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.

Kendrys Morales pitched a scoreless inning Sunday

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Nothing went right for the Blue Jays this weekend. The club was swept in a four-game series against the Athletics, including a 9-2 loss on Sunday. Not wanting to burn out his bullpen in a lopsided game — and perhaps thinking about the general entertainment value involved — Blue Jays manager John Gibbons decided to send designated hitter Kendrys Morales out to pitch the ninth inning. And in typical baseball fashion, he saw better results than some of the dudes who do this all the time.

Morales, who actually pitched in Cuba nearly 20 years ago, worked around a walk for a scoreless inning. He induced three fly outs and topped out at 87.4 mph on his fastball, per Brooks Baseball. He received a standing ovation on the way back to the dugout. Morales hasn’t been hearing that sort of thing for his contributions with the bat recently.

Morales, 34, is batting just .163/.248/.279 with three home runs through 32 games this season. There’s been some understandable clamoring for top prospect Vladmir Guerrero, Jr. to cut into his at-bats. For his part, Morales has been doing everything he can to break out of his slumber at the plate, including ditching the glasses he started wearing during spring training. Hey, whatever works. Morales also had two of Toronto’s four hits on Sunday.

On the heels of Morales’ first MLB appearance on the mound, it feels rather appropriate that the Blue Jays will get their first look at Angels sensation Shohei Ohtani — at least as a hitter — beginning on Tuesday.