Monday, June 15, 2009

Going for Gold

I saw this article on today, and I think it's worth sharing because there are some real interesting items in here.

Baseball was an Olympic sport in the past 5 summer Olympics (1992-2008), and it has been dropped for the London games of 2012 (somehow, picturing baseball diamonds in England seems a bit weird). Baseball is trying to make a push for a comeback in the 2016 games. In order to sell the sport, they're pledging the best-of-the-best. Let me quote the article:
In a pitch for Olympic reinstatement on Monday, the worldwide baseball community pledged to the International Olympic Committee the participation of its best eligible players and a concerted marketing effort to raise the sport's global impact.

OK. Interesting. Are we talking about a WBC-like setup where players leave their pro teams to compete in order to make the tournament (hey, it's the Olympics) as good as it can be? That idea didn't work in Spring Training, and you could imagine fans (owners?, managers?) not being happy about going to games with, dare I say it, REPLACEMENT PLAYERS for the duration of the Olympic tournament.

Or will fans pay no attention BECAUSE the Olympics are on (that's a tough one)? They may have to. The article continues...
The formal presentation at IOC headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland, included a commitment by Major League Baseball not to broadcast of MLB games during 2016 Olympic baseball competition, to ensure full media focus on the Games.

Furthermore, MLB vowed not to play any games on the final "medal" day of the Olympic tournament.

If this proposition passes, and it comes in part from MLB, we may have a brief MLB blackout during the summer of 2016. It's one thing if Tokyo wins the games, and the Olympics are overnight and in the morning, but if Chicago wins the games, and the Olympic baseball competition is held at the same time as MLB games, that could prove to be either very effective, or prove to be a very bad idea (I don't see a middle ground there).

Other details from

  • Baseball will offer a five-day, eight-team tournament that will allow maximum participation of the top players from the countries that qualify for the Olympics. The qualifier for 2016 would be held during the 2015 offseason.

  • All four potential host cities for 2016 already have established baseball venues and domestic baseball programs in place.

  • The MLB offer not to broadcast any games in direct competition with the 2016 Olympic baseball schedule, or have any games on its schedule on the climactic day of Olympic medal play.

  • The participation of eligible "elite players" around the world; cited as examples were de Jong and Bryce Harper, the 16-year-old Las Vegas phenom recently featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated.

A five day tournament isn't even that much. Remember the WBC, which is baseball's big international showcase, takes place over 3 weeks (though critics say it has too much downtime). In five days, elite pitchers may not even pitch in 2 games. Pitchers will be warm in August (assuming that's the timing of the games, but imagine if somehow it were scheduled in September in Rio). Pitching is a big problem in the scheduling of the WBC that's unique to baseball. Would the Mets like Venezuela to pitch Johan Santana on short rest because they need him in a medal game in the Olympics (it's just an example, I don't think it will be the Mets' problem 7 years from now, but you get the idea). What type of training camp is there? Even a day or two together? How much time are you taking players away from their pro teams (and are they paid for that time away?) Donald Fehr from the Players' Union is part of this presentation group. I do wonder how the union as a whole would deal with this, and the players. Anyway, say Chicago wins the games. Time away from your pro team is less because there's relatively no travel (compared to Tokyo, Madrid, and Rio de Janerio). But what if Tokyo wins? Travel time and time difference could have players away for a longer time (compared to the short time of the tournament, half your time away isn't even playing). Or do you shut down MLB during that time? Do players from teams eliminated early return to their teams? It was one thing to have players trickle back in Spring Training from the WBC, but this is the integrity of the regular season.

I have seeing baseball dropped from the Olympics, but I just can't see how this pitch is good for MLB.