Sunday, August 5, 2012

Baseball to return to Olympics in 2020?

Most of you that have made your way to the Dominican Baseball Guy blog know, that sadly, there is no baseball in the 2012 Olympics. Baseball last appeared on the Olympic program in 2008, but failed to make the cut for the 2012 and 2016 Olympics. The international baseball and softball federations are merging into the International Baseball and Softball Federation in hopes of making the 2020 games.

The International Olympic Committee will make the final decision in Buenos Aires in September 2013. The executive board will vote which sport to recommend for inclusion, with karate, roller sports, climbing events, squash, wakeboard, and wushu competing for the final spot with softball and baseball.

"Most people tell me that without commitment from MLB, it's not going to work," International Softball Federation president Don Porter told the Associated Press. "It would certainly strengthen our bid if the MLB says they will commit their players."

But the Dominican Baseball Guy really doubts that Major League Baseball is going to put their might behind this effort. MLB is owned by the team owners and the team owners are concerned about their bottom dollar and their investments in their players. Team owners do not want to send their best players, losing them for pennant race games and risking injuries.

The Dominican Baseball Guy likes the format of the World Baseball Classic, in any case. MLB has worked revenue sharing into the WBC model, so the owners at least see some return for investing their players in the tournament. Perhaps they should move the WBC to the end of the year rather than the beginning, so that players are in top form, but the format is sound. Even if voted into the Olympics for 2020, baseball should take the route that soccer has taken, in that the Olympics is an under 23 event and the real 'world championship' is the World Cup.

Why not? The World Cup is the biggest sporting event in the World.  Baseball is not even very popular when it is on the Olympic program. Leave the Olympics for gymnastics and all these other niche sports, and make the WBC a true world championship of baseball.

If the World Baseball Classic was marketed correctly, shown in prime time on the major networks, and featured the top baseball players in top form it could be one of the most popular sporting events in the World, a la the World Cup. It will never reach that status competing against other sports in the Olympics.

It is truly sad for softball, as the Olympics was one of the two pinnacle tournaments for softball. But they are not that for baseball. Baseball does not need the Olympics and the Olympics does not need baseball.

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