Why hasn't the WBC caught on in the U.S.?

The World Baseball Classic (sort of a baseball World Cup) has started…to strong indifference from American fans and media. Yet from what I understand the event is very popular in Asia and Latin America. Why hasn’t the US embraced the event?

Because we have the World Serious instead.

Few of our best players play in it.

Well, the contraction in the American TV availability (from ESPN to MLB Network) for this year hasn’t helped.

But I think there’s just something about international competition that Americans don’t usually feel, especially when the USA team in this event has mostly underperformed. It’s really a shame; some of the best baseball of the year is going on this month. Dozens of players you know are in it; the champion San Francisco Giants alone have about eight guys involved.

Venezuela/Dominican, Thursday evening, should be a good one. Check it out.

Have you SEEN the U.S. roster? Willie Bloomquist? They couldn’t find another infielder who could outperform a 2.1 WARover TEN YEARS?

Most Americans regard the WBC as a set of meaningless exhibition games, NOT as a serious tournament.

Most Twins fans would be happier if Joe Mauer skipped the WBC entirely, and they’ll be LIVID if he gets hurt during a WBC game and has to miss any “real” games.

I wonder if WBC is anything like American Football overseas?

They’re similar in the broad general sense that Americans are as uninterested in the WBC as Europeans are in American football… but that’s still not an apt analogy.

The big difference is, the NFL was trying to sell Europeans on a sport they’d never paid attention to or cared about. But Americans DO like baseball. The WBC’s problem is that even Americans who love baseball can’t be bothered to watch the WBC.

They’re all just games–none of them mean anything, apart from what we assign them. Why do most players and fans in most other countries take international competition so much more seriously?

Japan also has few of its top players playing for their national team. If it were really a baseball equivilent to the world cup, Matt Wieters would be challenging Buster Posey for the US catcher position, and Joe Mauer would be on the outside looking in. Likewise, Hisashi Iwakuma would be trying holding off over-the-hill Daisuke Matsuzaka for the Japanese ace spot, witth Yu Darvish and Shohei Otani nipping at their heels.

Nobody takes Olympic soccer seriously.

Attempting a semi-serious, no citations, answer - it’s probably because the rise of international sport required the era of mass transport to become possible but this coincided with an era in which the USA was one of, if not the, world superpower. A lot of other countries view sport as an opportunity to win bragging rights. The USA has never needed to win bragging rights on a sporting field during the era in which international sports became big business.

It is, to some extent I think, telling, that the big international sports victory in US history is probably the Miracle On Ice. It’s a great story, amateurs beating pros and all that. But it was also a victory that probably meant something more because it was against the Soviet Union at a time when the US was perceived to be on the back foot in the Cold War (i.e. before Reagan ramped things up in the early to mid-80s). As a result, and I am speculating here, given I wasn’t born at the time and am not American, the victory in that international sporting event was of great significance because it comes with bragging rights. It made people feel better.

Contrast with Brazil, which for a great many years has not been internationally significant - but their population were always able to say, at least we’ve got the national football team.

If/when the US starts to decline from the top table of the international sphere (and I won’t be holding my breath for this), it may well be the case that beating China, Brazil, India and the like, in medal tables or at international competition, will be seen as more important.

It also doesn’t help, of course, that America has at least one favourite sport that is not played to any real standard anywhere else in the world and has cornered the market in several other sports by having a higher standard professional league than international competition can provide. A general observation I have of American sports fans is that they don’t want to watch inferior product on the field*, so why bother investing in international competition when the better product is produced domestically?

*An example of this is that a poorly performing team in the US will lose fans and attendances will decline - a poorly performing team in the UK may see similar but more likely may still sell out because fans get behind the team when they’re not performing well - though this may just be a function of the promotion/relegation structure of the leagues in the UK.

You know, I like baseball, but even I get enough baseball in the MLB regular season. By spring training, I’m just about ready to get back into the game after the winter. I don’t really need to go looking for more baseball outside of US baseball.

This is also the reason that the “World Basketball Championship” was pretty much ignored in the USA until pros were allowed - and even then, it started becoming a case of “who doesn’t want to risk ruining their NBA career for a tournament where the only real prize is not having to go through the next Olympic qualifying tournament and an outside chance of making the next Olympic team.” (In fact, while USA won 8 of 11 “amateurs only” Olympic basketball tournaments since 1945 (and two of the three it didn’t win were the controversial 1972 final and the 1980 boycott), USA won only two of the 11 world championships in that period, one of which included an NBA-drafted player (David Robinson, who had been drafted by San Antonio but was still eligible because he had not finished his Navy commitment).)

This was going to be my answer. Fans of a sport tend to prefer the highest level of play locally available to them. For a European soccer fan this will be their domestic leagues and things like the UEFA Champions League and perhaps Euro/World Cup. For a baseball fan in American it’s MLB.

For Latin American baseball fans the WBC is likely some of the highest level of baseball they have access to, and many of their domestic heroes play for their national teams.

oLympic soccer is an U-23 tourney with 2 overage players allowed. And less teams than allowed at the WC.

But WBC games are not like MLB games. That’s the whole point, from my perspective (an American baseball fan who likes the tournament very much). However many games “enough baseball” is for you, I think you’re better off with some of them being WBC.

The only thing I could think of that WBC could stand for (on seeing the thread title) was Westboro Baptist Church and was like, of course it hasn’t caught on. They’re a bunch of bigots that everyone hates!

American baseball fans - like me - have been conditioned all our lives to believe that the final score of baseball games played during the month of March just don’t count. The games are important as to who makes the team and how guys are qualitatively playing, but the final score just doesn’t matter. Scores don’t matter until April, everyone just knows that.

Besides not having the best players playing, the players aren’t in top condition yet.

Furthermore, I think most fans believe the tournament is not designed very well. In the first round each team plays one game against the other three teams in its group. And somehow we’re to believe that this can select the best two teams to advance? First off two of the teams get 2 home games and the other two only get one. Second, a very good team in baseball wins about 60% of it games in MLB. You could be that good and go 1-2 or 0-3 more than 35% of the time and not advance. Finally, the group could end up 3-0 1-2 1-2 1-2 or 2-1 2-1 2-1 0-3 and you have to use some tie breaker to decide on advancing.

Or Canadian. I feel the same way.

I like the WBC conceptually, but having baseball in March is a jarring thing. It just feels like something tacked onto spring training, and the fact that several major baseball powers don’t send their best squads really reinforces that.

Contrast the apathy towards the WBC with the absolute fanaticism with which hockey fans watch Olympic hockey. Why the difference?

  1. Because the Winter Games happen, duh, in winter, which is when you’re supposed to play hockey, and

  2. Because the Olympic squads are the best their countries can send. You’re not going to see better hockey teams, ever. Canada didn’t send just whomever was available to the Olympics; they sent Sidney Crosby and Shea Weber.