Before the rigorous MLB season begins March 30, the world came together for the fifth iteration of the World Baseball Classic. It produced exciting baseball, capped by Tuesday night’s epic 3-2 win by Japan over the United States.
According to Jon Morosi of MLB Network, a Spanish journalist told him the WBC was “like the World Cup.”
The event was a hit with fans around the world. Per Front Office Sports, the pool play game between Japan and South Korea drew 62 million viewers in Japan alone. Per The Athletic, last year’s World Series on Fox averaged 11.78 viewers.
Of course, it helps to have the best of the best playing in the tournament.
For Team USA, its top players — potential Hall of Famers Mookie Betts (one), Mike Trout (three) and Paul Goldschmidt (one) — have combined for five MVPs. The United States also had Trea Turner, one of the best shortstops in the game. In the WBC, he slashed .391/.440/1.043 with five HRs and 11 RBIs, including the go-ahead grand slam in the quarterfinals against Venezuela.
Japan had its heavy hitters, too, led by the two-way phenom Shohei Ohtani. Teammate Masataka Yoshida, who signed a five-year deal with the Boston Red Sox in the offseason, led the tournament with 13 RBI and played stellar defense.
The WBC had a downside, too. Edwin Diaz, the closer for the New York Mets, suffered a torn right patellar tendon during the celebration after Puerto Rico defeated the Dominican Republic. He is expected to miss the upcoming season.
Houston Astros second baseman Jose Altuve was hit by a pitch during the Venezuela-U.S. quarterfinals game. Per ESPN, he will miss at least two months.
If these players weren’t playing in the WBC, they’d be playing in spring training, where there is also a risk of injury. Gavin Lux of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Brandon Nimmo of the Mets suffered injuries in Spring Training games, with Lux expected to miss the entire season.
Yankees second baseman Gleyber Torres, who played for Venezuela, relished playing in the event.
“The WBC is amazing,” he said, per Bryan Hoch of MLB. “It’s another level. The crowd, the fans, the energy — when you play in those situations – it’s just unreal.”
It’s clear that the WBC is a big deal for fans and players. The games were electric. The event will be held again in 2026 and brings the baseball world together. What a fabulous showcase for the sport.