World Baseball Classic: Better than Major League Baseball?

Caption: Trea Turner celebrates with Team USA after hitting go-ahead grand slam HR vs. Venezuela.

By Ryan Harless

Ryan Harless is a third-year undergraduate at BGSU from Hillsboro, Ohio. He is majoring in Sport Management with a Journalism Minor. Baseball and golf at all levels are his primary interests but he is also interested in combat sports, hockey, basketball, and football.

March 21, 2023

With the World Baseball Classic (WBC) fully underway we have gotten to see some of the most exciting baseball available today. More people are watching the WBC games than any World Series game ever.

Team USA vs. Great Britain averaged 1.6 million viewers, South Korea vs. Japan averaged 2.7 million, Chinese Taipei’s viewership in the first round was up 151% from the last WBC in 2017.

As a comparison of popularity between the WBC and MLB moments, Shohei Ohtani’s WBC homer off the scoreboard already had 7.5 million views on Twitter (as of March 19). Aaron Judge’s record-breaking 62nd homer only has 4.5 million views and that is months older. Trea Turner’s crucial go ahead grand slam in the WBC amassed 7 million views on Twitter in just 15 hours.

In terms of TV viewership, the South Korea vs. Japan game was watched by nearly 70 million people. The 2022 MLB World Series got 12 million. 62% of homes in Puerto Rico watched their game against the Dominican Republic.

For years, baseball fans like myself have heard that baseball isn’t marketable or that the kids just don’t like baseball anymore. We have dealt with changes made to the game in attempts to make the game “faster and more marketable”.

The WBC has done a great job of proving all of that wrong. The WBC isn’t adhering to MLB rule changes. The teams can use a defensive shift, there is no pitch clock, and the bases are the usual size. Believe it or not, these games have been incredibly exciting to watch.

As I mentioned in a previous article, we are getting to see these players in rare form. They are all having fun with the game. This very well could be as close as we ever get to seeing Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani in playoff baseball and they are getting every bit of excitement out of it.

When watching the games, you might also notice that it isn’t just the players having a blast, but also everyone in the stadium. Fans behind the backstop are imitating the umpire anytime there is a strikeout. Trea Turner said that his grand slam was the biggest home run of his career and that it was the loudest crowd he has ever played before.  

This tournament has only proven that MLB has no clue what they need to do to make baseball a popular mainstream sport again.

Now, of course every regular season game isn’t going to command a million fans. But when the culmination of your entire season is getting blown out of the water regularly by a tournament that only happens every four years, you’re doing something wrong.

Going into this tournament, Shohei Ohtani was by far the most popular MLB player in the world. Since the start of the WBC, he has more than doubled his followers on Instagram, gaining over 1.36 million since the beginning of March.

I believe that MLB is going about improving their game the wrong way. Outside of Ohtani, I really doubt that there is any one player that a majority of the population knows.

The NFL has Partick Mahomes, the NBA has LeBron and Curry, even the NHL has Ovechkin. Who does MLB have that is not only marketable but HAS been marketed in a beneficial way for the league?

I feel that MLB is in a very weird period of time. Attendance for MLB is dropping rapidly and is down by around 15 million just since 2007. If the numbers don’t begin to improve in the next few years, I really have no clue how they can turn things around.

The WBC has proven that baseball is still fun, and also that MLB isn’t the only viable option for good professional baseball. I thoroughly enjoy watching Korean Baseball Organization (KBO) games because the crowds are super into it and the games are just fun. Major League Baseball has a problem with fun and the WBC has made that evident.

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