The World Baseball Classic: Far From ‘Irrelevant’

Along with the highest viewership numbers in all of baseball history have come the inevitable critics.


Brayden Mathias

The World Baseball Classic has drawn fierce opinions from online commentators.

Brayden Mathias, Editor-In-Chief

The 2023 World Baseball Classic began on March 7th. Over the next three weeks, the tournament drew some of the highest viewership numbers for any baseball games in history. As teams and players across the world battled each other for the right to claim the champion title, some sports commentators came down hard on the tournament. Well known commentator Keith Olbermann called it “meaningless.”

Meanwhile a Twitter user with almost 520,000 followers going by @KFCBarstool called the tournament “irrelevant”:

Despite these critiques, the tournament has achieved some truly staggering viewership statistics. 

According to, the WBC Championship averaged a 42.2% audience rating in Japan – and peaked at 46% during the last at-bat, as Shohei Ohtani and Mike Trout faced off. Meanwhile, in the US, the game averaged 5.2 million viewers. The combined viewership of the two countries makes it likely one of the most-watched baseball games in history.

Around 62 million people watched Japan’s victory over rival South Korea, more than any Major League Baseball game in history by millions. 

According to Front Office Sports, 62% of Puerto Rican households had TVs on to watch their team beat dominant rival the Dominican Republic.

Along with making its World Baseball Classic debut, the Czech Republic recorded its most-viewed baseball broadcast as 240,000. According to, Czechs watched their team of amateur players – who regularly work as anything from firefighters to teachers, and sales managers to neurologists – compete against powerhouse and eventual champions Japan.

According to Forbes, both Mexico and Taiwan saw viewership increase by more than 100% since the last WBC: to 103% and 151% respectively. 

Despite the viewership statistics, critics of the tournament also pointed to the potential risk for injury as an example of its pointlessness. This came following New York Mets’ closer Edwin Diaz tearing his patellar tendon in his knee while celebrating Puerto Rico’s win over the Dominican Republic on March 15th. Critics have latched on to the fact that he recently signed a massive $102 million contract for the next five years, and now will not be able to play this MLB season. 

Other critics argue that this criticism is trivial, since players risk injury during spring training too. Just over a month ago, on February 27th, the Los Angeles Dodgers shortstop Gavin Lux tore his ACL running the bases – ending his 2023 season before it even started.

These types of spring training injuries, although unfortunate, are not rare. In 2011, Adam Wainwright injured himself and required Tommy John surgery, a normally devastating surgery. In 2001 Ken Griffey Jr., arguably one of the greatest baseball players ever, injured his hamstring in spring training, which led to a string of other injuries that derailed his career. 

Many players say they believe in the importance and meaning of the WBC despite the risk of injury.

“Playing in the WBC means just as much to all of us. It is the dream of every Puerto Rican ballplayer to wear Puerto Rico’s colors and to represent our country. And not only Puerto Ricans, but every player in the WBC considers being here the ultimate honor,” said Diaz’s teammate and fellow Puerto Rican Francisco Lindor per ESPN. “Of course, we don’t want injuries to happen, but it is part of the game. And they are things that can happen just anywhere.”

“There’s no reason the stars should not be playing in this,” agreed Team USA and St. Louis Cardinals third baseman Nolan Arenado according to USA TODAY Sports Major League Baseball columnist Bob Nightengale. 

Nightengale  Team USA and Philadelphia Phillies shortstop Trea Turner called his go-ahead grand slam against Venezuela the biggest hit of his career, and said he’d never heard a louder crowd than the one that night. 

“This is the best moment in my life,” tournament MVP and MLB superstar Shohei Ohtani told Reuters following Japan’s championship win. 

“I knew it was going to be a fun time, but I never knew it was going to be this fun,” said Team USA’s Mike Trout during a press conference with fellow Team USA player Mookie Betts, who echoed Trout’s statement on the fun and special atmosphere of the tournament.

“I encourage those who are watching to come join and play for team USA because this is a lot, a lot, a lot of fun,” said Betts.