Since Spring Training is still a couple days away I want to take this moment to praise the World Baseball Classic (WBC). As I have written before, I am a fan of this international pro baseball tournament. I think it’s fun. I thin it’s good for the game. And, I think It’s great to see players play for their flag and not their club teams or for their own stats. It’s something innocent, in theory and I love it.
Let me share something with you. For those of us not born in the USA (like yours truly) you always keep a little home town/home country pride. When your country gets a chance to face the American juggernaut in an international sporting competition, it always means something special and it becomes a chance to root for your nation’s colors.
The tournament for the 2023 edition begins on March 8 and opens in Taiwan with games to be played in Tokyo, Miami, and Phoenix. Major League Baseball operates World Baseball Classic tournament. It began in 2006 and has a very interesting history with ties to the International Baseball Federation (yes, it exists) and other organizations like the International Olympic Committee. The previous four champions were Japan, Japan, Dominican Republic, and the USA.
This year’s version was originally scheduled for 2020 but we all know what happened in that year.
Here are some interesting rules made especially for this year’s tournament (courtesy of the Wikipedia page I linked to above):
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). Organizers put this rule in place starting with the 2009 tournament, although originally, it didn’t come into effect until the 13th inning. The intention behind the rule is to help ensure extra-inning games end in as timely a manner as possible, reducing the chance of seeing marathon extra-inning games that place undue strain on players, particularly pitchers. As no extra-inning games in either the 2009 or 2013 WBCs reached the point where the rule came into play, it took until the 2017 WBC for it to affect a game’s outcome. There were three such games in 2017, and all three were decided in the 11th inning.
Those Against the WBC
I hear the worries and the groans. I know a player can get injured and lose out on a MLB season. It’s happened before and it will likely happen again. But here’s the gist: Baseball, like basketball, has a chance to be another great American sport made global. If professional baseball is to thrive in the future, and it could, we need the WBC as part of that process. Plus, the uniforms and caps are cool!