Tag Archives: MLB

MLB’s ‘full support’

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.

In 2008, the U.S. could have included Tuffy Rhodes or Tyrone Woods or Rick Short or pitchers Marc Kroon and Colby Lewis, who all tore it up that year in Japan.

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.

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It’s hard, but stop whining

If you’re a fan of major league baseball, you have a right to be upset that greedy owners are holding you and the game you love in contempt, while a deadly virus makes a mockery of many things you thought of as normal and threatens lives and livelihoods. Things have turned upside down. I get it. I feel your pain and your anger.

That being said, it looks like you will have your baseball in one form or another. And it’s about goddamn time you appreciate that part of it and stop complaining about the package it’s coming in.

I know that’s hard, but stop whining just because it’s not the baseball you’re used to.

Sure, there are concerns. We want the players and coaches and people working around them in the game to all be safe. And I don’t just mean the people we pay to see but the people we don’t, the clubhouse managers, cooks, security guards, batboys and umpires.

A lot of people are affected by the coronavirus and the callous way the owners have treated them and everyone concerned with baseball including the fans is worthy of a serious karmic kick in the privates.

I also get that a huge chunk of our love of baseball is a stable foundation, a predictable format of a certain number of games followed by a postseason. Twitter is now awash with serious people questioning whether a shortened season will be legitimate, and I suppose that’s a valid question in an era where the phrase “small sample size” is as common a feature in a baseball broadcast as “clutch performer.” Baseball’s grand moments are truly grand because they stand out from a long-established pattern. Those moments, those special seasons become musical riffs we hear in our memory that have the power to take our breath away years later.

We worry that losing the commonality of a long grinding regular season will deprive us of the joy of placing that year’s accomplishments neatly on the shelf next to the others in our history and the knowledge that it is just one more completed piece of an orderly baseball universe.

People whose opinions I thrive on are upset that awards handed out for a 50-game season will lack luster, and I don’t blame them. But if we expect players to compete, if that’s what we’re really here for, the human reach and struggle to win and overcome adversity, then hell yes, the awards have meaning. OK, so we won’t learn as much about how good a team is over 162 games. Spare us all the lectures. We know it in our hearts.

All my life, I’ve listened to people say the true test of greatness is a 162-game season only to turn around in October and say exactly the same thing about a seven-game world series. The same people often utter both and are completely unconcerned with the apparent contradiction. We love both, the long grind and the final decision. One is a test, the other a crapshoot. But let’s face it, who doesn’t like a game of chance now and then.

If you like, boycott this unfamiliar experiment because it’s a contrivance of the greedy bastards who couldn’t give two shakes for either the beauty of the game, the artisans who produce it, or the human beings who invest their time and money into it. The game would be so much better run by people who loved baseball as much as they love guaranteed returns on investments.

Do what you can to never give the owners a penny. They don’t deserve you. Encourage the people who play and teach the game to quit MLB and form a better union. But don’t complain about having baseball.

If any of you look at this season and say “That’s not baseball,” then you’re getting on the same viral cruise ship with the morons who say baseball in Japan or in Korea or Taiwan is not baseball because it’s different — because it’s different from what they’re accustomed to.

But having seen baseball through Japanese lenses for more years than I like to say, seeing something familiar from a different perspective teaches you as much about where you’ve been as about where you are.

So fight for change, support the players and human rights and abandon the charlatans who run MLB, but treasure this season for what it is, a special riff in baseball’s musical universe. I guarantee you’ll never forget it.