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Larry Stone gives his take on a wide array of baseball issues and weighs in about the Mariners, too.

August 13, 2009 at 7:41 AM

Olympic baseball shut out for 2016

Tiger Woods will be an Olympian before Tim Lincecum. Unless Tim Lincecum takes up gymnastics, which I wouldn’t put past him.

An International Olympics Committee panel voted today to recommend golf and rugby for consideration to be included in the 2016 Olympics, shunning both baseball and softball. Baseball had already been voted out of the 2012 London Games but had been hoping to be reinstated in 2016.

It’s not going to happen. Baseball and softball were rejected, along with squash, karate and roller sports. The full IOC will vote on the future of golf and rugby on Oct. 9 — one week after deciding on the site of the ’16 Games, choosing among Chicago, Madrid, Rio de Janeiro and Tokyo. Both sports could be accepted or rejected, or just one could be chosen for inclusion.

This is a blow for baseball, but I don’t consider it a huge one. Olympic baseball was never a major event, and the World Baseball Classic, despite some inherent flaws, has emerged as a viable alternative that should only get better.

Baseball proponents knew what it had to do to win over the IOC, and it tried. Most importantly, it had to deliver the top MLB players, rather than teams comprised primarily of minor-leaguers, as has been the case in recent games. It’s an inherent problem not faced by NBA in fielding a Dream Team, because the NBA season is not in session during the Olympics. The Games occur right in the middle of the pennant races, so it has always been problematic for top major leaguers to participate. In its proposal for a five-day, eight-team format, baseball officials relayed MLB’s commitment to free its star players to participate in the Olympics, but that wasn’t enough to win over the IOC, which had several issues with baseball.

Here’s what Dr. Harvey Schiller , president of the International Baseball Federation, said in a recent USA Today interview:

“There were five or six major points the IOC president Rogue first presented to me. We have addressed all of them.

Because of the logistics of the Olympic games, when there are multiple games … how do we to ensure the games don’t go into extra innings. In Beijing, we put in a game-ending rule that puts players on first and second with no outs in the 11th inning. We used it five times.

Two, what was the venue use after the games? … (The four candidate cities in 2016) all have baseball venues already. This is not really an issue going forward.

Third, WADA compliance. We can only do our best in representing our own group. We have full cooperation from the MLB Players Association and MLB.

Fourth is the public interest in the game. Baseball is one of the most popular games in the world. It has been the national sport of many countries, not just the U.S. but Japan, Cuba and many others.

(Fifth), under IOC rules the sport has to be practiced by both men and women. So we made a proposal to have a woman’s tournament in 2016.

And the last point is how do we get our best players.

Apparently, the IOC wasn’t won over. As the New York Times article points out, baseball is not popular in Europe, where the IOC is headquartered, and the constant doping revelations were no doubt a huge deterrent for a body that doesn’t need any more association with performance-enhancing drugs.

No doubt, the IBAF will keep trying to get baseball back in the lineups. Meanwhile, international baseball fans will have to settle for growing the WBC.



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