Last month, the CEB/WBSC organized four qualifiers for the upcoming European Championship in Italy in September. In four European cities, four or five teams competed for four spots in the main tournament. Was it a success or should it have another format?
The four qualifiers were played in Bratislava, Moscow, Belgrade, and Utena (Lithuania).
The groups had the following mapping:
This qualifier system was a mashup between countries of the European B-group and European C-group (the lowest possible level of baseball in Europe). And it showed. Several C-group countries were beaten up with double digits. Not all, but some of them.
Since the WBSC takes pride in making the game of baseball popular, to grow the game globally, you can wonder what purpose these qualifiers served…
How will the game become popular in a country like Turkey, which has a population of roughly 83 million and about 400 baseball and softball players? This is 0.00000482 percent of the Turkish population. Does the WBSC think that the newspapers of a football-crazed country will pay attention to the national baseball team that got beaten up 30-7 by Switzerland?
The same goes for Estonia, Slovenia, and Hungary to a lesser extent.
Does the WBSC think it will be fun to have your ass kicked by thirty runs? Likely, the only fun part for players of those countries was the foreign trip they could make.
I know it is always easy to judge afterward but personally, I think that one or two groups with only European B-group countries would have been a better option. Sure still blowout scores would have occurred but it would have prevented countries from being beaten up with double digits every game.
Likely, the intentions of the CEB/WBSC Europe were good, but the plan wasn’t thought over well enough. It is unlikely a tournament like this will ever be played again. I don’t see the CEB/WBSC Europe expand the A-group to twenty countries any time soon. Therefore the quality of the remaining teams that did not qualify is not good enough. But IF the CEB/WBSC Europe decides to expand, they better have a qualifying tournament with B-countries only.