Olympic baseball not needed with the emergence of the World Baseball Classic

By Dave Fultz

This year is a very important one for the future of baseball and its exposure on the international stage.

First off, and most importantly, the second World Baseball Classic is already under way in four cities around the globe. And later this year, the International Olympic Committee will hold a vote in the fall to determine whether baseball will return to the Summer Games in 2016.

The IOC has already dropped baseball and softball from the lineup for the 2012 Olympics in London, and it may never return if the IOC has its way. The main problem that IOC president Jacques Rogge and the rest of the committee have with baseball being a part of the Games is that the biggest names and best players are kept from participating because of their commitment to the MLB regular season.

Without the participation of big league players, Olympic baseball has always been relegated to a low-profile status behind basketball, swimming and even track and field. While I certainly understand the concerns of the IOC, I say good riddance. Baseball doesn’t need the Olympics.

Major League Baseball is never going to just up and stop its regular season to allow its marquee players to compete in the Olympics once every four years, so I’ll stop worrying about the demise of the bland and largely meaningless competition that Olympic baseball brings every four years and shift my focus to the WBC, which seems poised to improve upon the formula immensely and increase baseball’s presence on the international level.

While most people find problems with the scheduling of the WBC during MLB’s spring training in March, I think it is a stroke of genius. There really is no other time of the year in which you could hold an international competition in this sport, as the MLB season already spans from late February to early November.

And it really isn’t just the time of year that I find to be genius, but the timing of the coming years in which the WBC will be held.

From this year on, the WBC will be held every four years. Because the Summer Olympics were held last year and soccer’s World Cup will be held next year, the WBC will fill the vacuum as the only major international sporting competition that bridges the two. No one can deny the international community’s appetite for sporting events that combine the powers of athletic achievement and national pride.

I’m not saying the WBC is perfect, I’m just saying that it’s a much more preferable alternative to Olympic baseball. Some others have suggested tweaking the tournament to include more teams and changing up the scheduling a bit so that more players could compete. I’m certainly open to such ideas, but I haven’t heard any great ones.

The world outside of the United States has embraced the WBC, with more than 40,000 fans attending the Japanese team’s first practice and sellout crowds seeing games in traditionally non-baseball countries like Canada and Mexico. This is the first goal of the WBC, but in order for it to become a true success, it must first take off where baseball is rooted – here in America.

Team USA has to play, and act, as if this tournament means more to them than just a few exhibition games. The early exit that the U.S. suffered in 2006 was the worst thing that could have happened to the WBC. It allowed American fans to shrug off the tournament as something that doesn’t matter just because their team didn’t come out on top.

With a strong U.S. team and an already impressive bunch of games in round one to get fans excited, the future of the WBC looks promising. So again I say to the IOC: Good riddance, you can keep your silly Olympics.

Dave Fultz is a senior in Media. You can reach him at [email protected]