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Don’t look now, but World Baseball Classic is around the corner

World Baseball ClassicIt’s still a year out, but planning is well underway for the 2013 World Baseball Classic — and already there’s grumbling about the process in countries like Canada and Japan.

The World Baseball Classic, held every four years during spring training, was designed by Major League Baseball as a showcase and an alternative to the Olympics, with pro players representing their home countries in competition. While the baseball could be all over the place, there was the saving grace of seeing someone like an Ichiro Suzuki lead Japan to a 2009 title in front of more than 56,000 fans at Dodger Stadium.

But behind the scenes, getting to the actual WBC games is a lot more chaotic process than you’d think. Money is always an issue, with countries wanting more to participate than MLB wants to pay: to date Japan has not committed to participating in the 2013 tourney because of financial issues. We’re guessing it’s more than a little difficult to budget for these games: With Canada playing at Rogers Centre and both Japan and Korea playing at Dodger Stadium, large crowds are assured. Substitute Germany for Canada and the Netherlands for Japan, and all of a sudden the revenue picture is quite different.

Those substitutions could happen. The tourney requires countries to play in, and the players used in the play-in tourneys are not the same players as the major leaguers who show up in the March. Baseball Canada will need to scramble to put together a qualifying squad and won’t have the likes of Erik Bedard, Brett Lawrie and Joey Votto on the field for the September qualifying rounds: the roster will be put together hastily this summer and feature a lot of minor-league players whose season ends on Labor Day. The very real prospect that a Canadian team might not qualify for the WBC is causing some concern in Baseball Canada offices — and probably among those running the WBC as well.


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