsdale, Arizona, U.S. (2): 2006 1, 2013 1
- San Francisco, California, U.S. (1): 2013 C
- Anaheim, California, U.S. (1): 2006 2
- Lake Buena Vista, Florida, U.S. (1): 2006 1
- Mexico City, Mexico (1): 2009 1
- Toronto, Ontario, Canada (1): 2009 1
- Fukuoka, Japan (1): 2013 1
- Taichung, Taiwan (1): 2013 1
- Seoul, South Korea (1): 2017 1
- Guadalajara, Mexico (1): 2017 1
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