It took 11 years and four tournaments, but Team USA is the World Baseball Classic champion at last.
The United States won its first World Baseball Classic championship in the history of the tournament Wednesday night in Los Angeles, with a dominating 8-0 victory over Puerto Rico.
— USA Baseball (@USABaseball) March 23, 2017
Marcus Stroman pitched six innings of no-hit baseball and Ian Kinsler whacked a two-run home run in the top of the third inning gave the United States a lead in the World Baseball Classic championship game Thursday. The Americans never looked back from there, cruising to a blowout win.
— WBC Baseball (@WBCBaseball) March 23, 2017
With Team USA already ahead, Christian Yellich and Andrew McCutchen added RBI singles in the fifth inning to put the Americans ahead 4-0. Meanwhile, Stroman was dealing through six innings of work, holding Puerto Rico hitless before allowing a double to open the seventh inning. With the bullpen in to seal the deal, the U.S. bats kept piling on in the later innings.
For the United States, winning the WBC championship is a well-deserved sigh of relief. It’s true, the United States may not have had all of its top players participating in the tournament, but that may just help strengthen the pride in winning the tournament. And yes, other nations were without some of their top players as well, so it was fair game all around.
But the United States had not finished higher than fourth place in any of the three previous World Baseball Classic tournaments, a source of mild embarrassment for the American baseball program.
— MLB Network (@MLBNetwork) March 23, 2017
United States baseball will likely never experience a similar upset and jubilation experienced by the 1980 United States hockey team, but the path wasn’t easy in this World Baseball Classic.
To advance to the semifinal, the U.S. had to beat defending champion Dominican Republic. Then, paired up against Japan in the semifinal game, the United States was up against the two-time WBC champion (and third-place finisher four years ago). Since the launch of this tournament, Japan has pretty much been the team to beat, so the United States edging Japan on Tuesday night to clinch a berth in the championship game was a reason to celebrate alone. It guaranteed a top-two finish for the USA, the highest finish in WBC history.
That set up the U.S. to face Puerto Rico, which entered Thursday undefeated in the 2017 WBC.
Will this ultimately mean anything to baseball’s future in the United States? If we’re being honest, probably not too much. The ratings for the semifinal were significantly higher than usual, in large part to the United States playing in it. We’ll have to wait to see the ratings for the championship game, but it is clear that if the United States is playing in the final rounds in a U.S. city, there may be an audience to capture.
In addition to MLB Network airing the championship game, ESPN2 was simulcasting the game in Spanish, which should help give the overall ratings a nice little push. What is the long-term effect this may have? Who knows, but for one night, baseball reigned supreme in the United States, and the United States reigned supreme on the baseball field, and it was a long time coming.
See you in four years, World Baseball Classic.