Detroit Tigers News

Detroit Tigers: 2021 World Baseball Classic nixed by COVID-19

LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 22: Manager Jim Leyland #11 of the United States, talks to the team in the locker room after winning the 2017 World Baseball Classic at Dodger Stadium on March 22, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 22: Manager Jim Leyland #11 of the United States, talks to the team in the locker room after winning the 2017 World Baseball Classic at Dodger Stadium on March 22, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images) /
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Overshadowed by the news of MLB owners looking to reboot training camps in June with a July target for Opening  Day, the word came down on Monday the 2021 World Baseball Classic would be canceled.

The priorities of the baseball world are changing seemingly on a daily basis. The World Baseball Classic has now been knocked down a few rungs on the baseball ladder with Olympic baseball possibly on for ‘21 after its postponement this coming summer.

There appears to be no real appetite for the baseball world to attempt to put on two high profile international events in ‘21. The Olympics were probably the easiest choice to support in the next year. Baseball and softball are slated to return to the Olympic rostrum of events after a three Olympic cycle layoff. The Olympic tourney is also not a multi-national venue event.

The WBC, on the other hand, would require not only juggling games on two continents in three countries but also a hasty re-scheduling of a qualifier event for the last four spots that were already a COVID 19 casualty. Given the uncertainties of international travel looming over the next few months, it’s a legitimate worry.

It’s fairly easy to see how MLB, with all the other scheduling issues plaguing the sport right now, would decide the modestly popular WBC event would need to sit in hiatus until possibly 2023. Add in professional leagues in Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan probably feeling some relief to get the WBC temporarily off its schedule as they run their own leagues and prep for an Olympiad held in their backyard.

The ‘21 WBC would have been the event’s 5th running and the first with the USA as the defending champion after the Team USA triumph in 2017. Japan (two titles) and the Dominican Republic had been previous champions.

The ‘21 event was to be the first to have 20 nations represented. A primary goal of establishing the WBC as an elite international championship was to grow the sport globally on Europe, Africa, and China among other areas. This is slowly coming along but any effect the WBC is having will now wait until ‘23 with the torch being passed (sorry!) to the Olympics next year.

For fans of the WBC, it will be a small blow to their enjoyment of competitive baseball in March of next year. The WBC gives baseball fans a dose of truly competitive games with something at stake as a substitute every four years to watching meaningless Spring Training exhibitions.

Many North American baseball fans also enjoy watching early AM WBC games being played in Asia for a few days as an alternative to Hoda, Savannah, and Al on The Today Show.

Certainly, the eyes of the baseball world are keenly fixed still in the summer of 2020 to see if MLB can find a way to salvage a season and still keep its players, employees, and fans safe from the Coronavirus. Progress seems to be forging forward.

If an MLB season can be saved, that will likely gloss over the sadness of the NCAA season, possibly all MILB baseball, the Cape Cod League and many other amateur summer baseball loops, European baseball championships, American Legion baseball, The Little League World Series, state high school seasons, the Olympic delay, and now the WBC among several others leagues and events that have fallen by the wayside via the pandemic’s full force.

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