This could be the final Olympics appearance for baseball and it seems the sport is in a hurry to close up shop.
The International Baseball Federation announced yesterday that in an attempt to shorten game times, extra-inning contests will look radically different in these Olympics. Beginning in the 11th inning, all teams will start with men on first and second base. Teams will also be allowed to begin the 11th at any point in their batting order. (Meaning, if a team wanted their cleanup hitter to bat first in the 11th, the #3 and #2 batters would be on first and second base, respectively.)
This might be baseball's Olympic swansong, as the IOC voted to eliminate the sport from the 2012 London Games. The IBF is looking to get back on the slate for 2016, with a decision expected next year.
I'm not sure cheapening the game is a smart way to get back in the good graces of the IOC. The new extra innings rules will turn Olympic baseball into an XFL-like farce. Of all the team sports, baseball is the one steeped in the most tradition. Messing with its rules just to shorten games that might extend to 11 innings is akin to sports blasphemy.