Who won the world baseball classic ? The 2023 World Baseball Classic wrapped up Tuesday night with Shohei Ohtani and Japan taking down the United States for the title. Japan has now won three of the five World Baseball Classics since the event started in 2006. The United States was trying to defend its 2017 title, but came up short and scored just two runs in the title game.
What is the World Baseball Classic?
The World Baseball Classic, or WBC, is the top men’s baseball international tournament. It is run by Major League Baseball (MLB) and its Player Association, under the auspices of the sport’s official global governing body for international competition, the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC).
The WBSC also runs the WBSC Premier12, another men’s international tournament in baseball featuring the top 12 teams based on its world rankings. But the WBSC features more teams – 20 as of this year’s edition – and also gives teams from around the world the chance to qualify for it.
When and where is the World Baseball Classic 2023?
Four cities will host games in 2023: Taichung, on the island of Taiwan (Taichung Intercontinental Baseball Stadium); Tokyo, Japan (Tokyo Dome); and two American cities – Phoenix, Arizona (Chase Field), and Miami, Florida (loanDepot Park).
Round-robin games in each location have a staggered start, with play in Taichung starting on March 8, 2023 before games get underway in Tokyo a day later. Pool play begins on March 11 in the two U.S. locations.
Quarter-finals take place in Tokyo and Miami, before the Championship Round (semis and final) at loanDepot Park.
World Baseball Classic teams for 2023
For the first time, 20 teams will participate in a WBC – up from 16 previously. This has resulted in a change of format too. At the last tournament in 2017, the top two teams from each of the first round pools advanced to a second round-robin stage. However, with an additional first-round game per team, the second round has now been pared back to a single-elimination one-off quarter-final game for each of the eight teams in this round.
The 20 teams participating in 2023 are:
- Pool A: Chinese Taipei (host), Netherlands, Cuba, Italy, Panama
- Pool B: Japan (host), Rep. Korea, Australia, P.R. China, Czech Republic*
- Pool C: United States (host), Mexico, Colombia, Canada, Great Britain*
- Pool D: Puerto Rico, Venezuela, Dominican Republic, Israel, Nicaragua*
How often is the World Baseball Classic and when’s the next WBC?
The World Baseball Classic has been held at irregular intervals through its history. The inaugural edition was held in 2006 and was won by Japan, which defended the title three years later in 2009.
The tournament then switched to a four-year cycle, with editions in 2013 and 2017. However, the Covid-19 pandemic meant that the edition due to be held in 2021 was cancelled and replaced with the one this year in 2023.
After this year’s event, the next World Baseball Classic is scheduled for 2026. Before then, a WBSC Premier12 – not expected to involve MLB players, but which may feature prospects and top Japanese NPB and South Korean KBO stars – is due to take place in 2024.
The Tournament Was a Smashing Success
There typically isn’t a whole lot of interest in baseball during the month of March.
Perhaps this is a statement that doesn’t need fact-checking, but it’s all there on GoogleTrends. Since 2004, baseball-related searches have typically peaked in October and July. And not uncoincidentally, given that the former houses Major League Baseball’s playoffs and the latter is when the league’s frenzied trade deadline goes down.
Is this all because of the World Baseball Classic? Well, correlation doesn’t necessarily equal causation…but yes.
The numbers coming out of the World Baseball Classic paint really are astounding. Take, for example, how just the first round of the WBC saw a 98 percent increase in attendance from the previous iteration six years ago in 2017. Over a million fans showed up, which is more than the Miami Marlins and Oakland Athletics drew to their stadiums all year in 2022.
As for TV viewership, the picture there is not yet complete. But courtesy of Front Office Sports, we know that the contest between Japan and Korea on March 10 drew 62 million viewers just in Japan. That’s more than the most watched World Series game in history, pointing to the possibility that the final showdown between Japan and Team USA will have drawn even more viewers.
The World’s Best Players, Having the World’s Most Fun
It wasn’t all good. Freddie Freeman hurting his hamstring sucked. Jose Altuve breaking his thumb sucked even more. Edwin Díaz tearing his ACL sucked the most.
But while such things are indeed responsible for launching a thousand hot takes in the moment, they’re probably not going to be what most people remember about the 2023 World Baseball Classic in the long run.
It certainly deserves to be remembered as the most star-studded WBC to date, if for no other reason than it was a proper showcase for the player who actually is the two-way superstar that Babe Ruth only is in legend. Ohtani was a no-brainer for the tournament’s MVP award, as his clinching save comes paired with a 1.345 OPS as a hitter and a 1.86 ERA as a pitcher.
That Ohtani was Japan’s best player is indisputable, but not to be lost sight of is that they also had an even more accomplished pitcher in Yu Darvish, maybe the best pitcher on earth in Roki Sasaki and, in Munetaka Murakami, a slugger who won the danged triple crown in Nippon Professional Baseball in 2023.
It’s also not as if Japan had it easy against this particular version of Team USA. Trout was flanked in the lineup by fellow MLB MVPs Mookie Betts and Paul Goldschmidt, the latter of whom was instrumental in recruiting players for what looked at the outset like an even better club than the one that won the WBC in 2017.
“I feel like the hype is a little bit higher this time around than it was in 2017. There’s more guys that want to do it,” said Nolan Arenado, who, along with Goldschmidt, also played on the ’17 club.
The upping of the ante could be similarly felt with other rosters, including a Dominican Republic squad that at one point had Manny Machado, Juan Soto, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Rafael Devers and Julio Rodríguez set to anchor “the best lineup ever.” Mexico gathered an unfair foursome of starters. Cuba missed out on Yordan Álvarez and José Abreu, but was able to get Yoan Moncada and Luis Robert Jr.
And so on and so on down the line until every possible explanation for why this year’s tournament felt so incredibly star-studded is covered. And in the end, what really mattered is that it played as such. The games were great and there was something entertaining happening seemingly every other minute.
How about Ohtani dang near hitting his own face with a home run at the Tokyo Dome? Or throwing his fastest pitch ever? Or Joey Meneses with his epic bat flip? Or José De León spearheading a not-quite-perfect game? Or Randy Arozarena striking the perfect pose after robbing a home run? Or the aforementioned walk-off by Murakami? Or Trea Turner hitting not one, not two, not three, not four but five home runs, including the go-ahead grand slam that put Team USA in the semifinals?
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