Baseball makes its pitch for the Olympics

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Four years ago,
baseball was told that, after 2008, its presence was neither requested
nor desired in the Olympics. Since then, the International Baseball
Federation has tried hard to get it back in. Today the IBAF made its pitch for 2016, and for what I think is the first time, got some concessions from Major League Baseball that may help its chances:

There would be no major league games on the day of the Olympic medal games.

There
would no MLB games broadcast at the times of Olympic Games, which means
Olympic baseball would create a schedule to have its games end before
MLB night games begin.

Even though MLB does not intend to stop
its season during the Olympics, there would be a “representative
number of the best players available (for the Games).”

The
International Baseball Federation would work with Olympic host cities
to finance construction and after-use costs of the two stadiums needed
for the five-day tournament, which would not be an issue for 2016
candidates Chicago and Tokyo, since they have stadiums.

There was
a sense in 2005 that the reason baseball (and softball) were axed from
the games was that they were too thoroughly dominated by America (see here).
That may have been true for softball — the U.S. women at the time were
unrivaled, and though that has changed somewhat since then, the
American women are still the best — but it was always a dubious claim
with respect to baseball given the high quality of Latin American and
east Asian teams. Many suspected that the decision was really a
cultural/political one, with IOC President Jacques Rogge taking what
was then a quite fashionable anti-American position. I don’t know if
that really was the case — people talked of the lack of
Olympic-quality drug testing in baseball at the time as another issue
too — but stranger things have happened with the Olympics.

The
announced concessions, however, seem not to address any
Olympic-specific problems with baseball. Rather, they seem to address
some of the criticisms voiced about the World Baseball Classic, where
the lack of participation by many of the best baseball players was seen
as a serious drawback (personally I think the injury risk is a bigger
drawback, but I’m not the biggest fan of international baseball, so
maybe I’m unique in that regard). If that was a concern, however, these
concessions don’t seem to do too terribly much to solve it. What
exactly does it mean that Major League Baseball will ensure that “a
representative number of the best players available” will play? How on
Earth could they do this? The 2016 Olympics will take place during the
height of the baseball season. Even if the games are played in Chicago
— one of the possible sites — I can’t see any team in contention
allowing their best players to go play for Team USA, Team Dominican
Republic, or Team Japan when so much is on the line in the regular
season. They can’t force them to participate, can they?

According
to this article, karate, roller sports, golf, rugby sevens, softball
and squash also are seeking spots on the program, and no more than two
of them will be chosen. If baseball in the Olympics means that my team
is going to lose its shortstop or setup man for a couple of weeks,
consider me rooting for squash.

Jason Kipnis could join Team Israel for 2017 World Baseball Classic

CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 02:  Jason Kipnis #22 of the Cleveland Indians throws during batting practice prior to Game Seven of the 2016 World Series against the Chicago Cubs at Progressive Field on November 2, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
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With the 2017 World Baseball Classic around the corner, Team Israel has reportedly reached out to Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis, per MLB Network’s Jon Morosi. Tournament rules stipulate that a player’s roster eligibility can be achieved in one of several ways: they were born in the country in question or hold citizenship/permanent legal residence there (or are simply capable of qualifying for citizenship), or one of their parents was born in the country or holds citizenship/permanent legal residence there.

For Kipnis, it’s the latter. Kipnis’ father, Mark Kipnis, is Jewish. That gives Kipnis the status he needs to suit up for Team Israel, despite the fact that he is a practicing Roman Catholic. He has yet to confirm or deny his participation in the competition.

Fifteen players have confirmed for Team Israel so far, including Mets’ infielder/outfielder Ty Kelly and free agents Sam Fuld, Nate Freiman, Jason Marquis and Jeremy Bleich. Per MLB.com’s Chad Thornburg, eight minor leaguers will also appear for the team. Like Kipnis, at least three other major leaguers are eligible for Team Israel’s roster but have yet to accept or decline involvement in the WBC: Dodgers center fielder Joc Pederson, Mariners infielder/outfielder Danny Valencia and free agent left-hander Craig Breslow.

Rangers to sign James Loney to minor league deal

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - AUGUST 21: James Loney #28 of the New York Mets tosses to first base against the San Francisco Giants during the second inning at AT&T Park on August 21, 2016 in San Francisco, California.  The New York Mets defeated the San Francisco Giants 2-0. (Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images)
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Free agent first baseman James Loney has reportedly signed a minor league deal with the Rangers, per FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman. The deal includes an invite to spring training and a $1 million salary if he makes the major league roster in 2017.

Loney picked up a one-year stint and starting role with the Mets in 2016, slashing .265/.307/.397 with nine home runs in 336 PA. While his numbers were down a hair from the .280/.322/.357 batting line he produced with the Rays in 2015, he provided the Mets with a necessary, if underwhelming upgrade over an injured Lucas Duda through most of the season.

The 32-year-old infielder is expected to have some competition at first base, with at least five other candidates in the mix: Jurickson Profar, Ronald Guzman, Ryan Rua, Joey Gallo and Josh Hamilton. Rumor has it that the team is planning on platooning Rua and Profar in 2017, barring any impressive breakouts or injuries during spring training, though Loney could still provide the club with some veteran depth and a decent left-handed bat off the bench.