Beijing, here we come

8 08 2008

Indians outfielder Matt LaPorta could be trading Olympic gold for a spot on a major league roster this season

Indians OF Matt LaPorta might be giving up a spot on a major league roster this season for Olympic gold

by Jared Smith

So, it’s that time again, the Summer Olympics…or if you want to be official about it, The Games of the XXIX Olympiad.  This year’s version of the games features 10,500 athletes participating in 302 events across 28 sports.  However due to the crippling 12-hour time difference between Beijing and the United States, most internet surfing citizens of this great free land will know the outcome of these events long before they are ever seen on that wonderful network with the little peacock in the lower left-hand corner. 

However, much to the delight of myself and many other internet sports geeks throughout the country, NBC has a new twist on this year’s version of the Olympics, live internet simulcasting of every event online.  Yes that’s right, over 2200 hours of sports from badminton to synchronized swimming, neither of which yours truly will be checking out.  For the most part I will be using this new feature to check out my favorite sport, a sport that will be making an appearance in the Olympic games for the final time, a sport that for some reason the IOC decided to remove for the 2012 games and beyond, that sport is baseball.

That’s right sports fans, the great American past time will no longer be an Olympic event come 2012, however this year’s version of Olympic baseball should send the sport out with a bang. The eight teams that will be vying for gold on the diamond will include 2004 gold medalist Cuba, Canada, Chinese Taipei, China, Japan, South Korea, Netherlands, and of course the good ole U-S-of-A.  This year’s version of the American team is an interesting story of national pride as many of the players on the team could be risking a chance to make a playoff roster in the majors by taking a three week vacation on the other side of the world. 

A prime example of this is outfielder Matt LaPorta.  On July 7th LaPorta was traded from the Milwaukee Brewers to the Cleveland Indians for stud hurler C.C. Sabathia, who ironically enough was on the 2000 U.S. Olympic squad that won gold in Sydney.  However, since the trade, LaPorta has struggled in the minors, hitting a meager .212 with only one home run for the Double-A Akron Aeros of the Eastern League.  So maybe this Olympic hiatus came at a good time for the major league hopeful, who said that the decision to leave the minor leagues in pursuit of a gold medal was an easy one.  Only time will tell whether or not this Olympic decision will cost LaPorta his cup of coffee at the big leagues this season.

Major league hopefuls aside, there is one player on the U.S. roster who will not be worrying about missing out on the possibility to receive a big league call-up this season, and I do stress THIS season because by the looks of it, this kid will be one of the top players selected in the 2009 MLB Amateur draft. Pitcher Stephen Strasburg is the only player on the U.S. Olympic roster who still carries amateur status.  The sophomore at San Diego State University recently celebrated his 20th birthday along with the announcement that he will be given the opportunity to compete for olympic gold in Beijing.

Much to the jest of his new teammates, the last time the U.S. competed on the Olympic baseball diamond back in 2000, Strasburg couldn’t even get into a PG-13 rated movie.  However his age is no indication of his talent level, as Strasburg dominated the collegiate ranks last season.  In 2008 the righty went 8-3 with a 1.57 ERA in 13 starts while striking out 133 batters and only walking 16 in 97 innings pitched.  Oh and did I mention that four out of those 13 starts were complete games, with two of those going for shutouts. 

Needless to say, this year’s version of the U.S. national team has it’s fair share of interesting stories, and is without a doubt packed with talent.  One more prospect that is worth mentioning, especially for all of you Philly Phanatics out there, is “catcher-of-the-future” Lou Marson.  Marson’s skills will be on full display at this year’s games as the top-notch backstop will be garnering lots of attention from Philly fans who can’t stand seeing Carlos Ruiz and Chris Coste make the eight spot in the Phil’s lineup look like junior varsity batting practice.  In 2008 for Double-A Reading Marson is hitting .319, which is a whopping 43 points higher than Coste and over 100, thats right it’s not a typo, 100 points higher than the dare I say “light” hitting Carlos Ruiz.  Anyways seeing Marson behind the plate wearing the colors Red, White and Blue might not be far off from the colors he will be wearing next season when opening day rolls around.

With the August 13th opener versus South Korea just a few days away, one can only imagine how this year’s final chapter of Olympic baseball will end.  Will the U.S. reign victorious?  Will Cuba repeat as gold medalists?  Will a sleeper emerge from the pack and shock the world?  

In my humble opinion, aside from the U.S. taking home the gold, it would be a fitting end to Olympic baseball competition if NBC let Bob Costas call the games for the peacock network.  This would not only make the games extremely more entertaining, it would also allow the die-hard baseball fans back in the States to reminiss on the good ole’ days when one of the best and most venerable sports personalities of all time was relevant in the world of sports broadcasting.  

However knowing NBC, they’ll probably keep Costas locked up in some remote studio instead, filling me in on irrelevant and sappy personal interest stories about athletes I’ve never heard of, and telling me how many gold medals Michael Phelps is going to win.  All I can say to that is, who cares?

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One response

28 04 2012
Olympics 2012

Hi, this is really goo challenge that he has posing to the world in this Olympics ,hopefully he will conquer the world soon.

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