And WBC can be even better in ’26
By Ken Reed
Originally published by Troy Media
I watched the entire Japan vs. USA World Baseball Classic (WBC) championship game, and it was one of the best baseball games I’ve seen in terms of intensity, drama and pure fun. Shohei Ohtani vs. Mike Trout was the perfect way to end what was a very successful WBC, on and off the field.
Television ratings and overall excitement levels in Japan and Mexico were off the charts. U.S. TV ratings were also up significantly for the WBC compared to prior years. And consider the following social media tidbits:
• Nine of MLB’s top 10 most-liked tweets of all time came from the 2023 World Baseball Classic.
• Ohtani’s strikeout of Trout to win the WBC is MLB’s most-liked tweet ever, with 200,000 likes. That’s 170,000 more than their most popular non-WBC tweet (Astros 2022 World Series).
• Fox’s tweet about Japan’s WBC Championship win had 275,000 likes in 36 hours.
• Their previous record was just 20,000 likes, and their top 35 most-liked tweets all came during the last two weeks of this year’s WBC.
Despite all those positives, I have an idea that I think could take the WBC to the next level and create Super Bowl, World Cup and Olympics-type excitement.
Finding the best time to hold the WBC has been an issue from the start. It remains the primary challenge for the WBC.
Here’s my plan for WBC 2026:
Play the early rounds at multiple sites in March – just like this year — and then have the semi-finals and finals during the All-Star break. No All-Star game that year, two semi-final WBC games and the championship game in that five-day MLB break. Most players and pitchers would be in prime form. And it wouldn’t require a long break in the middle of the MLB season, as it would if the entire tournament was held in July.
In terms of the economics, every MLB team, as well as professional teams from other countries, would get X per cent of total WBC revenues. Organizations with players in the Final Four would get bonus revenues for each player from their organization in the Final Four (more money if their players make the final game.) The players themselves would also get bonuses if they play in the Final Four of the WBC.
Ratings for a World Baseball Final Four (there’s time to work on a better, more original name) would be through the roof. I think MLB, as a whole, along with worldwide baseball associations and organizations, would love a revised version of the WBC, such as what’s proposed here, as it would be the ultimate marketing vehicle for the game of baseball on a global basis. The burst in baseball’s popularity resulting from WBC 2026 would, in turn, feed interest in baseball and boost ratings for MLB moving forward. I would venture to guess the same would hold true for professional baseball leagues in other countries.
Finally, I think the MLB Players Association (as well as the players in other leagues) would also be on board, as the players who participated in this year’s WBC have returned to their countries and teams with strong positive feelings about this year’s WBC.
Baseball has traditionally been slow to make any significant changes. However, the sport has recently overcome that history by implementing multiple rule changes for this season. Similarly, compared to other sports, baseball’s marketing efforts have been lacking through the years and pale in comparison to what football, basketball and hockey have done from a business perspective. But baseball’s power brokers have a chance to change that history by creating a WBC Final Four during the traditional All-Star break in 2026.
Will baseball actually consider doing something progressive when it comes to the next WBC? Here’s hoping so.
— Ken Reed is sports policy director for League of Fans, a sports reform project. He is the author of The Sports Reformers, Ego vs. Soul in Sports, and How We Can Save Sports.
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Episode #29 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The Honorable Tom McMillen Visits League of Fans’ Sports Forum – McMillen is a former All-American basketball player, Olympian, Rhodes Scholar and U.S. Congressman, and has a long involvement with the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sport (now called the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition). We discuss the state of college athletics today, given the pressures of NIL, the transfer portal, sports gambling and huge media contracts. McMillen then provides great perspective on the poor state of physical fitness our young people are experiencing today.
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Episode #28 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: A Chat With Mano Watsa, a Leading Basketball and Life Educator – Watsa is President of PGC Basketball, the largest education basketball camp in the world. We discuss problems in youth sports today.
Episode #27 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Kids’ Sports: How We Can Take Back the Game and Restore Quality Family Time In the Process – Linda Flanagan is author of “Take Back the Game: How Money and Mania Are Ruining Kids’ Sports and Why It Matters.” We discuss how commercialized and professionalized youth sports are hurting kids and their families.
Episode #26 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: How Can We Fix Youth Sports? – John O’Sullivan is Founder and CEO of Changing the Game Project and author of “Changing the Game: The Parents Guide to Raising Happy, High Performing Athletes and Giving Youth Sports Back to Our Kids.”
Episode #25 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Physical Education Should Be a Critical Component of K-12 School Design – Michael Horn is co-founder of the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation.
Episode #24 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Mental Health and Athletes: Ending the Stigma – Nathan Braaten and Taylor Ricci are the founders of Dam Worth It, a non-profit created to end the stigma around mental health at colleges and universities through sport, storytelling, and community creation.
Media"How We Can Save Sports" author Ken Reed appears on Fox & Friends to explain how there's "too much adult in youth sports."
Ken Reed appears on Mornings with Gail from KFKA Radio in Colorado to discuss bad parenting in youth athletics.
“Should College Athletes Be Paid?” Ken Reed on The Morning Show from Wisconsin Public Radio
Ken Reed appears on KGNU Community Radio in Colorado (at 02:30) to discuss equality in sports and Title IX.
Ken Reed appears on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour (at 38:35) to discuss his book The Sports Reformers: Working to Make the World of Sports a Better Place, and to talk about some current sports issues.
- Reed Appears on Ralph Nader Radio Hour League of Fans’ sports policy director, Ken Reed, Ralph Nader and the New York Times’ Tyler Kepner discussed a variety of sports issues on Nader’s radio show as well as Reed’s updated book, How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan. Reed's book was released in paperback in February, and has a new introduction and several updated sections.
League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.
Vanderbilt Sport & Society - On The Ball with Andrew Maraniss with guest Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director for League of Fans and author of How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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