While we currently have no word for a baseball regular season from the MLB and the MLBPA, the COVID-19 pandemic is already forcing events to be canceled in 2021. As announced by Enrique Rojas of ESPN, the 2021 World Baseball Classic will not be held as scheduled. The tournament was set to expand to a record 20 teams and be held in three countries (Japan, Taiwan, United States) from March 9-23 next year.
“The tournament was canceled. It is not the priority right now,” a source told Rojas.
The WBC is a collectively bargained event that requires approval from MLB and the MLBPA. Since the MLB season is the obvious priority, and because the current collective bargaining agreement expires in December 2021, Rojas reports the WBC may not return until 2023.
The 2020 Tokyo Olympics were postponed until the summer of ‘21 because of the pandemic. Baseball and softball were scheduled to return to the Olympics this year following a 12-year hiatus. Two major global tournaments in one year may not be feasible not only for MLB, but professional leagues in Asia and elsewhere in the world as well.
Sixteen teams had already secured a berth in the 2021 WBC: Australia, Canada, China, Chinese Taipei, Colombia, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Israel, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Korea, Mexico, Puerto Rico, United States, and Venezuela.
Arizona was scheduled to host a qualifying event in March, but was swiftly postponed following Spring Training due to the pandemic. Brazil, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Great Britain, New Zealand, Panama, Philippines, Nicaragua, Pakistan, South Africa, and Spain were among the teams vying for spots.
The WBC showcases the top talent in the world in a best-on-best tournament and is part of MLB’s efforts to grow the game globally. Japan won the 2006 and 2009 events before the Dominican Republic won the 2013 title. The United States beat Puerto Rico in the 2017 WBC.