Last summer the International Olympic Committee executive board voted to bring back baseball and softball to the Olympics in 2020 following a multiple-Olympics absence. That’s cool, even if only amateur players from the United States participated, as has always been the case in the past. And that certainly was the expectation when the return of baseball was announced last summer.
Today, however, at least one key decision maker in Olympic baseball and softball thinks that we could see major leaguers in Tokyo after all. That would be the president of the World Baseball Softball Confederation, Riccardo Fraccari, who says that he is “confident” that a deal will be struck with Rob Manfred and Major League Baseball which allow big leaguers to play in the Tokyo games:
Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred last month appeared pessimistic about striking an agreement to release the MLB’s top players for the 2020 Olympics, in comments at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan.
But Fraccari told reporters at the SportAccord Convention in Aarhus that he was encouraged after talks with the MLB last week.
“I am confident that we can find a positive solution with the MLB,” he said. “But I need to have more details.”
“We have to finalize the format first,” he said, noting that the MLB was awaiting information about the format and scheduling for the next phase of discussions.
That’s certainly not anything definite, but that MLB is even entertaining this in the form of talks is news, in my view. The games are planned to be held from July 24 through August 9, 2020, which would obviously be smack dab in the middle of the major league season. In the past MLB has never considered disrupting its season in order to accommodate international play of any kind. If Fraccari is to be believed, they’re considering it now.
Sixteen days is not the longest time in the world to disrupt the season. And, of course, it’d be possible for a format to be arranged that takes far less time than the entirety of the Olympic Games. Futz around with the All-Star break a bit, place a limit on how many players from each club could be gone or make some other sorts of concessions, and you can have both a minimally-disrupted major league season and a credible Olympic competition.