The World Baseball Classic will be back in 2026, and it figures to be played in March again, Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred said on Tuesday.
Speaking ahead of the WBC final between the United States and Japan in Miami, Manfred confirmed that the event will remain on its every-three-years plan and is unlikely to be moved to a different part of the calendar.
The event started in 2006 and was played every three years until the 2020 edition was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. The WBC was expanded from 16 to 20 teams this year.
While compelling games and star players have created interest, many U.S. pundits have called for the WBC to be moved to a later point in the calendar — such as the midseason All-Star break — to maximize potential viewership. The current edition is in competition with the men’s and women’s NCAA Tournaments.
Manfred said, “We have talked about timing until your head hurts. There’s just no perfect time. You can’t really do it after the playoffs because so many have (not been playing for a few weeks). We have talked about something in the middle of the season. I think on balance, although it’s not perfect, this is probably the right place for it.”
Among other topics Manfred touched on:
The WBC will not continue to expand in an attempt to rival soccer’s World Cup, according to Manfred.
“I don’t foresee or actually want the tournament to be bigger than our traditional format,” Manfred said. “The World Series is always gonna be the World Series, and I don’t see it as an either-or proposition. This is a different kind of competition. We do it to grow the game and internationalize the game.”
Injuries to MLB players
As for complaints about players such as New York Mets closer Edwin Diaz and Houston Astros second baseman Jose Altuve getting hurt during the WBC, Manfred said that the participants have been so enamored with the experience that they are shrugging off such concerns.
“Maybe the best testimony to it, after the unfortunate injury Diaz had, how the players came out and spoke in support of the tournament,” Manfred said. “It’s an indication that they really, really care.”
Starting pitcher participation
While most WBC lineups were loaded with talent, the same cannot be said about the starting rotations. With MLB teams concerned about protecting arms and the pitchers that do take part placed on tight inning restrictions, many of the game’s best arms opted not to play in the event.
“It’s great the guys that we have,” Manfred said, “but I’d like to see pitching staffs that are of the same quality as our position players.”