Sunday, July 10, 2005

Baseball Scotched from Olympics

"Baseball's biggest problem is that it's American.
Yet baseball is going to be just fine here without the Olympics. As Brewers pitcher and 2000 Olympian Ben Sheets noted, no baseball player grows up in the U.S. dreaming of playing in the Olympics.
But they do in Cuba. It means something in South Korea and Mexico. It's the other countries that will be most hurt."

Baseball and women's softball have become the first sports voted out of the Olympics in sixty-nine years, in a secret ballot, and with no explanation given. The reaction from the heartland was that this was a European dominated group slapping around the Yanks, which I must say, seems plausible. Of course, the people who will be hurt most are the Taiwanese Koreans, Japanese, Cubans, etc. who have taken so enthusiastically to the game, and follow Olympics' baseball a lot more enthusiastically than the Americans do. Collateral damage. Living in Asia, I can't quite join in the derision heaped on ping-pong, badminton and judo by the Whittier paper, because I know those sports have real followings. That doesn't mean I have to desist from snorking at synchronized swimming, or - how about that one where they go cross-country skiing and then shoot? Ping-pong I can muster respect for; but a sport where people played ping-pong, then jumped into a luge wouldn't make the straight face cut. It appears the voters took the line that they weren't anti-American but, after all, the American Big Leagues don't let the best players in the world compete, so... Then they gave the game away by kicking out women's softball, where the best players in the world do compete, but the U.S. has dominated competition.

This is a great opportunity for Major League Baseball to get together with the other leagues around the world and do something for the international game. The Olympics' format would not be very credible for providing a test for the games best players, anyway. There ought to be a Baseball World Cup every four years. A credible format would be three weeks - two groups with eight teams each, playing each team two games a piece, for a total of fourteen games. The winners of the two groups then play each other in a best of five series. Baseball needs to adapt to the intenationalization of the game, but that does not have to mean being supplicants at the Court of Weenies. How about a U.S. - Dominican five-game finale, in Kaohsiung, with a Clements versus Pedro kick-off game?