Manfred: WBC a success
More than 1 million attended tourney’s fourth edition.
Even before the United States took the field to face Puerto Rico for the World Baseball Classic championship Wednesday night, Rob Manfred was confident in declaring this sometimes troubled tournament to be a smashing success.
The Major League Baseball Commissioner’s confidence seemed well-founded when the Americans claimed their first WBC title in grand style with an 8-0 victory at raucous Dodger Stadium.
The fourth edition of the WBC was the best-attended, most-viewed worldwide and likely the most entertaining.
And this tournament’s long-term health is undeniably improved by the fact that the home team won it all for the first time.
“We’ve had crowds that not only were record-number crowds, but had passion that it’s hard to think where you saw something that good the last time,” Manfred said shortly before the first pitch. “Just really amazing. And best of all, the games on the field have been absolutely unbelievable, compelling. Our players at their best, combined with a little nationalism, has really been a great thing.”
Manfred and players’ union head Tony Clark appear to be in complete agreement on the success of the 2017 WBC, which attracted more than 1 million fans for the first time and expanded its television reach as a unique worldwide platform for the game. Even before the enthusiastic worldwide reception and the U.S. team’s winning surge at home, the WBC was expected to top $100 million in revenue this year for the first time, according to organizers.
No deal is in place, but Manfred and Clark are confident there will be a fifth WBC, most likely in 2021 after baseball returns to the Olympics in Tokyo in 2020.
“I think when you have a tournament that gets the kind of traction that the 2017 edition did, it will make it easier to get players the next time around,” Manfred said. “Not only for the U.S., but for all the countries.”
The robust ratings for MLB Network’s game broadcasts and the raucous crowds of costumed, singing fans in Los Angeles and Miami belied the WBC’s biggest problem, one that still prevents a dwindling number of American fans and players from taking it seriously.
“I don’t mean this to sound wrong, but for the most part, up until this point, the other countries were probably into this event a little bit more than the United States,” U.S. manager Jim Leyland said. “But
in talking to our players, I know they’re going to spread the word. I’ve had some players already tell me this is the greatest experience of their life.”
Mariners: Optioned 1B Daniel Vogelbach to Triple-A Tacoma, making Danny Valencia the everyday first baseman when the regular season begins. Vogelbach struggled in spring training, hitting .228. Taylor Motter will be the backup at first base.