By John Kruk
Page 2

Sure, the people you see competing in the Olympics are world-class athletes. But the guys in Major League Baseball aren't too bad, either.

So what would happen if the MLB guys went over to Athens? I know there are a few who could take home some medals ...

4x100 relay: Forget about Maurice Green and all the shoe-spraying antics. The guys on the Devil Rays could take this one, no problem -- Carl Crawford, Rocco Baldelli, Joey Gathright and the new guy, B.J. Upton.

Javelin: No question, the Angels' Vladimir Guererro wins gold here. If you don't think so, go ask the guys who thought they could score from third when Vlad has the ball in deep right.

Marathon: Mark Mulder of the A's gets the nod here. Five complete games so far? In today's game, that's a marathon guy.

Greco-Roman Wrestling: I'll go with the 29-year-old rookie from Seattle, Bucky Jacobsen. The guy gets called up a few weeks ago, and his offensive explosion pretty much puts Edgar Martinez on the bench and sends John Olerud packing.

Long Jump: Laynce Nix, no question. Center field is a pretty small place when Nix is out there. With all his diving catches, he's his own highlight reel.

High Jump: Torii Hunter. How many home runs has this guy taken away? How many fences has he gone over?

Diving: If the Phillies had spent the last couple of weeks in Athens instead of going 1-9 at home, they could have taken the gold. Who's taken a bigger dive than them?

Chone Figgins
Chone Figgins is about as versatile as they come.

Synchronized Swimming: With a league-leading 3.71 team ERA, the gold here goes to the pitchers and catchers on the Dodgers.

Volleyball: Well, in volleyball, you aren't supposed to catch the ball. So the Royals and their 103 errors would have no problem running the table here.

Beach Volleyball: Let's not forget about first basemen Phil Nevin (Padres) and Mark Teixeira (Rangers) and the 17 errors they have between them. Everyone else would be playing for second if these two were in Greece.

Decathlon: When you have a guy who hits around .300 and plays second, third, short, left, center and right -- you have a guy who can do anything. The Angels' Chone Figgins fits that description, so we can send him over to battle it out with Tom Pappas.

Olympic Baseball
With Team USA absent from the Olympics, there's been some talk of using professionals in the future. That's definitely a Catch-22 situation.

On one hand, I would have loved to represent my country. What an honor. I seriously doubt anyone would pass that up -- well, unless you're in the NBA.

On the other hand, you have to remember who is paying you. Now, I was a position player, so it wouldn't have been as big a deal for me as it would be to send a pitcher over there.

How do you think the Brewers felt back in 2000 when every time they turned on the Olympics, their multi-million dollar investment Ben Sheets was on the mound?

Seriously, those guys get worked to death in the Games. It's like college -- they pitch a guy one day and have him in the pen the next. Then they start him again a day or so later.

Carmelo Anthony
Carmelo Anthony didn't grow up dreaming of being an Olympian ...

With all the money and complaining that would go on, it wouldn't be worth it. So let's leave it to the amateurs.

Now that we've seen what is happening in basketball, I don't know why any league would want to send its top players.

I guess it's a pretty big understatement to say the novelty has worn off in hoops. But that's just the first reason all these team sports need to go back to using amateurs in the Olympics.

How about the drama of seeing a bunch of college kids trying to win a gold medal? Especially when they know they only have one shot at it. One shot, and then they either go play professionally or they go home.

You see this kind of drama in most of the Olympic sports. You want to know why so many athletes start crying when they mess up? That's easy ... they've trained for this from the age of 6 to 16, and they just blew their one shot at winning a medal.

I can't imagine that kind of pressure. It would be like going to the World Series and being told, "Okay, you're up. Oh, and if you don't get a hit, you're done. You go home."

Forget it. I couldn't do it. That's why I admire these men and women who run down that runway for the vault, or dive into the pool knowing their dreams -- and their teammates' dreams, as well -- could end.

I don't know many people who could handle the pressure of having one shot to make a name for yourself.

But if you do ... it lasts forever. Just ask Mary Lou Retton and Mark Spitz how long it lasts.

Seriously, would we ever have heard of these people if it weren't for what they did with their one moment at the Olympics?

If Spitz had won, say, four golds ... now that's still a lot, but would we still remember his name? I hate to say it, but I doubt it.

What if Mary Lou only got a 9.997? Would she still be on the "Today" show every four years? Probably not.

We don't even need to debate Mike Eruzione. What if Team USA had won the bronze in hockey in 1980? Now, Mike didn't play in the NHL, so who knows what he would have done.

Michael Phelps
... but Michael Phelps did, and that's why it's fun to watch.

See, that's what the Games are all about. Not to sound lame, but it's about people giving up everything for one shining moment.

The Olympics isn't about a bunch of people who can just say, "Oh well," and go back to their mansions and their posses.

If the men's basketball team doesn't win, you know they didn't give their best effort.

But if Michael Phelps or the women's gymnasts walk away with a silver, or a bronze, or even nothing, you know you still got their best effort.

Why? Because they're doing what they feel they were born to do -- be Olympians.

Sorry, but Carmelo Anthony and Richard Jefferson didn't grow up hoping to be Olympians.

Michael Phelps and Paul Hamm certainly did, and that's who I root for.

I don't know a damn thing about the swimming strokes and how to tell who is doing it right. Same thing with gymnastics. I couldn't name the apparatus if you paid me. But the determination and enthusiasm of these athletes is what I want to see.

That's what makes these Games awesome. To watch someone whose entire purpose in life boils down to two weeks in the summer ...

Still, like I said, if they'd let me ... I would have dropped everything to go play.

John Kruk is an analyst for ESPN's "Baseball Tonight."




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CHEWING THE FAT