Recently, MLB and the WBC (World Baseball Classic) announced that the tournament would be expanded from 16 to 28 teams. This has led to a lot of discussion on the internet in the past few days, so I wanted to put in my two cents.
The goal of the WBC is to expand baseball across the world. In order to do so, baseball needs to be played at a higher level in more countries. The best way to accomplish this is to get more countries involved in big events like the WBC, especially with the Olympics gone for the time being.
I have read a few articles saying that they are only diluting the playing field, and in order to put the best product on the field they need to only include the top notch programs. I couldn’t disagree more, but maybe that is because I want to see baseball expanded across the globe.
By inviting new countries to participate, you give them more motivation to put together a quality program. Sure some countries aren’t going to compete for the gold in 2013, but neither will some of the countries that were invited in 2009. Replacing a South Africa with a Nicaragua might be a step up in the long run. Even just by adding more teams like Nicaragua, Colombia, or Germany the competition level for the lower echelon teams will be fierce. They will have to improve their teams in order to continue to compete.
We have already seen what a country like The Netherlands can do. They were the Cinderella team in 2009, and I can easily see someone like a Germany, Spain, or Nicaragua doing the same in the future. So why not give them the chance.
The argument that you are diluting the tournament is only an insult to any of these countries. Let them show the world what they can do. I think a few will surprise people. What better way to increase the spread of baseball in Europe than with an upset victory for a Germany or Spain over a powerhouse like Cuba or Japan. Something needs to spark the interest of the fans in these countries in order to further the expansion of our great game.
I only hope that the national media in the respective countries will take hold of the stories and help create some buzz for the game. The baseball truly has a chance to keep expanding and growing worldwide.
So I welcome the decision with open arms. I am excited to see some of the countries that were invited, and I hope to see more in the future (Argentina for example). It will not happen over night, but hopefully one day the WBC will truly be a world event with any country able to qualify through various events. This is only a step in the right direction for what is in store down the road.
I’d love to hear your thoughts. Do you like the expansion? Do you feel a certain other country should have been included? Let’s hear your thoughts on it all.
Eric Bynum is Managing Editor here at BaseballdeWorld. He spent three years as an ESL teacher in South Korea, and is now working on his master's degree in history with a focus on baseball and WWII. He has played and/or written about baseball for the past 30 years and is an avid Atlanta Braves fan.