2:00pm: The WBC will be pushed back to March 2023, pending the approval of the tournament board, tweets Joel Sherman of the New York Post.
12:44pm: The fifth World Baseball Classic, which had been set to take place in March 2021, has been canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic and will not be played, Enrique Rojas of ESPN Deportes reports. There’s no official word on the tournament’s cancellation or when it will next take place, although Hector Gomez of Z101 Deportes in the Dominican Republic tweets that it could perhaps take place in 2023.
The 2021 WBC was slated to expand from 16 teams to 20 teams and would have taken place across three countries: the United States (Marlins Park and Chase Field), Japan (Tokyo Dome) and Taiwan (Taichung Intercontinental Stadium). Japan won the first two WBC tournaments, with the Dominican Republic taking the crown in 2013 and the United States capturing the first-place trophy in 2017.
All 16 of the entrants in 2017 were granted automatic bids this time around, while a series of qualifier tournaments comprised of teams from Panama, Nicaragua, Brazil, the Philippines, Germany, Great Britain, France, the Czech Republic, Pakistan and South Africa were slated to vie for the four newly created seeds.
Given that the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo were already pushed back a year and still remain in jeopardy even on that delayed timeline, it’s not particularly surprising to learn that the WBC won’t take place as scheduled. Still, it’s a disappointing blow for fans of the tournament. While it never reached the same levels of popularity in the United States, the WBC is wildly popular among fans in Latin American and Asian countries that participate. As Daniel Kim of MBC in South Korea tweets, the Korean team’s deep run in 2006 and 2009 helped to spur a baseball renaissance in South Korea that has led to steady growth in the KBO and increased popularity since that time.
In the United States, with a title to defend and an aggressive recruiting pitch from reigning tournament MVP Marcus Stroman that had elicited interest from the likes of Walker Buehler, Pete Alonso, Mike Clevinger and others, it’s possible we might’ve seen the strongest iteration of Team USA yet in 2021. Sadly, that no longer seems to be realistic, and WBC fans will have an indefinite wait for the next event as the organizing committee charts out a new course.