Baseball could be back in the Olympics by 2020

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As I’ve written before, international baseball competitions like the WBC don’t really hold my interest. But I may have a professional interest in this: the International Olympic Committee announced that baseball, among a few other sports, is being put under evaluation for a return to the Olympics effective for the 2020 games.

This could be significant in that, as you may have read, NBC recently won the rights to broadcast the Olympics through 2020. And since, by 2020, I will either have (a) been fired by NBC in an ugly scandal; or (b) managed to convince a couple of people around here that I actually understand baseball a bit and am responsible enough to leave the house, there’s a non-trivial chance that they could send me to the Olympics to cover it!  Which means, seriously IOC, you had better pick a kick-butt city for the 2020 Olympics. If this thing goes down in Bratislava, Slovakia* or some place like that, I’m not gonna be pleased.

Less personally, I’m not sure how I feel about baseball in the Olympics. Depending on the timing, it’s likely to have even less elite-level participation than the WBC does. And, as I’ve said before, the whole national pride + baseball thing tends not work as well with baseball as it does with other sports. It has its moments, but it’s not like the game lends itself to a couple hours straight of insane, patriotic screaming. And yes, I realize that many of you think I’m totally wrong about that.

*Note: one of my former law firms had an office in Bratislava for some reason. When I worked there, a couple of my colleagues from Columbus had to travel to that office to handle some sort of arbitration. Their report back to me on Bratislava: “it’s like Youngstown, Ohio with a castle.”  So, no, it’s not on my bucket list.

(link via BTF)

Josh Harrison wants out of Pittsburgh

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In the wake of the Andrew McCutchen and Gerrit Cole trades, Pirates infielder Josh Harrison released a statement to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic today in which he said he’d like to be traded if the Pirates are going to rebuild over the next couple of years.

Harrison said “If indeed the team does not expect to contend this year or next, perhaps it would be better for all involved, that I also am traded,” He couched it all in is love of Pittsburgh and his desire to win in Pittsburgh, adding “I want what is best for the organization that gave me a chance to be a Big Leaguer,” but he said “I just lost two of my closest friends in the game. Cole and Cutch were not just friends, they were the best pitcher and best position player on the Pittsburgh Pirates. Now, I am the most tenured member of the Pirates, I want to win, I want to contend, I want to win championships in 2018, 2019 and beyond.”

Harrison is under team control on a very team-friendly contract that has him signed through 2018 and with the Pirates holding pretty cheap team options for 2019 and 2020. He’ll make $10 million this year and if the Pirates want to keep him they’ll owe him $10.5 million in 2019 and $11.5 million in 2020, with $1 million and $500,000 buyouts, respectively. Harrison played second, third and in the outfield in 2017 and hit .272/.339/.432 with 16 homers and 12 stolen bases.

Part of Harrison’s statement included the phrase “baseball is a business.” That is correct, and when Harrison signed his deal he had to know that the Pirates could blow things up, trade him or anything else during its term. That’s simply a risk one runs when one agrees to a deal that buys out free agency years. At the same time, it can’t be at all fun to be part of a tear-down process the likes of which is now getting underway in Pittsburgh, and it’d be hard to say any of us would feel differently than Harrison does if we were in his shoes.

All of that said, Harrison may very well get his wish. Rosenthal writes that the Mets, Yankees, and Brewers are among the teams with reported interest in Harrison. There are probably way more who would make a good offer for him given his versatility and given how often recent World Series winners have featured a player with exactly that kind of versatility (think Ben Zobrist and Marwin Gonzalez).

My guess is that he’s either going to be dealt now or at the deadline this coming season.