If you’re watching Team USA Olympic baseball this summer, you may have a single question in your mind.
And that question will likely be: “Who the hell is that?”
While the USA Olympic baseball roster holds some journeyman players who have made their bones in the major leagues, the majority of the roster is comprised of minor-league guys and players who are on the doorstop of MLB teams.
Unfortunately, the sport’s biggest stars including Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, Aaron Judge and others won’t make their way to Japan to help Team USA nail down a gold medal.
There’s a very simple why baseball’s best don’t get that opportunity. Here’s why:
Why aren’t MLB players in the Olympics?
A wise man once said: “It’s all about the mon-aaayyy.”
Unlike Nippon Professional Baseball — Japan’s top baseball circuit — which shuts down for the Olympics, Major League Baseball doesn’t pause for two weeks to allow its stars to play on Team USA. Teams are largely unwilling to let their star players compete in the Olympics.
In 2020, MLB, MLBPA and the International Baseball Federation struck a rule allowing players in MLB organizations not on the 40-man roster to be eligible for the games. That means prospects can play, just not the ones on the 40-man roster.
Simply put: MLB and its teams doesn’t want to lose money by not having its stars on the field or risking long-term injury.
Ultimately, former MLB All-Stars and players on the come-up still comprise the roster, which is nothing to thumb your nose at.
In response to Olympics being without big stars, MLB proposed a new tournament with the goal to grow the game, known as the World Baseball Classic, which has been held four times. The WBC takes place before spring training — when it’s played. The coronavirus pandemic pushed the 2020 edition of the tournament indefinitely.
The decision to not allow its players to play has irked some of the sport’s biggest stars, including Phillies outfielder Bryce Harper.
“It is such a travesty to me,” Harper said, via ESPN in 2020. “The 2020 Olympics, in Japan. And you’re not sending big league guys? Are you kidding me?
“You want to grow the game as much as possible and you’re not going to let us play in the Olympics because you don’t want to [lose] out on money for a two-week period? OK, that’s dumb.”