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Down the Right Field Line

Should Baseball Go for the Gold?

With the Winter Olympics about to end I thought this article would be appropriate. So let?s talk about the Summer Olympics; baseball in particular.

I don?t know about you, but I flipped out, in 2007, when I heard that baseball would not be included in the 2012 London Olympic Games. I thought that baseball was a worldwide sport! Which I thought that this was basically the criteria for an Olympic Sport. I thought that this was just another case of the mostly European International Olympic Committee putting the rest of the world down when it had its chance. IOC president Jacques Rogge was known to not like baseball. There is certainly a European bias in the IOC. And there is also a very anti-American bias. Baseball is viewed as America?s Pastime. Could this really be the reason for it to be banned?

Let me say this. Baseball is a worldwide sport. It is played in all 3 North American countries, Central America, baseball crazed Latin America, Australia, Spain, the Netherlands, Italy, Russia, France, Czech Republic, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Israel, and China, and parts of South America. So baseball is obviously a worldwide sport. So why is it not part of the Olympics?

Well I first thought that this may have been a case of European bias, but the more I thought about it I realized that there are some pretty good reasons to not include baseball in the Olympics. So I came up with 5 reasons on why not to include baseball in the 2020 games. (It was rejected for the 2016 Olympics in October at the IOC?s annual fall meetings.) If you don?t agree with me post it in the comments section down below or even start a new forum topic.

Here is a quick history of baseball in the Olympics. Baseball was played as a demonstration sport at: 1904 St, Louis, 1912 Stockholm, 1936 Berlin, 1952 Helsinki, 1956 Melbourne, 1964 Toyko, 1984 L.A., and 1988 Seoul. It became an Official sport at Barcelona 1992. Here is a quick overview of the medals courtesy Wikkipedia.

GamesGoldSilverBronze
1992 BarcelonaCubaChinese TaipeiJapan
1996 AtlantaCubaJapanUnited States
2000 SydneyUnited StatesCubaSouth Korea
2004 AthensCubaAustraliaJapan
2008 BeijingSouth KoreaCubaUnited States

First, blame Softball. Softball was also voted out in 2007; mainly because it wasn?t competitive. Like baseball some games may have been close, but most of the games were either blowouts or just boring games. The USA women cruised to 4 straight gold medals. There was a clear lack of competition. There was simply too far from the top to the bottom.

Second, Weird rules and Pitching. The baseball tournament in 2008 tournament consisted of a round-robin preliminary round in which each team played all 7 of the other teams. Only the top four teams advanced to the medals round. In that round, semifinals were played between the 1st/4th place teams and the 2nd/3rd place teams. The semifinal losers then played a bronze medal game, with the winner earning the medal and the loser receiving 4th place.

The semifinal winners played in the final, which awarded the winner a gold medal and the loser a silver medal. They did all of this in just 10 days and that left managers in the tricky spot of trying to get quality starts out of their starters while also protecting their arms. The 2008 tournament also used the IBAF?s new extra inning rule. Teams would play a normal 10th inning. After that base runners were automatically placed on first and second base with no outs. IBAF created this rule to encourage scoring late in the game in order to determine a winner and to address complaints from the IOC that a baseball game's length was unpredictable.

Third, the schedule cannot fit it in. Like baseball the heart of the NHL?s season is during the Olympics. The Olympics are at a time in both seasons when the playoff races are just heating up. In Olympic years the NHL combats this by starting its season a week early and also scheduling more games before the break. (This would be like having Opening Day on March, 23.) This means more back-to-backs in Hockey. However, in baseball, almost every day is a back-to-back. You cannot schedule any more games because you would take up the few off days that each team has. Rain games are another reason you can?t schedule through off days. You could schedule more doubleheaders, but you would still wear out the players.

Fourth, Tired Players! Scheduling more games obviously makes these guys more tired. They are human! Some NHL players have already played 61-63 Hockey games during an 82 game schedule. This would be the baseball equivalent to playing 130 games before first week in August, going to a foreign country, playing 8 more games, and then playing the last 30 games of the regular season. If your team makes the playoffs there is 3-19 more games! Don?t forget how long Spring Training is either. And players risk injury every time they play a game. What if a player was to break a bone and could not help his MLB team down the stretch?!

And finally the Summer Olympics! The Summer Olympics are, obviously, played in the middle of baseball season. (Like I said, this is the same problem that the NHL is having with the Winter Olympics.) However, unlike the NHL Major League Baseball will not lend its players to the Olympics; nor will it stop its season. It?s hard to have an Olympic competition, in a sport such as baseball, where there is a real talent drop off from the best to the next level down. Well that is what Olympic baseball essentially was. It was a Competition of U.S Triple-A players, with some future stars, and unknowns from the rest of the world.

Simply put these are not the best players in the world. And that is what the Olympics should be. It should be the competition to determine the best team or person in a particular discipline. If baseball is going to be an Olympic sport the MLB will not just have to commit to it! The fans, the players, and the world must agree on this idea.

Japan has already taken this first step. In 2008 Japan took the 2 best players form each of its Central and Pacific League teams and put them on the national team to create the best team they could. While they are away their teams keep playing without them. The games still count but they players are not there. This would never happen in the U.S.!!!!! I mean... Just imagine the Yankees without Derek Jeter and A-Rod, the Twins without Mourneau and Mauer, The Cubs without Lee and Soto, and the Phillies without Cole Hammels and Chase Utley to name a few. Now imagine them all being gone in the middle of August with their teams in their playoff races. MLB wouldn?t allow it, the teams wouldn?t allow it, and the fans wouldn?t allow it!

NHL Commissioner Gary Batman said on Monday that this will probably be the last time that the NHL stops its season for the Olympics. I say "good choice". It simply hurts the league too much. I?m glad that baseball learned from Hockey?s mistake. Baseball should not be an Olympic Sport. The Olympics don?t need baseball and baseball does not need the Olympics. They are both successful without each other.

Phil Joens is a contributing columnist to myGameBalls.com and also maintains a Blog.

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