Friday, December 2, 2016

WBC schedule released; Jalisco opener on March 9

The dates and game times for the 2017 Baseball World Cup have been released. Guadalajara will be one of the four Pool play host cities (along with Seoul, Tokyo and Miami) for the 16-team event.

Mexico will host Italy, Venezuela and Puerto Rico in Pool D at Estadio de Beisbol Charros de Jalisco, opening on Thursday, March 9 when they take on Italy at 9PM Eastern time.  In all, there will be six round-robin contests over four days in Guadalajara, followed by a Mach 13 play-in game for the WBC's semifinal round should two national teams tie for first place after three games apiece:

THURSDAY, March 9
9:00PM ET  Italy vs. Mexico

FRIDAY, March 10
9:00PM ET  Venezuela vs. Puerto Rico

SATURDAY, March 11   
3:00PM ET  Venezuela vs. Italy
9:30PM ET  Puerto Rico vs. Mexico

SUNDAY, March 12   
3:30PM ET    Italy vs. Puerto Rico
10:00PM ET  Venezuela vs. Mexico

MONDAY, March 13 
 9:00PM ET  Play-in game (if needed)

Ticket prices have not been announced.

This will mark the WBC's first appearance in Mexico since 2009, when Mexico City hosted Cuba, Australia and South Africa in Pool B play at Foro Sol.  A total of 92,665 attended the six contests for an average of 15,444 per game.  That figure will not be reached in Guadalajara, where Estadio Charros has 13,000 permanent seats for Mexican Pacific League baseball (although the venue could be expanded with extra seating in the outfield).

As the WBC approaches, however, discussion around the event (first played in 2006) has turned to its long-term viability.  The brainchild of former Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig was intended to build interest in baseball on a global basis.  Although the WBC has not harmed the sport's growth internationally, attendance at games has been spotty at best, particularly in Pool play.  While games involving the host nation have at times drawn more than 30,000 and Final Four tilts typicall top the 40,000 mark, those involving non-host nations routinely have fewer than 20,000 people in the stands and it's not unusual to see fewer than 10,000 at the ballpark.  Overall, the WBC has averaged just over 20,000 per game in 2009 and 2013 but the latter tournament saw gatherings of just 4,478 and 5,140 for the first two Pool games in Phoenix while the Pool in Taipei was positively embarrassing, with fewer than 1,500 souls rattling around Intercontinental Baseball Stadium for the three games not involving Taiwan's team.

BBM reader Chris Kabout in Amsterdam forwarded us a story from the Dutch Baseball Hangout site discussing how MLB and their partners will move forward after 2017, quoting a tweet from ESPN Deportes' Cristian Moreno: "I've been told by multiple sources related to World Baseball Classic the 2017 possibly final edition unless legit $$$ earnings come."

PERSONAL OPINION TIME: Revenue will always be a concern for any worldwide sporting event, but may perhaps make more sense for WBC organizers to streamline the event to reduce costs. I believe the WBC could fit into a six-day window by replacing the current 16-day schedule allowing for three days of double-elimination Pool play doubleheaders at four sites, followed by one travel day for Pool winners, one day of semifinals and one day for a championship game at the same venue.  Chris added that AAA ballparks would be suitable for most future Pool play games and I agree.  What's the need for 45,000 seats if over 30,000 of them are empty?