June 15, 2009
So the grand Olympic poobahs met in Switzerland today to hear seven sports plead and beg to have their disciplines involved in the 2016 Olympics.
Among the grovelers was our great game of baseball, which got the boot for 2012 Games in London and hopes to return in seven years when Chicago could host and games could be held in Wrigley Field and at U.S. Cellular Field.
And although I assumed everyone not being paid by the IBAF didn't care one way or the other about the future of Olympic baseball, it turns out that MLB was represented by two heavy hitters — COO Bob DuPuy and MLPBA head Don Fehr — at the meetings.
Together, both pledged to find a way to bring Olympic baseball work, but each ultimately stopped short of the two true ways to ensure reinstatement — suspending MLB's regular season schedule and allowing the game's best players to participate in the tournament without any strings attached.
While it's true that Fehr didn't fully slam the door on the possibility of pro participation, his comments were so poorly defined that they didn't make much of a 'wow' impact:
"The MLBPA has and will continue to work ... to come up with the best scenario so that more top players will be able to participate," Fehr said, "and fulfill the dream of representing their countries in the Olympic Games. We will make sure that happens, and the 2016 Olympics will have the best representation of players ever to participate in any Olympics.
"I am confident that MLB and the MLBPA ... will make available to the qualifying countries a to-be-determined number of top players, with the rest of the roster coming from the best athletes available from the professional ranks. The teams will have a sampling of the best individuals in the sport, and the best-ever representative national teams."
Each IOC member reportedly received a signed copy of Bryce Harper's SI issue with the high school phenom adding a "I am ready to play in the 2016 Olympics" message, but I'm still not sold that it'll be enough. What, exactly, constitutes a "top player?" Which team in its right mind would let any of their "top players" go if there are games back in the U.S. to win?
Obviously, coming to an agreement on participation would take months, even years, of negotation between MLB and the MLPBA and there's still another debate to be had over whether MLB players are even necessary to pull off a good Olympic tournament.
(I'd say no and think that the Olympics should just write off baseball if they're not satisfied with the good competition we see from the youngsters already involved.)
Still, if you're going to even think about dangling that Dream Team carrot, you best make sure that it reaches all the way to the water and doesn't come up short. Either MLB is in with its players or it isn't. Being so wishy-washy over the issue won't help the resuscitation much.
From the IBAF press release:
• Major League Baseball in North America will not broadcast any games directly against the Olympic baseball schedule in 2016, giving the Olympic tournament the widest possible media attention. MLB will not play any games on the final day where the medals will be determined.
• All four potential host cities for 2016 have established baseball stadia and programmes in place.
• MLB will work with the IOC to create a year-round marketing partnership designed to increase awareness not just for baseball, but for the Olympic programme overall.
• Baseball will continue to take a leadership position amongst all sports in anti-doping, and will continue to expand its in and out of competition testing programmes.
• A continued year-round commitment to grow the game globally at the grassroots level for young boys and girls, especially focused on emerging nations and across Europe.