MLB bolsters baseball Olympic bid with TV, schedule concessions [Updated]
LAUSANNE, Switzerland -- Baseball officials told the International Olympic Committee they will do almost anything to create a schedule to put an Olympic tournament in the spotlight should the sport be readmitted to the Games for 2016.
Baseball was among seven sports making its Olympic case Monday to the IOC executive board, which in August will recommend two to fill the vacancies on the Olympic program created when baseball and softball were dropped after the 2008 Beijing Games.
Karate, roller sports, golf, rugby sevens, softball and squash also are seeking spots on the program. The IOC membership will vote on the sports after picking the 2016 Olympic host in October. A simple majority of IOC votes is needed, and they can choose one, both or neither.
Golf brought in Annika Sorenstam and Colin Montgomerie for its presentation. Asked how it went, Sorenstam said, "We shot under par.''
With Major League Baseball President Bob DuPuy and Major League Baseball Players Assn. executive director Don Fehr in his delegation, International Baseball Federation President Harvey Schiller told the IOC that:
*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.
*Should Madrid win the 2016 Games, baseball would be willing to have its Olympic tournament played in Barcelona, which has facilities from the 1992 Summer Games, where baseball made its Olympic debut.
Neither Fehr nor Schiller would elaborate on what was meant by a representative number of top major leaguers, but it is hard to imagine many teams wanting to give up star players for what could be a minimum six or seven days in the middle of the season.
Why six or seven? Suppose the tourney begins on a Wednesday in Madrid. The tightest workable schedule would have MLB players charter to Spain on a Tuesday. A player whose team makes the medal round Sunday could be back -- on another charter -- for a Monday night game with his MLB team.
The process would be easier if the 2016 Games were in Chicago, harder if in Tokyo. Olympic rain postponements would be a problem anywhere.
Baseball officials earlier had talked about using the All-Star break for an Olympic tournament, but Schiller said that idea was not discussed Monday. It likely isn't viable because the All-Star Game traditionally is in mid-July while the Olympics are in August.
Schiller also said baseball reaffirmed its commitment to clean up the sport's enormous doping problems, a factor when the IOC booted it from the Games during a 2005 vote. Since then, prominent players -- Manny Ramirez, Alex Rodriguez, Andy Pettitte -- have admitted to having used drugs and another, Roger Clemens, was named as a performance-enhancing drug user in the Mitchell Report. (Note: An earlier version of this post inadvertently listed Manny "Rodriguez" instead of Ramirez.)
[Updated 9:30 a.m.: Montgomerie gave the IOC members just the sort of ego flattering they love.
"It has been said that we have our major competitions and we feel that is the top of golf,'' he told media after the presentation.
"But it's certainly not the top of sport, which is why we are here to bring golf to the top of the sport, to bring golf to the pinnacle of sport and that is what the Olympic Games means."
Montgomerie, available to pitch golf's case because he did not qualify for this week's U.S. Open, also said that an Olympic gold would make up for his never having won one of golf's four major tournaments.
Softball emphasized its role in Olympic gender equity but also reminded the IOC that it is not "women's baseball.''
"I made it very clear that unequivocally, we are not part of baseball,'' said International Softball President Don Porter, whose federation had rejected Schiller's request this winter that the two sports present themselves as one to the IOC.
As he spoke with the media, Porter was surrounded by five women -- including athletes from South Africa and Australia -- whom he called "Don's Angels.''
He turned to one of them, ISF deputy secretary general Low Beng Choo of Malaysia, to emphasize the sport's commitment to women on and off the field.
"The ISF is a fantastic, progressive federation,'' Choo said.
"Forty percent of our executive committee members are women, and I don't know any other federation can say that.'']
-- Philip Hersh