Ah the Olympics, that sportsfest that occurs every four summers and every four winters but dominates our airwaves every two years. The 2016 summer variety is now underway in Rio de Janeiro and, like most, I have had my eyes glued to the proceedings since Wednesday when the women took to the soccer pitch.
Two days after the soccer competition opened and the world witnessed yet another stirring opening ceremony, the International Olympic Committee announced its event lineup for the Tokyo games in 2020. The glaring American story was the return of baseball and softball to the Olympic stage.
This once again brings about the great Olympic debate, amateurs vs. professionals. Should this just be for the fun of sport, or should this be an opportunity for the best athletes in the world to put their best foot, glove, hockey stick, etc. forward?
Beginning in 1992 the Olympics took on a professional dimension. Since then we have seen the likes of the NBA “Dream Team”, the NHL shut down every fourth year to allow a level playing field to compete in the Olympics, and FIFA having the best of the best compete on the Olympic soccer pitch.
I believe its time for Major League Baseball to join the party.
The All-Star Break, for generations occupied the time frame of the second midweek of July and included travel days on Monday and Wednesday with the main event occurring on Tuesday night. Play would generally resume on Thursday with four game weekend series. That has changed over recent years. The All-Star Break today is made up a week-long event that includes a Sunday prospect game, a Monday Home Run Derby, the main event on Tuesday and days off on Wednesday and Thursday.
Imagine this scenario. The All-Star Break is now a week-long event. The postseason now stretches into the final days of October and is routinely stretches into November. Why not do this? Begin Spring Training around February 15th, break camp the week that March ends, (or March ends and April begins) forego the All-Star Break and take these two weeks and have the best baseball has to offer play for their country in the Olympics?
Most would have this reaction, wouldn’t this just be another American grandstand much like basketball? I offer you this, Ichiro leads a Japanese team that is steadily sending players to America to play in the Major Leagues. The Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, and Cuba will show how popular our grand old game has become across the Caribbean. Mexico and even Canada are better in baseball than most people think.
Professionalism is now a part of the Olympic Games let’s make the sport of baseball the best in can be on the Olympic stage.