Bring Baseball Back to the Olympics!

Queen Elizabeth — or her Amidala-like surrogate — parachuted into London to witness the opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympic Games. She did a fine job of looking bravely impassive as the ceremonial figurehead of her country, much as she did at the Diamond Jubilee honoring the 60th anniversary of her reign.

It was well and good for her, I’m sure. But I’m afraid that I have no use for these Olympics. If the Olympics don’t care about baseball, then I won’t care about them. This is the first Olympic Games to lack baseball and softball in 28 years; baseball began to rear its head at the Olympics as an exhibition sport as early as 1904, finally becoming a medal sport in 1992, while softball became a medal sport in 1996. In terms of its overall presence at the Games, it’s hardly an upstart. Why isn’t it here? Well, politics, obviously.

It is no great accusation to say that the Olympics are and always have been corrupt. It’s an international event in which billions of dollars of television and tourism money are at stake; of course there will be corruption, from the bribery scandal in the ’90s to badminton players throwing games in these Olympics. But it’s worth keeping in mind whenever IOC officials get sanctimonious. Which is exactly what happened in 2005 when baseball and softball were eliminated.

A few years later, the Chairman of the International Olympic Committee, Jacque Rogge, more or less admitted that baseball and softball were eliminated because high-paid major league stars didn’t play in the Olympics:

We have [Roger] Federer, [Roger] Nadal in tennis, LeBron James in basketball. We have the best cyclists. Ronaldinho is here in football. We want these guys at the Games. We’re not saying it should be an entire Major League team, but we want the top athletes here at the Olympics.

It’s something of a bitter irony, of course, that the Olympic Committee banned baseball because of the lack of high-paid professional baseball players in the Games, considering that Jim Thorpe was stripped of his gold medals in the 1912 Olympics because he had played for a semipro baseball team. Back in those days, the Olympic Games defined themselves by their athletes’ “amateur” status. Look, I support the move towards professionalism. But baseball players have gotten screwed both coming and going.

Is there anything more sinister at work, perhaps a specter of anti-Americanism manifesting around the height of global sentiment against President George Bush? Yahoo’s Kevin Kaduk certainly seems to think so:

It’s a sad situation, but it’s a fact of life after a primarily European committee ousted them in a 2005 vote.*

*It’s here where I’ll again point out how happily the hypocritical IOC gorges itself on NBC’s contract money but then does something like cut softball because Americans won the first few go-rounds.

Or perhaps it is mere reactionism. As ESPN’s Jim Caple and the Toronto Sun’s Steve Buffery write, it’s hard to understand how the Olympic Committee could sack baseball while keeping such high-profile sports as table tennis, trampoline, and the modern pentathlon, which was devised a hundred years ago to represent the talents required by a contemporary cavalryman: riding, dueling by sword and pistol, swimming, and running.

Less than two weeks ago, governing bodies for international baseball and softball announced plans to join forces as they attempted to bid for re-entry into the 2020 Olympics. But considering what Rogge said, they may be unlikely to succeed without the star power of major league players, and it’s extremely unlikely to imagine that any healthy major leaguer on a 25-man roster would take a couple of weeks off in the middle of the summer to leave his team to go to the Olympics.

For decades, the best American college players participated in Olympic baseball. That’s completely in keeping with the former spirit of the Games, but baseball isn’t exactly alone in its age limit. This year, Olympic men’s soccer is limited to under-23 players, with three older players allowed.

Baseball’s star college players often put themselves on the map on the world stage. The rejuvenated Ben Sheets, a hero from the 2000 Olympics, is one. Caple notes a number of others: “Mark McGwire, Barry Larkin, Will Clark, Jason Giambi, Hideo Nomo, Matt Stairs, Jim Abbott, Trevor Cahill, Stephen Strasburg and R.A. Dickey.”

The best thing about the Olympics has always been that it is a collection of unrelated sports and athletes almost all of whom are completely unfamiliar; watching the Games is a crash course in sports like handball, which Bill Simmons predictably discovered that he loved because it’s sort of like a cross between basketball and lacrosse with hot women. At the Olympics, the most famous athletes are rarely the best stories: we already knew about Michael Phelps, but Ryan Lochte’s micro-rise and fall is a bit more interesting.

So I think that baseball below the major league level is still the right way to go. Then again, if the Olympic Committee truly wanted major leaguers involved, then they would essentially need to schedule the Games around the time of the All-Star Break, and they would need to allow baseball to be an exhibition rather than a tournament. But I doubt that the International Olympic Committee truly wants to do that. I think they’d rather force international baseball to grovel. Perhaps they also enjoy sticking a finger in the eye of one of the sports that the United States is expected to dominate.

Or maybe they’re just looking for a bit of a sweetener.




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Alex is a writer for FanGraphs and The Hardball Times, and is a product manager for The Washington Post. Follow him on Twitter @alexremington.


113 Responses to “Bring Baseball Back to the Olympics!”

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  1. payroll says:

    So what you’re saying is, the Olympics occur during the middle of baseball season?

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  2. Aaron (UK) says:

    “they would essentially need to schedule the Games around the time of the All-Star Break”

    Hahaha. There’s a pecking order, sonny – try “[MLB] would essentially need to schedule the All-Star Break around the time of the Games”.

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    • Hedrotous says:

      NHL and Olympics cooperate on scheduling hockey in the middle of the season. If NHL can influence that decision, certainly the much more important MLB can have a large say in the decision.

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      • mcbrown says:

        The NHL is not in the same class as MLB when it comes to media revenues. The NHL benefits enormously from the additional attention the Olympics brings it, in a way that MLB simply never will (in the current context at least). The marketing value makes it well worth the NHL’s effort to allow their players to participate. There is much less reason for MLB to do likewise.

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      • Jeff Reese says:

        The NHL season can accommodate a 2-3 week recess. The MLB season could not without shortening its season.

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      • Simon says:

        Ice hockey is an important part of the Winter Olympics. Baseball isn’t an important part of the summer Olympics. The Olympics aren’t going to be scheduled round MLB.

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      • piratesbreak500 says:

        What’s the thought on if hockey or baseball has larger revenue streams globally?

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  3. Floyd says:

    Also, during the Beijing games, baseball received very little TV coverage from NBC compared to other sports. I believe this is because the network assumed the general masses would rather tune in to MLB to satisfy their baseball fix. However, I for one, enjoyed seeing a wave of American prospects play agianst the best that Cuba, Japan and Korea had to offer.

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  4. Bavarian Yankee says:

    I only wanna see the best athletes at the Olympics so I hope baseball will never return. There’s simply no way for MLB players to participate, you’d have to suspend the regular season for like 2-3 weeks. Plus I’d be really pissed if a player of my team gets hurt while playing at the Olympics.

    (btw: I’d also remove football (soccer). The Olympics are as unimportant as it gets in Football, most U-23 players rather prepare for the season with their clubs instead of playing at the Olympics. I’d love to see Rugby, I have absolutely no clue why Rugby isn’t part of the Olympics. Plus they absolutely have to bring back Pelota, they should’ve never eliminated it.)

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    • Ron says:

      Rugby will be in 2016. It will be 7s rugby so not really a good representation of rugby. From a playing perspective kind of like Arena Football is to American Football although 7s is more widely accepted as a form of rugby (There are really 3 forms of rugby Union, League, and 7s, Union is overall the most popular but in some regions League has many supporters.)

      The reason why 15s rugby is not included is probably because the Olympics are only 2 weeks long and a proper world rugby tournament (with pools and a medal round) takes about 5 to 6 weeks. In order to get 15s rugby into the Olympics assuming three matches over 2 weeks only 8 teams would qualify.

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    • Brett says:

      The olympics is adding Rugby Sevens (7v7 rugby) for Rio. I’m not super familiar with rugby but I do not think those who participate in the rugby world cup will be too interested in playing an entirly different style of rugby for the olympics

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      • Shaun says:

        Actually, players who play 15-a-side regularly interchange back to 7-a-side (commonly called “sevens”), and many start 15-a-side international players become first recognized in sevens on an international stage. Multiple All Blacks, both in past and the present team.

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      • Simon says:

        There is an overlap in players, but rugby sevens is just about a separate sport, and at the highest level you do get specialist sevens players. Also, you will get the best players in the world, and that is hugely important for the Olympics. The only sport that gets away with not having all the best players is soccer, and that’s because of the genuinely global interest. Even there though, you get a lot of elite players – the Brazil squad, for example, is made up totally of full international players.

        Offering up college players or minor leaguers is insulting to the Olympics, and will not get accepted. You might get away with the sort of team that the US sends to the WBC, but the Olympics really doesn’t need a second-rate baseball tournament, that only four or five countries really care about.

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    • jim says:

      i can’t imagine the non-olympic qualifying teammates of a qualifier who say, blew out his UCL pitching in the olympics during a pennant chase, would be very appreciative, either

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    • cktai says:

      Remember that for women’s football, the Olympics are the most important tournament. I think that is the only reason why they have not removed men’s football yet.

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  5. Dennis in Manchester says:

    Pro-Baseball will Never make it back into the Olympics. Nearly all of the best baseball players in the world, are in MLB, under multi-million dollar contracts to play out the baseball regular-season. Baseball can’t be started any earlier in the year or played any later in the year due to weather. Owners, and the majority of fans, will Never agree to a shortened-season and lose out on revenue(owners) and mess with the stat-driven, record-tracking, nature of the game(fans and players). Bottom line? No wiggle room exists in the scheduling of MLB. I don’t think enough fans, at least in this country, would care to watch them play in the Olympics and lose out on the MLB season. It was enough of a stretch to find a way to allow players to join the World Baseball Classic, which arguably resulted in a drastic increase of player injuries early in the season.

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  6. Hedrotous says:

    What if they instead just upped the World Baseball Cup. I think that has a lot more potential. It is a good tournament, smartly designed, and with the right hype/support could be amazing. World Cup>Olympic Soccer every day.

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    • MetsFan212 says:

      What they really ought to do is something that NBA and NHL would love to do right about now – create an international cup, where all the professional athletes should play in and all the professional sports organizations can profit from it. Well, fortunately, 7 years ago, the World Baseball Classic was created.

      MLB would do itself a ton of favors if it integrated the WBC into the regular season much more instead of just sticking it in March and treating as a pre-season warm up. Much like the FIFA World Cup you can have it every four years, have it during what would normally be the All Star break (since, in reality, it should have all the All Stars in it and then some), and either extend the season (on either end) or cut the seasona bit short and give some of the profits to owners. No need to bribe IOC officials, the profits get sent to their respective national baseball organizations, and you expand the game of baseball abroad by marketing your best talent. No one has the balls yet to tell the owners “hey, let us have your major leaguers, because down the road, this idea is going to make you so much more money when this game becomes internationalized.” Too afriad of the risks involved and too short sighted to see the benefits.

      The NBA is bouncing around the idea of pulling their pro’s from the Olympics, and why shouldn’t they – they could make so much more money with an all inclusive NBA international tournament. The MLB already has a leg up on it and it is a real shame the WBC isn’t taken more seriously.

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  7. Brian says:

    World Baseball Classic. The IOC can go fu……sit on a tack.

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  8. DexF says:

    I disagree. The Olympics needs baseball back in about as much as it needs an American football entry. The disruption to the MLB season every four years would be huge, it doesn’t take into account liability issues, and the insurance costs would be enormous (because do you really think the US Olympic team wants to be on the hook for all of an MLB starter’s contract if he gets hurt playing for the group?)

    The WBC puts out an excellent product for baseball, and provides comparable excitement. Besides, the obnoxious sneering about any sport not popular in North America aside, baseball has a huge and monied internationally accessible forum in place, where as for events like tampoline, the Olympics is their opportunity for major international exposure every four years.

    The re-inclusion of softball I could support, especially on the grounds that you have a high calibre of well supported talent in both men’s and woman’s leagues internationally. But baseball? Let the WBC be the showcase.

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    • Hedrotous says:

      I read the article as calling for Baseball to be brought back into the Olympics. I also read the article as not calling for any MLB players involved in it, instead college players.

      That sounds great to me, as he points out as a ability for those players to showcase themselves and build a little fame.

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  9. Grant says:

    Lol @ anti-american conspiracy theories. The country has medal contenders in most events and hasn’t even been the best baseball team in recent international play.

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    • Paul says:

      Not to mention that that theory is illogical. The IOC is dominated by European power players. These are not the same neo-liberals on the Nobel committee. Basically, they’re Bilderberg attendees who would sell their mother for three Euros. Those folks are not exactly the anti-Bush types.

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      • Bloom says:

        This is a very good point, but I want to mention: in IR theory, “liberal” as in “neo-liberal” doesn’t mean the same as it does in American domestic politics. Rather, neo-liberalism refers to an ideology that prescribes economic liberalization in favor of a free market, and typically takes the form of privatization, deregulation, and the cutting of social services – that is to say, not a thing that would characterize your average Scandinavian academy member.

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    • Well-Beered Englishman says:

      Phelps and Lochte make me think that if I were banning sports to piss off the Americans, I would ban swimming.

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      • Huggybear says:

        They kind of already did this when they cut back the number of entries each country could have in swimming back in the 60s. The U.S. was sweeping the medals in too many events.

        Additionally, I think it’s absolutely idiotic that “sports” like trampoline, rhythmic gymnastics, badminton, synchronized swimming, team handball, etc continue to be part of the games with virtually no participation globally by anyone. The games should represent the sports that people play around the world. Baseball may not be the world’s number one game, but it should definitely be in the games. I’d also add things like rugby, a bunch of summer x-games type sports (surfing, skateboarding, bmx), sumo wrestling (Mongolia would currently dominate), and other stuff that people would actually enjoy watching. The Winter Olympics have done this successfully – with the Flying Tomato becoming one of the biggest stars of the last two winter games. Also if we’re going to have badminton (and curling in the winter games for that matter) why not have other leisure sports like horsehoes, bacci, or ultimate frisbee? Hell – have a hot dog eating contest. That would still be more entertaining than synchronized swimming – and no less a freak show than weightlifting. Okay – I’m done.

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  10. Anthony says:

    Olympic Hockey and the NHL seem to have figured it out and they manage to have Olympic Hockey with all the stars during the regular NHL season.

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  11. Justin says:

    Ben Sheets should have won the Cy Young in 2004.

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  12. Can’t wait until Farting is an olympic sport.

    And hot dog eating.

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    • Slacker George says:

      I can see the headlines now:

      “Germany protests scheduling of Farting finals a mere hour after the U.S. team’s first-round Hot Dog Eating match.”

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  13. Paul says:

    I would be willing to bet that there are more countries where the pentathalon is the most popular sport than there are where baseball is the most popular sport (which does not include the US, btw). In parts of Switzerland survival sports are basically the major pastime (places where they still have voice votes in the town square).

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    • Jack says:

      I’m going to have to call you on that. Baseball is #1 in Japan, South Korea, Cuba, the DR, and Venezuela. Soccer is most popular in almost every other country, aside from random stuff like Canada (Hockey). Some sports may have localized support, but I find it impossible to believe that many nations, if any, have a deep love for pentathlon.

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      • Paul says:

        Besides Cuba unless you have some source, I’d be surprised if all those other were right. I’d agree that baseball is popular there, as it is here, but I’m kind of doubting it’s even more popular in S. Korea than tennis or soccer, for example.

        And the pentathalon bit was slightly tongue in cheek, not really trying to be precise.

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      • Jack says:

        If you like wikipedia, baseball is the first sport mentioned on the sports pages for Japan, Cuba, DR, and Venezuela. While wiki isn’t really a source, the citations back up the statements, though in the case of Japan, said sourse is entirely in Japanese, so not much help. South Korea is the only page with anything above baseball (mentioned second after soccer). I also could mention Taiwan who also would likely consider baseball to be a national pastime. All in all, that is 5 nations where it is most popular, and two more (SK and US) that it is a close second.

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      • jim says:

        “I’m kind of doubting it’s even more popular in S. Korea than tennis or soccer, for example.”

        if you said starcraft, you’d be correct, but otherwise, no

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      • Young man says:

        And Panama and Nicaragua and Taiwan

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    • Anon21 says:

      Swimming isn’t the most popular sport in any country. I assume it’s out, too?

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  14. RidiculouslyPhotogenic says:

    it’s hard to understand how the Olympic Committee could sack baseball while keeping such high-profile sports as table tennis, trampoline, and the modern pentathlon

    A small point, but note that table tennis is one of the biggest sports on the planet. Being the national sport of China skews the figures quite a bit but to compare it alongside trampolining and the pentathlon is way off.

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    • Well, sure, but it’s a table game, which prompts one to question just what should be referred to as a “sport.” Foosball is quite popular. So is air hockey. So is skee-ball.

      There is no single definition of what constitutes a sport that is worthy of the Olympics, and therefore no set of criteria that determines how or why a sport should be included or excluded. Baseball is clearly worthy of inclusion because it was included for decades. It’s unclear just why it deserved exclusion.

      Are there any criteria that would consider trampolining and water polo Olympic-worthy, and would exclude capture the flag, dodgeball, or Ultimate Frisbee?

      Are there any criteria that would consider table tennis Olympic-worthy, and would exclude table football, beer pong, or Beirut?

      If there are, then the IOC should promulgate them. But they haven’t.

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      • David K says:

        Does dancing around with ribbons count as a sport? What about skeet shooting? Did you see the American woman who won the gold medal in skeet? I saw the medal ceremony before I knew what sport it was for, but it was obvious that she was going to be one of the most out-of-shape gold medalists in London.

        I also think it’s ridiculous that the supposed reason for removing baseball is because the MLB players aren’t there. Wouldn’t it be better for the Olympics if the playing field is a bit more level? You would think so, especially after seeing the 157-83 basketball debacle between USA and Nigeria yesterday.

        If the IOC is going to lie, they should just say that it’s too cost prohibitive to build baseball stadiums in places where they don’t have the facilities right now (and they won’t be too useful to most host countries afterwards).

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      • CircleChange11 says:

        Bring on Olympic Air Hockey.

        That middle-aged dude that still hangs out at the roller rink has been training for decades.

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  15. Brett W says:

    It’s USA Softball’s fault. We were too good.

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  16. Ron says:

    The United States has hardly dominated baseball at the Olympics. They have won one gold (2 if you count 1984) and even failed to qualify in 2004. In softball it is a different story which was dominated by the US until 2008. So if anything the IOC is anti-Asian (japan and South Korea specifically) and Cuban. The Olympics were the only place that people cared prior to the WBC about Cubans beating the US in baseball, so it was an opportunity for them to shine and showcase players (who might later defect).

    The WBC is the answer to promoting the game internationally. The continued expansion of the WBC with qualifiers in the fall is great. Baseball needs to get some of the final rounds (like the Soccer World Cup we should now call the main phase of the tournament the finals) to be played in Europe.

    In the future instead of all-star teams baseball would benefit from a Heineken Cup/UEFA Champions League competition between the best teams in each league. Sure the MLB champion would have a huge advantage playing the Koreans or Japanese but what if there was an upset? It might get crazy.

    Part of the reason an international tournament with baseball fails is because there is only one major league. In soccer no league has the monopoly of the best players. In rugby the best players are spread through 4 different leagues. International competition is the only way to see the best players.

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  17. Hardwood paneling says:

    This is a terrible idea. Fastpitch would be a much better addition.

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  18. jim says:

    baseball in the olympics only make sense if the professionals are allowed to compete, which i doubt either the MLBPA or commissioner’s office would let happen. that said, yes, the olympics is full of a bunch of stupid non-sports that shouldn’t be in the olympics

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  19. Deelron says:

    Hey, table tennis rocks!

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  20. Mike says:

    Cricket isn’t in the Olympics either. I think a big problem, other than not having major leaguers available, is that you have two very similar sports splitting worldwide interest. Baseball is big in the Americas and East Asia, while cricket is popular mostly in Europe and former British colonies. Neither sport has the worldwide draw to build 20-30-person teams, let alone play games worth watching. The World Baseball Classic is a great idea for regional worldwide competition, but it needs to be midseason to actually get people’s attention.

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    • You could probably make the same argument for the splitting of interest between rugby and American football, Australian rules football, Canadian football, and Gaelic football (which itself is closely related to hurling, and hurling looks something like a cross between lacrosse, which is not an Olympic sport, and handball, which is).

      Anyway, as above, rugger will be in. But I’d pay just about any amount of money to watch an international Gaelic football tournament. Have you ever seen that? It’s maybe the most fun sport I’ve ever watched live.

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  21. Snowblind says:

    Just make the WBC part of the Winter Olympics and have people play in domed stadiums or southern hemisphere locales. The same guys who would start their conditioning early or go out to winter ball in the Dominican can participate. Injuries can be recovered from in time for spring training or perhaps the first few weeks of the season at worst. It messes with short-season winter ball once every 4 years but if you can compensate for that by making those places semi-final or finals sites.

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    • Jason says:

      Completely agree. Why not the winter?

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    • Jack says:

      This might actually work in an odd way. The winter olympics are most often played in places with the infrastructure to make this work. Also, the 3 most recent winter hosts (US, Italy, Canada) all have some baseball following as does the 2018 host, South Korea. Its not really a traditional winter sport, but it could be done.

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      • jwestbrock says:

        That was my thought. Basketball is a winter season sport played in the Summer Olympics so why not play baseball in early February. Russia is about the only potential Winter Olympic country that would need the infrastructure too be built. But I think I do prefer the idea of amping up the WBC by putting it at the All-Star break time.

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    • Paul says:

      This is quite a compelling idea. I really have no interest at all in baseball as a Summer Olympics sport, but for some reason I think it would interest me if it was in winter. Not sure, but maybe it’s just the notion that stars would definitely play.

      Jack makes a fair point about it not being a winter sport. Then again, is bobsledding a winter sport in Jamaica? In truth, in plenty of the places where it’s popular it certainly is played in “winter.”

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    • Baltar says:

      I had the same thought, so congratulations for posting it first.
      This would have the advantage of giving us baseball-starved fans a dose of our favorite sport in the winter.

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  22. Kyle says:

    Plus we could see Jose Abreu play!

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  23. aj says:

    No way MLB does it, doubt they even let prospects play in future games. For the same reason the NBA wants to stop, MONEY. The Olympic money goes to others where the WBC money goes to the MLB/country’s. They make a KILLING off the WBC, and they don’t pay the players much if anything. Expect the NBA to go to 23 and under by 2020 and start a WBC of there own every 2-4years. Same effect/drama more money for the owners taking a risk letting there stars play, they control the marketing and how everything’s handled. i think its a fair trade off considering the risk they take with player injury’s.

    Also the argument about baseball not being big internationally is pretty short sighted, its top 3 sport in a good chunk of the world, its not soccer by any means but middle America ,south America and the Asian county’s are huge on baseball. That’s a big portion of the world.

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    • Simon says:

      Baseball is big in the US, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Japan, Korea and Taiwan, and that’s about it. There are some other countries where it’s a minority support with considerable interest – maybe Mexico, Panama, Colombia, Nicaragua, Canada, and then I’m struggling. Holland and Italy maybe, a few more Caribbean islands.

      A chunk of central America is interested, three Asian countries are interested, and one corner of South America is interested. That’s not a global sport.

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      • jfree says:

        Well then the solution is for the US to split up into 50 independent countries – each with their own vote at the UN and their own Olympic committee.

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      • Baltar says:

        Yeah, it doesn’t have nearly the following of equestrian, handball and water polo. Those sports have hundreds of fans.

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      • Simon says:

        The point is that you have a good chance of getting in if you are a) a truly global sport or b) if the Olympics is the most important thing in your sport and you’re getting all the best players to compete. Off the top of my head, the only sports that get away with not having the best players and being the most prestigious are soccer, tennis and boxing (and pro boxing wouldn’t work because of recovery times anyway).

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  24. Nathan says:

    The solution to having star caliber players playing in the Olympics is simple….retired players! I would love to see Bonds, Clemens, Johnson, Wagner, Thomas, Biggio, Bagwell, Henderson, and any other former major league in his 40s go out at take on the teams from Japan, Korea, Cuba and he like. In fact I might even watch the olympics…for once.

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    • Nathan says:

      Ricky might be in his 60s but I bet he could still lead off…if not then lofton.

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    • Jim Caple also argued for retired players to play in the Olympics. But I doubt this would work. Generally speaking, Olympic athletes are either professionals or they are students who are younger than professionals. They are hardly ever older.

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  25. Table says:

    Couldn’t they just create teams using top prospects in the minors and aaa veterans. I would watch

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  26. Paul Merlo says:

    Softball- yes. Baseball- sadly not.
    In Womens’ softball you have the best players(same for women’s soccer). But sadly you can’t have it in baseball because it’s on during the MLB.
    And to have college or minor league players- it’s not wirth it. It’s not really important enough to the IOc to have it.
    Actually cricket really should be in the Olympics. Like baseball it has a good number of countries that play it worldwide (Aus, NZ, SA, Ind, Pak, Sri Lanka, England, etc) but unlike the baseball they can actually get the best players there in the Olympics. Maybe there’s some anti- British bias in the Eurocentric IOC in keeping out a sport played basically exclusively by Britain and it’s former colonies.

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  27. deadpool says:

    I have to wonder how much of this is the IOC trying to head off the NBAs attempts to pull some of their star power. With the NBA threatening to place an age cap on its players, obviously in an attempt to keep big names/contracts out, and now the IOC has chosen to reframe the issue with baseball as one of pros. Basketball has less international appeal than baseball, and you have to think without the dream team if anyone would watch it.

    On the other hand, would NBC even consider renewing its contract without baseball or basketball?

    As for non sports, some of the shooting sports are pretty bad. I’m hunter enough to agree that aiming and firing a rifle from a standing position is really hard, but with the equipment they allow it’s really about who has the best calibrated rifle stand.

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    • Drew says:

      Hasn’t basketball caught on tremendously in China? I think that alone might tip the international appeal scales in basketball’s favor.

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      • zirc says:

        basketball is really popular all over the world. in turkey and greece for example i think it’s the most popular sport.

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  28. rhod says:

    Very interesting comments all round. I hadn’t appreciated how international the Fangraphs readership was! All these rugby fans… and I thought I was the only one.

    Winter Olympics is a great idea: gets my vote!

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  29. Windu says:

    Perhaps they could put the best minor league prospects and college players in the Olympics. I don’t think anyone would mind interrupting the Minor League Schedule.

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  30. ODawg says:

    A night of watching Olympics with an avid (and average?) FanGraphs reader:
    8:00 PST: Tune to NBC. See gymnasts, swimmers, and volleyballers wandering around.
    8:02: Commercials. Flip to MLBNetwork.
    8:12: Remember I was watching Olympics. See 2 points of a volleyball match, endure 5 minutes of commercials. Remember I don’t find volleyball the least bit interesting, switch to MLBNetwork.
    8:25-8:27: Watch a 15 year old girl who looks like she might cry any second do flips and stuff.
    8:27-8:32: Commercials.
    8:32-8:35: More emotional flips as I convince myself that this only happens 4 years, and I should be watching.
    8:36: Lose focus and catch up on FanGraphs during commercials. As Ryan Seacrest intros the 93rd interview with Michael Phelps, switch to MLBNetwork for good.

    Point being (aside from the Olympics are boring, if novel): if American baseball fans don’t care about baseball being in the Olympics, who does?

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  31. Danny says:

    I would gladly watch baseball in the Olympics if it was an under 23 tournament. It could be made up of college players, and possibly prospects in MLB systems. I’m sure teams would send their prospects to play in the Olympics, it would be a great learner experience for those guys.

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    • Simon says:

      This is simple. The Olympics doesn’t want baseball unless it gets MLB stars. They have no interest in running a tournament that’s less presitigious than the WBC, which is really still not taken seriously by the US. I’m also not sure why so many people want to get a second-rate baseball tournament into the Olympics.

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      • Mx says:

        They have no problem running a lesser version of the World Cup. It would be the same premise. Less popular, but clearly they aren’t striving for ‘the best’ in that sport.

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      • Agreed. Olympic soccer isn’t nearly as prestigious as the World Cup, Olympic tennis arguably isn’t as prestigious as the four majors, and Olympic golf probably won’t be as prestigious as the Master’s or US Open. Generally speaking, the Olympic sports that involve famous athletes are not as prestigious as the individual championships within those sports.

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      • Simon says:

        Baseball isn’t important enough to get an exemption like that, and isn’t offering anything close to even what soccer offers. In soccer, the Brazil soccer team will be 75% the same as the Brazil squad for the 2014 world cup. There are global names playing from huge clubs – Suarez, Hulk, Giggs and so on. College kids or minor leaguers are not a realistic offer.

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      • Young man says:

        joe torre is managing it this year and the us is going to try

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      • Nathan says:

        I know this is a nitpick, Alex, but people who think Olympic tennis is not as prestigious as the Slams do not follow tennis that closely. The prestige of the four slams is not really equal, with the Aussie at one end and Wimbledon at the other, and Olympic tennis is clearly within that range of prestige.

        Trying to get precise about this stuff is probably nonsensical, but Olympic tennis is basically a slam, and getting more prestigious every time they hold it. Steffi Graf won all four majors and the Olympics in one year, and they coined a special name for the feat: the Golden Slam.

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      • Steffi’s Golden Slam was simply remarkable, yes. But the number that everyone quotes with a tennis player is the number of majors that they have won, not the number of medals that they have won. The Olympics are prestigious, but they are not the measure of a tennis player’s legacy. They are the measure of a gymnast or a swimmer or a sprinter’s legacy. That’s the difference.

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    • Jimmy Carl Black says:

      Simon wrote: Baseball isn’t important enough to get an exemption like that, and isn’t offering anything close to even what soccer offers. In soccer, the Brazil soccer team will be 75% the same as the Brazil squad for the 2014 world cup. There are global names playing from huge clubs – Suarez, Hulk, Giggs and so on. College kids or minor leaguers are not a realistic offer.

      First, since when does “importance” have anything to do with it? How “important” are the majority of sports in the Olympics? Rhythmic gymnastics, trampoline, BMX, badminton, shooting, women’s wrestling… etc., etc., etc.

      Second, your example with Brazil is a red herring because Brazil happens to have an abnormally young national team right now. England has Giggs… AND? Where are Lampard, Gerrard, Rooney, etc.? Where are Torres, David, and Xavi for Spain? More importantly, where are Germany, Argentina, Holland, Italy, France, Croatia, and Denmark? Olympic football is second-tier, at best.

      A U23 tournament in baseball would be just as effective and relatively strong in baseball as it is in soccer. That’s what baseball was for the US in 1988 and 1992, and there were many future MLB stars on those teams. What exactly is the downside?

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  32. Adam Sampson says:

    Im gutted with no baseball, typical really as i live 15 minute train ride from the stadium. My only real chance to watch live baseball without travelling to a different country. :(

    Oh well!

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  33. Jeff Mathis does Steroids says:

    Here is a radical idea. Why not just cancel the all-star game every 4 years and just have 2 weeks off for Olympic baseball? Just have them play 8-10 games in that 10 week span and let the teams send enough pitchers so that they wont have to start more than 1-2 game or pitch more than 15 or so innings.

    Really, nobody cares that much about the ASG anymore. I would be willing to bet that people would be more interested in just watching those players play in the Olympics. They would surely be more willing to watch All Stars play for their country than minor leaguers and college kids. If the NPB would agree then it could really be good.

    And besides, all the best players from most baseball playing countries are playing on an MLB roster anyways. If the MLB doesn’t send their big league players, then the USA, Canada, Japan, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Venuzuela, and maybe some other countries would be sending their D team anyways.

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    • Jimmy Carl Black says:

      So what? The US had a roster of college players in 1988 and won gold. Many of those players went on to play in the majors, and included names like Will Clark, Tino Martinez, Mark McGwire, and Ben McDonald. Using college players doesn’t make it “D team”; it just makes it those who aren’t yet in pro ball.

      Second, what about soccer? You do realize that few of the top players in the world are competing in soccer at the 2012 Olympics, right? Because of that, entire top teams like Portugal, the Netherlands, Germany, Italy, and Argentina aren’t even competing! Furthermore, where are Wayne Rooney, Frank Lampard, Stephen Gerrard for England and Fernando Torres, David Villa, and Xavi for Spain? Oh, right… they’re not playing. This is supposed to be a flagship event in the Olympics, yet SEVEN of the top ten teams in the world aren’t even there, and the teams that are there are made up most of U23 players. Yet, is anyone even thinking of getting rid of soccer in the Olympics? I think we all know the answer to that.

      If they ran baseball the same way as soccer (a U23 tournament), it would work fine. The reason they got rid of baseball (and softball) has nothing to do with lack of pro stars or ratings (otherwise, why the hell would badminton and BMX be in there???). It was a big FU to the US because of a pissing contest between the IOC and the USOC.

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  34. Al Dimond says:

    Why does every sport have to work the same way? Regardless of the reasons and the counterfactuals, Olympic hockey has built itself a great tradition. Olympic baseball hasn’t, and that’s OK. Maybe it could have done so if history went differently; maybe the differences between the two sports are just too great. But regardless, each sport has its great traditions — do we need to pretend they’re all the same as the others?

    Hockey has the Olympic tournament. College basketball gets March Madness and pro basketball its intense “second season”. Pro football has its do-or-die single-elimination playoffs and college football relies on democracy and math to populate its championship game. International soccer has the world cup, which is way cooler than the Olympics. Baseball has the long season. That’s the only real measuring stick for baseball teams.

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  35. Arne Vergauwen says:

    One of the other reasons why baseball got scratched is the fact that the USOC has a contract with the IOC that they own the rights to everything related with the Olympic Rings on US soil. The contract was signed in the 80ies right around the time the Games were in LA. The contract means that the USOC gets a lot of (sponsorship)money everytime the Olympics are organized. The IOC doesn’t like this one bit and scratching baseball and softball was considered to kinda sticking it to the US. The contract probably was one of the reasons why the Chicago Olympics bid was shot down so quickly during the voting in 2007.

    Coincidentally the USOC and IOC signed a new revenuesharing deal in may this year.

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    • Simon says:

      Much more likely that Olympic baseball was of a relatively low standard, and not of great interest to most of the world.

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      • Jimmy Carl Black says:

        Low standard: BS!!! Just looking at the US alone, Olympic teams in the ’80s/’90s featured players such as Will Clark, Mark McGwire, Tino Martinez, Jim Abbott, Andy Benes, Ben McDonald, Robin Ventura, Nomar Garciaparra, Jason Giambi, Jason Varitek, etc. The quality of players actually went DOWN when they started using pro players because it became a second-tier list of players that clubs were willing to spare. The college teams were very strong.

        “Not of great interest to most of the world”: First, the US represents the most important TV market in the world when it comes to revenue. Second, I suppose you aren’t including a good chunk of Latin America and Asia in “the rest of the world.” Third, are you telling me the “rest of the world” is riveted by and glued to their TV’s watching the competition in BMX, rhythmic gymnastics, white-water rafting, dressage, pistol shooting, table tennis, badminton, and trampoline? If mass popularity were a criteria for including sports in the Olympics, we’d be left with about five sports: swimming, gymnastics, track & field, tennis, and football/soccer (and even the last doesn’t have its top pro athletes competing in the men’s games).

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  36. Phightin21 says:

    I really do love Baseball, but it doesn’t quiet make sense to do Major International Tournaments. I’m from Germany and I doubt that our team would come even close to compete against a stacked College team or a Cuban team for example. In Baseball it would always come down to the battle between four nations e.g. the semis would be like us-japan and cuba-dominicans. But the us would always have the strongest roster by far and when you then would add the MLB stars the IOC wants the competition wouldn’t make any sense. That is the problem with having Baseball as an Olympic Sport cause the us has too much of an advantage.

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    • The Soviet Union dominated gymnastics for years. That wasn’t seen as a reason to eliminate it from the Olympics.

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    • Jimmy Carl Black says:

      First, the US wouldn’t necessarily have “too much of an advantage” if MLB players were used. Other comments have brought up the World Baseball Classic – the US has yet to medal in the WBC so far! Venezuela, South Korea, and Cuba have finished above the US and the Dominican Republic so far.

      Second, if your logic were a reason to keep a sport out of the Olympics, what about basketball??? Talk about a sport where no one has a chance to beat the US in either men’s or women’s. Those are some of the most boring games I’ve ever seen. It’s like watching Duke play a HS team.

      It’s cool that you’re German and love baseball, but the fact that your country won’t be competitive isn’t really relevant to the argument. No one has ever said that every country on earth should be competitive for a sport to be included in the Olympics. Sweden is never going to do jack in men’s basketball, the US will never be competitive in badminton. So what? As long as there is a critical mass of competition, the sport can thrive.

      If the IOC followed the same pattern as men’s soccer (football) and had a U23 tournament in the Olympics (in baseball; they could keep softball the way it was), the following countries would all have consistently competitive teams: USA, Canada, Australia, the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, Panama, Mexico, Japan, South Korea, Chinese Taipei (Taiwan), and yes even the Netherlands (it certainly helps them that players from all the islands of the Netherlands Antilles – e.g., Curaçao – are eligible). If baseball were added back to the Olympic, you could surely add China to that list as they seem intent on being competitive in every sport where medals are awarded. That’s more than enough.

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  37. Young man says:

    Watch the 2013 WORLD BASEBALL CLASSIC this year. MLB created it to make up for no baseball in the Olympics. It starts in March. it will be legit this year joe torre is managing and it’s not during baseball season

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    • The World Baseball Classic is not necessarily mutually exclusive with baseball in the Olympics, just as the World Cup is not mutually exclusive with soccer/association football in the Olympics, just as the major tournaments in golf and tennis are not mutually exclusive with golf and tennis in the Olympics.

      If the Olympics wants to feature athletes competing in a particular sport, it always can. The International Olympic Committee decided to eliminate a sport which had previously been in good standing, and they did so without offering much of an explanation. I think they should bring it back.

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      • Hardy says:

        It is clearly stated even in the article that the IOC wants only sports where the top athletes compete. Yes, men’s football has an exemption because it is the world’s no. 1 sport and FIFA is powerful enough to get away with it.
        The IOC needs about three sports – athletics, swimming and gymnastics. It does not need baseball – it explicitly voted baseball off just a few years ago. The only way back to the olympic program is the inclusion of MLB stars, you can either push that or accept that baseball is not an olmpic sport.

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      • I think that it isn’t that pat. First of all, the IOC has never said just the best athletes in the world. Soccer doesn’t send its best athletes, as you mentioned. Neither does boxing. Neither did baseball, for many years, successfully.

        If the IOC only wants the best athletes in the world, then they will need to state that explicitly, and a lot of other sports will need to change. It isn’t just baseball and it isn’t at all softball.

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  38. Jimmy Carl Black says:

    Nearly all of these comments are completely missing the point(s). It’s not about the athletes, it’s about the SPORT. The IOC should be making decisions about which SPORTS belong in the Olympics, and then let each country’s OC decide which athletes they’re going to send and how to get them there. This has nothing to do with MLB.

    Besides, having the top pro athletes in sports where there’s major professional imbalance is boring. Men’s basketball has become a complete farce. Sure, it guarantees the US another gold medal, but who really cares? Watching a guaranteed 30-point blowout every game is boring as hell. If basketball went back to using college athletes, we could actually see some competition in the games and the US might actually have to work for its medals. Right now, the outcome in a USA men’s basketball game is less in doubt than a Globetrotters-Generals game. I’m sorry, but those who like that simply don’t understand the Olympic spirit. And, that includes the current IOC if they prefer having the top professional athletes to having some sense of competition and level play.

    Men’s soccer (football) is the most popular sport on earth, yet they don’t compete with the top athletes at the Olympics. Why? Because FIFA doesn’t want the Olympics stealing the World Cup’s thunder. So, how is this different than baseball?

    Plus, if the argument were that they’re only going to allow a sport when the top athletes are competing, not only would that logic not hold due to men’s soccer, but how would that apply to softball? That would mean they should have only eliminated baseball (along with men’s soccer) and kept softball.

    If both having all the top athletes in the sport competing AND TV ratings/widespread popularity are a requirement, there are only a handful of sports currently in the Olympics that can claim to hit both criteria: track & field, gymnastics, swimming, tennis, basketball, and women’s soccer. The fact that “sports” such as table tennis, badminton, synchronized swimming, rhythmic gymnastics, dressage, shooting, and BMX are in the Olympics while baseball and softball are not shows what a complete farce Olympic sport selection has become.

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