Major League Baseball loves to tout its “full support” of baseball in the Olympics. Unfortunately, MLB’s help has been about as rigorous as the 30 teams’ full support of sexual assault victims.
On Friday, however, we saw a change to MLB’s long-standing policy of using the Olympic squad as a kind of summer instructional league team. This Olympic team roster, for the first time, includes a bunch of veterans who know how to play but who aren’t affiliated with MLB teams.
Until now, MLB’s “full support for the Olympics” meant using young minor leaguers while ignoring quality competitors playing abroad whose leagues’ had a less hypocritical take and allowed players to compete for their countries.
So to our surprise, the United States’ team for Tokyo includes slugging DeNA BayStars outfielder Tyler Austin, who will be playing in his home park, Yokohama Stadium, Yakult Swallows closer Scot McGough, SoftBank Hawks starter Nick Martinez, and former Orix Buffaloes starter and closer Brandon Dickson.
Dickson played for the U.S. in the Premier 12 as Team USA’s typical token veteran and helped the U.S. qualify for the Olympics. He’s now with the Cardinals in Triple-A, but you get the picture.
This is so welcome because of a conversation I had in 2003 with the late Bob Watson. At that time, Watson was an MLB vice president who was put in charge of MLB’s Olympic “full support.”
- JA: Have you considered using American players abroad for the Olympic team?
- Watson: Our goal is winning. We’ll consider anyone.
- JA: Did you know that players in Japan are available?
- Watson: No. I wasn’t aware of that. Who’s playing there?
- JA: Alex Ochoa is tearing it up here. I talked to him and he said he’d love to play for you.
- Watson: You mean we could get Alex Ochoa? Wow. That IS interesting.
The U.S. failed to qualify for the 2004 Athens Olympics without asking any overseas veterans to participate at the Pan Am games to help secure a spot.
Instead, thanks to MLB’s “full support” won a bronze medal with a team of minor league prospects and the token veteran, pitcher Brandon Knight.
All I can think of is this. If MLB offers you its “full support” it’s probably a good idea to seek legal counsel.