World Baseball Classics and Olympics Could Clash in 2021

With the corona virus playing havoc on the world stage the Olympics being held in Tokyo, Japan moved to 2021. While the World Baseball Classic (WBC) will be held in March 2021 and the Olympics in June of 2021 there are still some issues.

Many of the Asian countries postpone their season to compete in the Olympics, if their teams qualify. Japan, the host of the Olympics is one team that has qualified. Korea, Mexico and Israel are the three other qualifying countries. Two additional Olympic qualifiers need to be played to determine the other participants for a total of six countries competing. Dates for those events have not been set yet, with the last qualifier dependent on the date of the next to last qualifier.

The WBC was hoping to expand to four additional countries, increasing the number of countries competing to 20. Two qualifiers were supposed to be played in March to identify those additional four countries. They had to be postponed because of the corona virus and no new dates have been established.

Because Japan will be starting early to make up for the days in their season lost to the Olympics, their season will begin in March. Just like the major leagues, they have their best compete in the WBC. But unlike the major leagues, they also have their best compete in the Olympics. So they may either have to send college or industrial league players to compete in the WBC in March or NPB teams will have to sacrifice doing without during the NPB season those players selected to the WBC roster. Just like the major league owners, I doubt the NPB owners will allow their players to compete in the WBC during the season.

While the WBC is organized by the major leagues, they rely heavily on the advertising money Japan sponsors contribute to the event. If the Japan professionals are not playing in this event, the advertising money will not be as great. As we all know, money talks. And since Japan is hosting the Olympics, that will take priority over the WBC even though in the past Japan has hosted many of the events at the WBC. There has always been some rancor over their lack of influence in the WBC.

One challenge for Japan and their hosting WBC games is those games are played at NPB stadiums. If those stadiums are not available it will become difficult for them to host games. That would either involve major scheduling revisions, which they are already doing for the Olympics, or playing at stadiums that normally do not have NPB games.

Another issue facing the WBC is at what point do they identify the other four teams to compete. The 16 they have already identified were easy to select since they did not eliminate any country from the previous WBC. To identify the new participants they will have to conduct these tournaments in November if they want to have teams eligible for March, and the major leagues has never been fond of holding events in November, especially this year if the major and minor league season need to be extended.

The other complicating issue is again the corona virus. Teams have not been able to practice. There is still a lot of uncertainty about when this pandemic will end. Many are of the view that organized sports may not be able to begin until November. This will make it difficult for teams to prepare for a qualifier for the WBC if those time frames prove realistic.

It is also still not clear what kind of team Korea will bring if they move their season openers in 2021 to March to accommodate the Olympics. They are another country that plays on postponing their professional season for the Olympics. Since they are not hosting the Olympics they may still be willing to send their best to the WBC and either shorten their season or extend the season into November. With the corona virus issues they have already been talking of extending the 2020 season and having playoff games at neutral sites at baseball parks with domed stadiums. Doing it again in 2021 may not be attractive if they had issues in 2020.

Not that myworld has any influence, but it might be wise for the WBC to push their event back to 2022.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.