Watching hockey, thinking about baseball
I'm not much of a puck guy (though I am recalled fondly in certain, puck-centric circles in south Florida). But like seemingly everyone else (at least those who could find MSNBC and didn't mind a couple of hours of standard-def TV), I was transfixed by the U.S.-Canada hockey game Sunday night.
Of course, being presently immersed in the rituals and rites of spring training (and particularly the team that is the focus of this, our sister-blog), I couldn't help but harbor this bit of regret while I watched the U.S. pull off its riveting upset: Isn't it too bad we don't get moments like that in baseball?
Baseball, of course, was eliminated from the Olympics following Beijing 2008 (I was there, and there was very little that was riveting about it), primarily because Major League Baseball could not figure out a way to have its best players participate. The NHL, on the other hand, did figure out a way -- it required a midseason hiatus -- and as you saw Sunday night, the sport is all the better for it.
Yeah, I know the World Baseball Classic is supposed to fill the Olympics void for baseball. And in both 2006 and 2009, it had its moments. But it's no substitute for the real thing.
Getting baseball back into the Olympics, realistically, would require MLB to send its top players, which, in turn, would require about a two-week summer hiatus every four years. And that would require either a shortened regular-season schedule (and two weeks' worth of lost gate revenue) or some combination of an early (late March) and/or late finish (World Series in November), either of which would be tempting the weather fates.
Impossible? Perhaps. But in my profile of new union boss Michael Weiner on Sunday, I pointed out the remarkably healthy state of the relationship between labor and management in baseball. And here is a notion -- MLB players in the Olympics -- that would be, unquestionably, a great thing for the game of baseball.
Baseball's current collective bargaining agreement expires after the 2011 season. Perhaps the two sides, after they're done haggling over revenue sharing and revamping the draft, could figure out a way to tweak the schedule once every four years, get baseball back in the Olympics and start producing indelible, international moments like the one hockey produced Sunday night.
February 22, 2010; 8:53 AM ET
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