Opinion

Roundtable: Should MLB have an Olympic break?

BallzThe torch will be lit, as this coming weekend brings the Olympic Opening Ceremony and the start of the 2016 Summer Olympic Games.  The world’s top athletes will be competing for the gold in Rio, but many will be missing. The 2016 Summer Olympics will be lacking the sports of baseball and softball, which were eliminated from the Olympics via a committee vote in 2005.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the International Olympic Committee approved the return of baseball and softball for the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.  The return of Olympic baseball got the Phillies Nation team thinking: Would you like to see a break inserted into the Major League Baseball (MLB) schedule to allow big leaguers to play for their countries?

The National Hockey League (NHL) has provided an Olympic Break since 1998, but the future of NHL players in the Olympics is in jeopardy.  Meanwhile, the United States’ basketball team features stars like Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson, but the Olympics occur during the National Basketball Association’s (NBA) off season.  With the inclusion of top athletes from other leagues, it is debatable if MLB should allow their professional athletes to compete in the Olympics.

Here are the opinions of the Phillies Nation writers:

FOR: MLB Should insert an Olympic Break every 4 years.

Corey Sharp:  When I first read the question and read about the potential break in MLB action, I said to myself, “No way, I love baseball. The (All-Star) break is long enough for us fans.”

But then I started to think about how players would represent their respective countries. Then I thought to myself, “Even though there would be a break in MLB action, what is better than cheering your country on? Nothing.”

Think about it – when the World Cup comes around (men’s or women’s) and when the Olympics are taking place, we come together and show our USA pride. We gather around and have big parties and celebrations in support of our country for whatever sport it is, most of them are sports we never heard of, but we cheer on anyway.

I wasn’t around for the 1980 Miracle on Ice, but I spoke to my father, who was 17 at the time, about the experience. He said he didn’t know any of the players on that team before a lot of them went onto the NHL. They were college kids trying to do the impossible. My dad said, “You don’t have to know the players on the team to root for the United States of America.” When he watched the Americans beat the Russians on tape delay, he said, “It was much bigger than our hometown team (Flyers). It was for the world.”

When I heard that answer, there was no doubt in my mind that a break should be inserted into the (MLB) schedule. For players, playing for their countries means the world to them. And for us fans, banding together to watch the United States of America in a sport that is dubbed America’s pastime should mean the world to us, too.

Jon Nisula: I’d love to see baseball in the Olympics. A break for the MLB games to allow MLB players to partake would be great. I’m not sure how it would work out logistically, though. I don’t see MLB having a shortened season once every four years. If there is a way to make it happen, though, I would be pretty happy.

Amanda Orr:  I think there should be an Olympic Break for MLB.  The Olympics are a time to bring out patriotism, as fans rally behind their countries, bringing people together.

Also, Major League Baseball has so many players from around the world that Olympic baseball could be pretty competitive.  There could be several star-studded rosters that would make for some pretty entertaining games.

Sure, there is the World Baseball Classic, but it doesn’t have the same energy as the Olympics. Non-sports fans turn on the Olympics to cheer on their country, while some die-hard baseball fans barely turn on the WBC. Competing in the Olympics is an honor. Players are surrounded by the world’s best. I’d imagine winning a gold medal would have a similar thrill to winning the World Series.  Why should MLB players get excluded?

It’s only every 4 years. The schedule could be shortened, the All Star Game could be moved. The season can be adjusted so that MLB players can go for the gold.

AGAINST: Keep baseball the way it is. Do not insert an Olympic Break.

Ryan Gerstel:  While the idea of players being able to represent their countries at the Olympics seems fitting, I would not like to see the MLB season extended to facilitate it. If MLB adds another break to the schedule, the postseason and World Series would likely trickle into mid, to late, November. As much as I love baseball, extending an already long season would do more harm than good. On top of that, there is too much risk for key players getting injured. Baseball fans, and team managers trying to win ballgames, would not like that one bit.

Jay Floyd:  No, don’t alter the regular season schedule to accommodate the Olympics.
Prior to the Olympic committee ousting baseball and softball from its lineup of summer offerings, the sport of baseball created its own championship tournament that takes place every four years. The World Baseball Classic is the real world championship of baseball and it is done right.

With games played around the globe during Major League Baseball’s preseason and players permitted to select the country they represent, based on heritage or citizenship, the WBC’s format is fan friendly and allows the best players on the planet to compete.

I am surprised that more people don’t see the spiteful implications on the side of the Olympics after they voted baseball out of its program following the inception of the WBC in 2005.

With the WBC, on its current schedule, being slated to follow the summer games by seven months, I say, “Who needs the Olympics?” Wait till March to see big leaguers competing for national pride.

Mike Murphy:  I do not agree with a break in the MLB season for players to play for their home countries. I understand it is the Olympics, which is a great honor to win a gold medal and be considered the best athlete on the planet for your sport.

I feel as though it is over-kill to have the World Baseball Classic every four years in the off-season, then having a break in the MLB season every four years. I am an advocate for creating a shorter season, but doing it every four years seems too inconsistent for my liking.

It is very comparable to golf in the Olympics. Many golfers already compete in the Ryder Cup and the President’s Cup, so adding golf to the Olympics seems to be a “toss-in.” Former world number one on the PGA Tour, Rory McIlroy, would agree also.

I feel many MLB athletes would be more than happy to represent their home country, but cannot endorse a break in the MLB season for the Olympics.

Eric Floyd: While baseball in the Olympics would be enticing, I would rather see major leaguers divert more attention to the existing World Baseball Classic. This has a two-pronged rationale.

First, it doesn’t require a long, two week break in the major league season, which I believe would fit awkwardly into the season schedule. With baseball being the primary sport between June and September, a break would be an odd fit in mid-August. Hockey has the luxury of being surrounded by the NBA to help fill sporting schedules.

Second, an event that showcases world-level talent already exists. The World Baseball Classic has been under-utilized by the United States’ top baseball players for the first three tournaments. I would rather see a super-team compete against the likes of Cuba, Japan, Korea, and the Dominican Republic on a world stage before the season even begins. For a sport that is dubbed “America’s Pastime,” United States baseball has gotten its ass kicked recently. Put together a squad featuring Bryce Harper and Mike Trout in the same lineup, sprinkled with some Rizzo and Bryant and some world class pitching and see how far they can go in March instead of August.

THE VERDICT

What will it be? New MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred could have a tough decision to make for 2020. With the Phillies Nation crew pretty evenly split, whose side will you choose? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section.

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