MLB commissioner Rob Manfred says WBC on solid ground
TOKYO (AP) The commissioner of Major League Baseball on Tuesday denied reports that 2017 would be the last edition of the World Baseball Classic, saying the tournament is as popular as ever.
The fourth edition of the tournament run by MLB and the players' association began in Seoul on Monday. Japan will kick off its campaign on Tuesday against Cuba at Tokyo Dome.
Media reports in the U.S. suggested the 2017 tournament would be the last because of a lack of revenue. MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said nothing could be further from the truth.
''The WBC will be broadcast in 182 countries,'' Manfred said in Tokyo. ''This will be a $100 million event over this brief less than two-week period. From Day 1, while it was a profitable event from the beginning, it has really grown in terms of its revenue significance and it's popularity around the world.''
Japan won the tournament in 2006 and 2009 with a full complement of major league players, including Ichiro Suzuki, Yu Darvish and Daisuke Matsuzaka. But those big names sat out the 2013 version won by the Dominican Republic and Japan will field a team this year with just one major leaguer - Norichika Aoki of the Houston Astros.
Without its best players, the United States has failed to finish better than fourth.
The WBC comes at a time when MLB players are reporting for spring training. Many players are hesitant to risk injury in the WBC.
Buster Posey, Giancarlo Stanton and Andrew McCutchen are some of the more prominent MLB players on this year's U.S. team, which will be coached by Jim Leyland.
''This year there was a particular focus on making sure the rosters were as strong as possible,'' Manfred said. ''The U.S. squad in particular has a compliment of players that is stronger than what we've seen in the past and that adds to the event. The more we have the best players in the world, the more popular the event is going to be.''
MLB has not committed to taking part in the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo and Manfred said he doesn't anticipate any change to that stance.
''You know, no matter how you put the event together, there would be a significant number of major league players who would be away from their team,'' Manfred said. ''It would alter the competition in what I have already characterized as our every day game. I do not believe that our owners would support some sort of break in our season. Continuity is key to our competition.''