Enrique Rojas of ESPN Deportes was first to report Tuesday afternoon—and several others have since confirmed—that the next World Baseball Classic has been pushed back. Instead of March 2021, the tournament will be rescheduled for either 2023 or 2025, per Bob Nightengale of USA Today.
This WBC was set to include teams from an all-time high 20 countries, with 16 of them already qualified based on their participation in the 2017 event. The other four were to be determined by play-in tournaments last March, but both of those got cancelled on short notice due to COVID-19 concerns. In addition to that, the upcoming Summer Olympics in Tokyo were recently postponed until 2021, complicating the logistics for baseball players hoping to do both.
Marlins Park hosted high-stakes WBC games in 2013 and 2017. They drew raucous, capacity crowds, particularly when the United States and Latin American countries were involved.
In 2021, however, Little Havana would’ve truly been the epicenter of the tournament. Seeking to bring that “electric passion and energy” back, Marlins CEO Derek Jeter joined WBC president Jim Small in February in announcing that the ballpark would be used for games in all three rounds, including all the semifinals and finals action.
In 2021, the World Baseball Classic is coming back to Miami, where it belongs, this time for ALL THREE ROUNDS pic.twitter.com/DgqG5FVdPb— Fish Stripes (@fishstripes) February 25, 2020
The Marlins saw the WBC as the perfect international showcase for the dramatic renovations that they’ve made to the facility since the team ownership change. First, they switched up the color scheme and relocated the tacky home run sculpture. Then this past offseason, they reduced the outfield dimensions and replaced the natural grass with a highly rated artificial turf product. The quality and variety of concessions have also been upgraded.
Moreover, this would be a unique revenue stream to offset some of those renovation expenses. Based on his experience with the previous tournaments, former Marlins president David Samson estimates that the Fish are missing out on $4-6 million in profits this time around. A “crushing financial defeat,” Samson says.
Before COVID-19, the Marlins were eyeing 2021 as the opening of their “window of contention,” the first season since the rebuild began that they could realistically approach with expectations of a playoff berth. But these recent developments are a substantial setback. Between the social distancing policies that will limit fan attendance, the unresolved status of their regional television deal and now the WBC postponement, Jeter and Co. won’t have the same appetite to spend aggressively on top free agents to plug roster deficiencies.
It will be fascinating to cover their “Plan B” here on Fish Stripes.