Officials think baseball could get back into Olympics after Obama election

Updated: November 5, 2008, 11:19 PM ET
Associated Press

DANA POINT, Calif. -- With Barack Obama in the White House, baseball officials think their sport could have a better chance of getting back into the Olympics.

"If the perception internationally of the United States improves by virtue of his election, then I think the U.S. stature in international sport of every type will be enhanced," San Diego Padres chief executive officer Sandy Alderson said Wednesday at the general managers' meetings. "I don't think the United States has the international stature in sport that it once had."

Baseball was added as a demonstration sport in 1984 and 1988 and then was a medal sport starting in 1992. The International Olympic Committee voted in July 2005 to drop baseball and softball following the 2008 Beijing Games. When a vote for reinstatement took place the following February, baseball lost 46-42 and softball failed 47-43.

At the time, International Softball Federation president Don Porter said: "I think anti-Americanism was a factor." Softball was added for the 1996 Atlanta Games.

"I think clearly how the world looks at America is going to be different with Barack Obama in the White House," Cleveland Indians general manager Mark Shapiro said. "And that will be initial. And then how he leads and how he governs will determine how they look at us over a sustained period."

The IOC will consider the program for the 2016 Games when it meets next October. Leaders of Chicago's bid to host that Olympics think Obama's election provides a boost.

"I think it's a great opportunity for us to get back in," said Jimmie Lee Solomon, executive vice president for baseball operations in the commissioner's office. "I don't know if the election in and of itself would do that. We've got some big problems."

IOC officials were unhappy major league players were not allowed to compete in the Olympics. Because the Olympics are played during baseball's regular season, Solomon called it "a very difficult thing for us to contemplate."

"I think what will help us get back in the Olympics is to get the IOC to understand that baseball is a global sport with significant appeal and that any other reservation about is a red herring," Bob DuPuy, baseball's chief operating officer, said in a telephone interview from New York.

International Baseball Federation president Harvey Schiller is to make a presentation to the IOC on Nov. 14 in Lausanne, Switzerland.

"President-elect Obama's interest in sports and specifically in baseball, combined with the efforts of other world leaders, is the kind of thing we need to return baseball to the Olympic program," Schiller said from New York. "It's important that we have his support, but it's also important that we have the support of the many countries that participate in the game. It's clear we have to identify that it's a global sport and not just a sport in the United States."

Management and the players' association have been pushing for baseball's reinstatement.

"I think Sen. Obama's election is an event of profound significance to a lot of people around the world, and I would be surprised if it was not received that way in Olympic circles, also," union head Donald Fehr said by telephone from Los Angeles.

Obama's election could also impact the ongoing drug investigation of major league players that has been in federal court for more than four years. During the week of Dec. 15, the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals is to meet in Pasadena to hear an appeal by the players' association stemming from the government's seizure of urine samples in 2004. While the government was searching for records of players involved in the BALCO investigation, it seized all samples. If the government wins the case, it could use those records as evidence to question players on how they obtained the drugs.

A three-judge panel ruled largely in favor of the government, but the full circuit set that decision aside and decided the full court will hear the matter. If the union prevails before the circuit court in the case, which could decide the meaning of "plain view" in the computer age, a Solicitor General appointed by the Obama administration could decide whether to take the case to the Supreme Court.

"I think that baseball to one side, there are important issues in this case. I think that's what caught their attention," said Rob Manfred, MLB's executive vice president of labor relations.

Obama's election was viewed as positive for players by agent Scott Boras.

"Both in the NLRB and the situation of the union's relationship with the federal system, it's going to be greatly improved," Boras said.

Boras, negotiating contracts for Manny Ramirez, Mark Teixeira and several other high-profile free agents, maintained his viewpoint that MLB won't he hurt by the economic downtown.

"Baseball didn't invest in derivatives and subprimes," he said. "Baseball has long-term contracts with national and local TV networks. ... As I've said all along, the hay is in the barn."

Also Wednesday:

• Dodgers GM Ned Colletti said Los Angeles made an offer to Ramirez that would give him the second-highest average salary in the sport. That would put the slugging outfielder behind Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez ($27.5 million) and ahead of Mets pitcher Johan Santana ($22.9 million). Colletti did not divulge the length of the offer. "If you saw the bid, it's nothing that we're embarrassed by," Colletti said. "We said, 'Think about it for a while. It's not going to be there forever.'" Los Angeles also declined pitcher Brad Penny's $9.25 million option, choosing to pay a $2 million buyout.

• Alderson, discussing the team's efforts to trade NL Cy Young Award winner Jake Peavy, made it sound as if the Padres were definitely in a rebuilding mode. "It would be too facile for us to simply say, 'Hey, we can get to the World Series next year because Tampa Bay did it this year,'" he said. "They accomplished something extraordinary."

• MLB senior vice president Katy Feeney spoke to GMs about scheduling difficulties for 2010 spring training. The Dodgers and Cleveland Indians move their camps from Florida to Arizona for this spring, and Cincinnati follows for 2010. That will leave 15 teams in each state, causing either days off or split doubleheaders.

• New Seattle GM Jack Zduriencik, searching for a manager, talked about interviewing Willie Randolph for the Milwaukee job last month. "I saw Willie Randolph get his first major league hit. I said, Willie, I go back with you longer than you think,'" he said.


Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press