With the 2028 Olympics taking place in Los Angeles and America’s pastime being one of the events, many people are wondering if their favorite Major League Baseball superstars will be present, and why they should.

Why MLB Should Let Players Play In The 2028 Olympics

With the 2028 Olympics taking place in Los Angeles and America’s pastime being one of the events, many people are wondering if their favorite Major League Baseball superstars will be present, and why they should.

The 2028 Olympic Games is the premier international sporting event, which isn’t much of a secret, and the United States has hosted it nine times, and the last time they hosted the summer games was in 1996.

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The 1996 Olympics marked the first time current NBA players were allowed to play in America, yet MLB players still were not allowed.

With America hosting the summer games once more in 2028, many fans are wondering, are we going to see the game’s best on display?

Why Are MLB Players Not Allowed In The 2028 Olympics

As evidenced by the 2023 World Baseball Classic, it seems that one of the biggest reasons for the omission of current MLB players, is concern about injuries.

For those of you out the loop or perhaps just forgot, many marquee MLB players got injured including closer Edwin Diaz of The New York Mets, former American League MVP second baseman Jose Altuve of The Houston Astros, and other players that had to back out for fear of injury, like future hall of fame bound starting pitcher, Clayton Kershaw of The Los Angeles Dodgers.

Sports players are an investment for teams and organizations, so I understand them wanting to protect said investment.

Major League Baseball would also likely want to avoid the 2-3 weeks or so for the Olympics, they more or less have a monopoly on professional baseball in America, financially the league does very well, none of this is breaking news. 

I’m sure a liability issue on behalf of the league’s player union could be a factor in the decision as well. 

Players would have to compete with playoff intensity in the middle of the season, as we know in MLB playoffs, teams are all in, pitchers get pushed further than they do in the regular season, hitters play through minor injuries that could be made more serious which could lead to more serious long term injuries.

Another reason for the lack of current MLB players in the Olympics is that it isn’t really necessary.

The Olympics obviously get spectacular ratings on their own, baseball already has The World Baseball Classic every three years where current MLB players compete, and perhaps most importantly MLB continues to get high ratings and attendance throughout the Olympic games.

One other issue with current MLB players playing in the Olympics is that there does not seem to be too much support for it to happen on the players behalf.

The Athletic recently completed an anonymous poll of active MLB players on several different topics, one of which being this very one, current MLB players playing in the Olympics.

Of “the more than 100 players interviewed” 53.3% said no they would not want to play the Olympics mid season. 

Here is the published feedback some players gave;

““I’d love to play in the Olympics, but I don’t know what that would look like. I come back from three days off, and my timing is shot.”

“The WBC is better anyway.”

“Injuries would go through the roof.”

“To be honest, we (the U.S.) would be too good, and we’d destroy and win everything.”

“No one would care unless you paid them a ton of money.”

“I think being an Olympian and being on a 40-man roster gave me an opportunity to play at a high level while I was still in the minor leagues. …  it gives other kids and older vets an opportunity to get their name back on the map and potentially find a job.”

“I think it would be awesome, but I don’t think there’s a good way to do it.””

Lastly, is the issue of logistics, how would stoppage affect the MLB season. 

MLB owners likely want no part in losing 2-3 weeks for the Olympics, it is not just games that would be missed during this time it is also promotional events, pre scheduled charity events, commercials, etc. you know, all the day to day revenue making things that you and I really know little to nothing about but make a difference in the long run.

Would MLB have to shorten the season from 162 to 150 games or less?

Would MLB have to start their seasons earlier or extend it, how does that affect concerts and other events held at team venues?

These are the kinds of logistical issues that get overlooked when trying to decide this.

Maybe the biggest reason current MLB players are not allowed in the Olympics is that its just a headache to deal with.

Why Current Major League Baseball Players Should Be Allowed In The 2028 Olympics

Baseball has had an interesting lifespan in the 21st century, ratings were really high in the early 2000’s, then they dropped drastically, and are once again on the rise.

That to me is the biggest reason for them allowing current MLB players in the 2028 Olympics, it grows the game.

MLB at the Olympics

Countries fund Olympic teams differently than world cup teams or other international tournament teams, leading to a more stable infrastructure and pipeline for the game in those countries.

We saw The Czech Republic, Great Britain, and Nicaragua make their debut in the 2023 WBC.

We are starting to see more European and African prospects in MLB and other leagues, this could help promote them, the way Harry Ford of Great Britain and The Seattle Mariners in The 2023 WBC became more talked about following his performance.

Yes the short term benefit is minor, I’ll concede that, but the long term benefit could be astronomical. 

Countless international NBA players have cited the 1992 “Dream Team” as their main inspiration behind getting into basketball, baseball’s Dirk Nowitzki or Pau Gasol could be out there in Germany or Spain, and just waiting for that push.

MLB ratings could also go up post Olympics.

People route for something, give me a story and I’ll tell you who I want to win. 

Suppose a player who is not very good or at least All Star caliber goes on a 2011 David Freese-like rampage in the Olympics, elevating their team to glory, now a casual viewer knows who said player is and is invested, if Twins outfielder Max Kepler suddenly leads Germany to the gold medal game that’s a story, and now people want more.

The playoff intensity could be a good or bad thing, injuries are never fun, but the midseason playoff intensity can carry over to MLB earlier than the last two weeks of September like we normally see.

Games in the middle of August are usually more boring to watch than other points in the season, they don’t call it “the dog days” because it is must watch television.

Another effect on ratings and attendance could be as simple as getting to see an Olympic gold medalist at the peak of their powers, that in and of itself can be a draw to people.

Earlier I posted anonymous quotes from players who do not want the Olympics to interrupt the regular season, so I find it fitting to post the inverse here.

“It depends on how serious every country would take it. If the Dominican fields a good roster and Venezuela, that would be pretty cool.”

“It is the Olympics. You have only so many times (to participate).”

“I think it would be a blast.”

“If the players aren’t affected with pay. I’m all about representing your country; if we can somehow still get a full season, then I’m on board with it.”

“If there’s a way they could get rid of the All-Star Game that year, that would be pretty cool. It’s a unique opportunity, and now that baseball is back in (the 2028 Olympics), I feel like guys would want to do it.”

“I know the logistics would be a pain in the butt. It would be doable and you’d have the best players representing their countries when they’re in the best shape to perform.”

“It’d be really cool. The Olympics are my favorite thing to watch. I really like the idea of doing that. Soccer does that, and hockey, too. I don’t think it’s realistic because how long are you going to shut the season down? That’s a lot of owners losing money.”

“You hear stories about the World Baseball Classic and guys with 10-plus years, one of the best players to ever set foot on planet Earth, Mike Trout, saying he had the most fun he’s ever had playing in the WBC. I think there’s something to that when you play for your country and it says USA across your chest or Japan or whatever it is. It gives the fans just a little bit more enthusiasm.”

All of these points are fair, same with the points against, one thing that separates the two camps is that there is name and a face for the pro current MLB players playing in the Olympics camp that being superstar outfielder turned first baseman, Bryce Harper of the Philadelphia Phillies (for more on their season click here).

Harper was asked about the topic in a postgame press conference candidly giving his support for the players to play in the 2028 Olympics.

The logistics of taking a sabbatical mid season for non Olympians is an interesting point, however I think there are ways around it.

Why not have exhibition games? Fans can watch non Olympians play games or maybe have a mini tournament of their own not too dissimilar from the NBA’s mid season tournament, with the winning team getting prize money for their players.

Another alternative could be mini all star games, “the best of the AL East vs the best of the NL West” something like that for one of the weeks, and then the mini tournament I suggested above, this will help mitigate the MLB ratings issue, it could get fans into ballparks, and its different, while I think the NBA has become too gimmicky, I applaud the effort in trying new things.

Conclusion on Current Major League Baseball Players Playing In The Olympics

While I do think they should be allowed to play, particularly in 2028 when the Olympics are back in the US, I understand the arguments against it. 

However, one of the main reasons that the International Olympic Committee has cited in the past is that “baseball isn’t popular enough globally” and “an absence of the game’s best players”.

One of those issues can be fixed by current MLB players playing, the other, the former, to me is a Eurocentric view of the world, and offensively arrogant.

Baseball is the second biggest sport in the Americas which is by mass a third of the world, it’s the biggest sport in many Southeast Asian countries like Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan. 

While the game is less popular in Australia there is a history of Australian players in Major League Baseball like closer Liam Hendricks (who is on The Red Sox but hasn’t played this season due to injury).

I know its redundant to keep reading “current MLB players” but it is necessary.

Players not on a team’s  40 man roster can play in the Olympics, and former big leaguers trying to get back to “the show” often play, Ian Kinsler led team Israel in 2021, Todd Frazier was on Team USA, Masahiro Tanaka was on Samurai Japan, and many more.

Scott Kazmir and David Robertson played so well they got second careers in Major League Baseball.

At 37 years old Kazmir was picked up by The San Francisco Giants for the rest of the 2021 season, 5 years after he last played in the bigs for The Los Angeles Dodgers where he struggled out of the bullpen, with a 6.35 ERA in 5 games played.

2009 World Series champion Robertson was out of the league briefly during 2020 and 2021 reappearing in the Olympics as Team USA at 36 years old, he finished the season with The Tampa Bay Rays and has been in the league since.

Those are the kinds of players I would feel bad for, guys trying their hardest to comeback to what they love, I would support a limit on current MLB players, maybe a maximum of 15 or 20 instead of the full 26 man roster.

I find the concept of America hosting the 2028 Olympics with America’s pastime on display, without America’s best, bizarre. 

I hope the league sizes the opportunity to grow itself and the game. 

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