July 09, 2005
Baseball and softball dropped from 2012 Olympics

I'm disappointed to read that the International Olympic Committee has dropped baseball and softball as participating sports in the Games starting in 2012.


The first sports dropped from the Olympics since polo in 1936, both fell victim to a new sport-by-sport review system instituted by IOC president Jacques Rogge of Belgium. And it was Rogge whom pitcher Lisa Fernandez, a veteran of all three gold-medal teams that have compiled a 24-4 record in the Olympics, singled out as the villain of the piece.

"Rogge has basically conspired against the sports to get them removed. We had done our job as a sport worldwide to show we belong," Fernandez told the Associated Press. "I feel one person, the president of the IOC, a person from Europe, has taken it upon himself to ruin the lives of millions, actually billions of women."

Four Houston gold medalists softball pitchers Cat Osterman (2004) and Christa Williams (1996 and 2000) and pitcher Roy Oswalt and infielder Adam Everett of the Astros (2000) were saddened, angered and confused by the IOC vote.

"You're taking away a dream from not only us who are playing now but from future athletes," said Osterman, the youngest player on last year's team that outscored opponents 51-1 and, entering her senior year at the University of Texas, a top prospect for the 2008 squad.

[...]

Both women acknowledge that softball probably suffered from being lumped in with baseball in the minds of IOC voters.

In its 265-page report on the international federations, the IOC program commission noted that Major League Baseball's rules and schedule do not permit the best athletes to compete in the Olympic Games, and while MLB has tougher drug-testing procedures, they fall short of Olympic standards.

"I think we got lumped (with baseball), and I don't think that's fair, and I'm not saying that because we got booted out," Osterman said. "You can't lump us together. They're pro athletes, and we have athletes who train specifically for the Olympics for four years."

The report also noted that both sports rank toward the bottom in the number of participating countries. Only modern pentathlon and triathlon rank below both sports in the number of countries among the Olympic movement's 202 national governing bodies.


First of all, I think softball was as much a victim of the US team's utter dominance as anything else. No other team was in their class - I mean, outscoring opponents 51-1 as the 2004 squad did isn't competition, it's a turkey shoot.

The lack of participation among competing nations is a problem, one which I hope gets addressed so that these sports can be reconsidered someday. I'm not really sure what the barriers are to that - some of them are surely cultural, as baseball and softball are so identified as being "American" sports - but I don't believe any of them are likely to be insurmountable.

I also think that while it's a shame that the softballers are losing the international stage like this, their sport is doing pretty well with viewing audiences in the US right now. It won't surprise me to see games from the new fastpitch league show up on my TV schedule in the near future.

As for baseball, MLB is never going to take a two-week break in August to allow its players to compete in the Olympics. I understand the IOC wanting the best players in the world to compete, but I still remember when the Olympics were about amateur athletes. I know we've gone all Dream Team in the past few years, but is it really so awful to have minor leagures and college players out there? And someone help me out here - back when the NHL existed, how did it handle the Games' intrusion into its regular schedule? What about the premier football leagues in Europe? I'm just asking.

So anyway. Enjoy these sports at the Beijing Games in 2008, because who knows when we'll see them in this setting again.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on July 09, 2005 to Baseball | TrackBack
Comments

With ice hockey, the NHL takes a two-week break in the middle of the season, and some teams allow players to leave the team for three weeks, if they play for a country that must vie in the first week of competition; European soccer leagues are in the off-season when the Summer Olympics occur, and even then most of the top pros stay home.

In spite of the dominance of U.S. softball, I'm certain it would have been kept had it not been for baseball, or rather, softball wouldn't have had a prayer of being included in the first place were it not a "female" version of baseball. Outside of Australia, Canada and China, the sport doesn't exist anywhere else.

Posted by: Steve Smith on July 9, 2005 4:20 PM

"And someone help me out here - back when the NHL existed, how did it handle the Games' intrusion into its regular schedule? What about the premier football leagues in Europe? I'm just asking."

The NHL shut down for 16 days to allow its' players to go to the Olympics in 1998 and 2002. This will also occur in 2006 if there is a CBA in place.

FIFA (the world governing body of soccer) dictates that the Olympic tournament be desgined for players under the age of 23 so it doesn't overshadow the World Cup. Also, the Summer Olympic Games often does not take place during the European soccer season (traditionally from August through May). There was a controversy in 2004 when Gabriel Heinze decided to play for Argentina in the Olympics instead of starting the season with his club, Manchester United (England). Ironically, the Manchester United fans voted him the team's 2004-2005 player of the year.

Posted by: William Hughes on July 9, 2005 8:51 PM

I must make a correction to my earlier post regarding the Manchester United player in question. The player's name is Gabriel Heinze.

Posted by: William Hughes on July 9, 2005 8:57 PM

Baseball was always something of a joke because none of the best baseball countries sent their best players. Imagine what a tournament would look like if Japan, US, Canada, Dominican Republic, Cuba, Venezuela, Mexico all sent their top MLB and Japanese pro league stars. Something more like the world cup of baseball. If a sport's highest levels can't be bothered to get involved in the Olympics then fine, cut it.

As for softball. I really didn't see the point. Obvoiusly the rest of the world doesn't give a shit about softball.

I was hoping to see rugby included but doesn't look like that's in the cards.

Posted by: Kent on July 9, 2005 10:54 PM

i'm sorry for baseball, but softball?? Who plays softball in te rest of the world??? Softball is ridiculous, nobody plays it, i'm glad that the iOC dropped softball from the olympic program

Posted by: mex on July 15, 2005 2:51 AM

In its 265-page report on the international federations, the IOC program commission noted that Major League Baseball's rules and schedule do not permit the best athletes to compete in the Olympic Games, and while MLB has tougher drug-testing procedures, they fall short of Olympic standards.

A couple of points:

First, I'm with Kuff on the "best athletes" excuse. Letting professional athletes compete in the Olympics was a mistake, at least from a non-U.S.A. jingoist standpoint. Who wants to compete in a tournament where one nation is guaranteed to dominate overwhelmingly?

Second, the IOC certainly has a point about steroid use among MLB athletes. But let's keep in mind that it's supposedly frowned upon because it's considered cheating. Unfortunately, in the U.S. it's gotten caught up in the larger "war on drugs," even though nobody takes steroids just to get "high." And the converse is also true; the IOC tests not only for steroids, but also for recreational drugs like marijuana, not because they let players cheat, but rather just because they're considered "immoral." (And completely nonphysical sports like chess are adopting the IOC's drug-testing requirements in a bid for Olympic status, even though it's patently obvious that neither steroids nor recreational drugs would improve "chess performance!")

In this context, and given that the IOC is perfectly capable of enforcing its own drug rules anyway, their use of this excuse sounds like a blanket condemnation of baseball for its "immorality" in failing to deal with steroid use as harshly as the IOC deems appropriate.

Do you see, Congress? Your attempt to turn MLB steroid use into a political football was a factor in the IOC's decision. But who cares, as long as we all get a chance to practice our "tough on drugs" posture for gullible voters?

Posted by: Mathwiz on July 16, 2005 2:32 PM

It is so sad that they have dropped softball from the 2012 olympic games. This is a sport we have followed closely since our daughter played at age 8 and played all the way through college.
I will no longer support the olympics. I got a thing in the mail last week begging for money. These young women deserve to play in the olympics just as much as someone riding on a luge or prancing around making circles with ribbons,,,,,typical. Give me a break, please. I bet most of the people who have commented on this subject are males,,,,,,,,,

Posted by: Nancy on September 29, 2005 10:57 PM

I agree... i beleive most that have said that they are happy that softball was dropped are males. I myself as a softball player have seen the sport grow in just the past 4 years. 4 years ago yoo didnt even hear of the sport that much. All the woman on the USA team and other countries deserve to play..they have come a long way and have worked VERY hard to get where they are.

Posted by: chandler on January 8, 2006 3:16 PM