Better baseball players have less chance for Olympic gold


By RONALD BLUM - AP Baseball Writer



United States' Eric Filia (5) celebrates his home run with Todd Frazier (25) during the fourth inning against Venezuela in an Americas qualifying tournament baseball game Saturday, June 5, 2021, in Port St. Lucie, Fla. (Crystal Vander Weit/TCPalm.com via AP)

United States' Eric Filia (5) celebrates his home run with Todd Frazier (25) during the fourth inning against Venezuela in an Americas qualifying tournament baseball game Saturday, June 5, 2021, in Port St. Lucie, Fla. (Crystal Vander Weit/TCPalm.com via AP)


FILE - Former New York Yankees pitcher Masahiro Tanaka puts on his new Rakuten Golden Eagles uniform for a photo session during a news conference in Tokyo, in this Saturday, Jan. 30, 2021, file photo. Host Japan is favored to win at the Tokyo Games. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko, File)


FILE - In this March 14, 2017, file photo, Japan starting pitcher Tomoyuki Sugano throws to a Cuba batter during the first inning of a second-round game at the World Baseball Classic in Tokyo. Host Japan is favored to win at the Tokyo Games. . Right-hander Tomoyuki Sugano, the reigning Central League MVP, heads a pitching staff that includes current Rookies of the Year Masato Morishita and Kaima Taira. (AP Photo/Toru Takahashi, File)


Team USA

Manning the infield for the red, white, and blue is Nick Allen (Oakland Athletics AA), Eddy Alvarez (Miami Marlins AAA), Triston Casas (Boston Red Sox AA), Todd Frazier, and Jamie Westbrook (Milwaukee Brewers AAA). Tyler Austin (Yokohama DeNA Baybears), Eric Filia (Seattle Mariners AAA), Patrick Kivlehan (San Diego Padres AAA), and Bubba Starling (Kansas City AAA) will patrol the outfield, and Jack Lopez (Boston Red Sox AAA) will serve in a utility role for the squad.

Behind the dish will be Tim Federowicz (Los Angeles Dodgers AAA) and Mark Kolozsvary (Cincinnati Reds AA), and the duo will manage the 12-pitcher staff of Shane Baz (Tampa Bay Rays AAA), Anthony Carter (Saraperos de Saltillo), Brandon Dickson (St. Louis Cardinals AAA), Anthony Gose (Cleveland Indians AAA), Edwin Jackson, Scott Kazmir (San Francisco Giants AAA), Nick Martinez (Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks), Scott McGough (Tokyo Yakult Swallows), David Robertson, Joe Ryan (Tampa Bay Rays AAA), Ryder Ryan (Texas Rangers AAA), and Simeon Woods-Richardson (Toronto Blue Jays AA).

Fourteen members of the Olympic Team have logged time in Major League Baseball, including two World Series champions in Jackson (2011) and Robertson (2009). Collectively, the squad holds seven All-Star Game appearances, led by Kazmir (3) and Frazier (2). Frazier also won the Home Run Derby in 2015.

While most Olympic events are a competition among the best, the better you are in baseball, the less of a chance you have of playing for gold.

Major League Baseball refused to allow players on 40-man rosters to participate in the six-nation Olympic tournament, and many top prospects who technically are eligible are discouraged by their clubs, who don’t want to risk injury and prefer they remain available if needed by big league teams.

Rosters for the Olympics remain in flux. Israel lost catcher Ryan Lavarnway when the Indians brought him up from Triple-A Columbus in late June after Austin Hedges went on the concussion injured list. Israel manager Eric Holtz, already without Baltimore pitcher Dean Kremer, was hoping to get Lavarnway back because his team’s opener against the United States on July 30.

“Our guys are playing all over the place. But it’s not like a 162-game season where we have time to work on stuff,” Holtz said. “We’ve got to put stuff together and basically treat this like a 12-year old travel tournament, right, where it’s win or go home.”

Host Japan is favored to win. The Central and Pacific leagues are stopping their seasons between July 14 and Aug. 13 for the Olympic tournament, which runs from July 28 to Aug. 7.

While Japan is missing major leaguers, including Los Angeles Angels two-way sensation Shohei Ohtani, San Diego right-hander Yu Darvish and Minnesota right-hander Kenta Maeda, it has far more top-level players than the other five nations.

Masahiro Tanaka, back in Japan with the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles after seven seasons with the New York Yankees, is the only holdover from the 2008 Japan team that lost to the U.S. 8-4 in the bronze medal game.

Right-hander Tomoyuki Sugano, the reigning Central League MVP, heads a pitching staff that includes current Rookies of the Year Masato Morishita and Kaima Taira.

OLD-SCHOOL BALL

While teams do scouting that leads to defensive shifts, these games don’t have Statcast, the modern metrics system that has changed how Major League Baseball is played. That means no spin rates, exit velocities and launch angles.

“It goes to show you you really don’t need most of that stuff,” said Todd Frazier, a former Reds player who is on the U.S. team. “It’s baseball at the end of the day. You play for your country. You play for pride. We didn’t hit on the field. We just hit in the batting cage — until our hands bled, to be honest with you. So we brought it back to youth days. Hit it. It doesn’t matter who’s throwing. Next guy up in line. And it really does go to show you guys that honestly, that guys really don’t need video. All we need is a bat and a ball and a glove and the determination to be the best player you can be.”

FORMAT

There are two groups of three in the first round, which determines seeding for the knockout stage. The opener will be played in Fukushima, about 180 miles north of Tokyo, and the rest of the baseball tournament at Yokohama, about 20 miles south of Tokyo.

The U.S. plays in Group B against Israel on July 30 and South Korea on July 31. Japan, the Dominican Republic and Mexico are in Group A.

A double round-robin starts Aug. 4, and the final is Aug. 7.

COME AND GONE

Cuba won gold medals in 1992, 1996 and 2004, and Tommy Lasorda’s U.S. in 2000. Baseball was dropped after South Korea won in 2008 and has been dropped for the 2024 Paris Olympics. It is expected to return for the Los Angeles Games in 2028.

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More AP Olympics: https://apnews.com/hub/2020-tokyo-olympics and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

United States’ Eric Filia (5) celebrates his home run with Todd Frazier (25) during the fourth inning against Venezuela in an Americas qualifying tournament baseball game Saturday, June 5, 2021, in Port St. Lucie, Fla. (Crystal Vander Weit/TCPalm.com via AP)
https://www.wnewsj.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/22/2021/07/web1_126890939-b26d75fa03034da381aba1791769d5ac-1.jpgUnited States’ Eric Filia (5) celebrates his home run with Todd Frazier (25) during the fourth inning against Venezuela in an Americas qualifying tournament baseball game Saturday, June 5, 2021, in Port St. Lucie, Fla. (Crystal Vander Weit/TCPalm.com via AP)

FILE – Former New York Yankees pitcher Masahiro Tanaka puts on his new Rakuten Golden Eagles uniform for a photo session during a news conference in Tokyo, in this Saturday, Jan. 30, 2021, file photo. Host Japan is favored to win at the Tokyo Games. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko, File)
https://www.wnewsj.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/22/2021/07/web1_126890939-b8244f1854894b06a2060b962bcebb13-1.jpgFILE – Former New York Yankees pitcher Masahiro Tanaka puts on his new Rakuten Golden Eagles uniform for a photo session during a news conference in Tokyo, in this Saturday, Jan. 30, 2021, file photo. Host Japan is favored to win at the Tokyo Games. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko, File)

FILE – In this March 14, 2017, file photo, Japan starting pitcher Tomoyuki Sugano throws to a Cuba batter during the first inning of a second-round game at the World Baseball Classic in Tokyo. Host Japan is favored to win at the Tokyo Games. . Right-hander Tomoyuki Sugano, the reigning Central League MVP, heads a pitching staff that includes current Rookies of the Year Masato Morishita and Kaima Taira. (AP Photo/Toru Takahashi, File)
https://www.wnewsj.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/22/2021/07/web1_126890939-f23058da51d64791bdbdddb6eae5cb3d-1.jpgFILE – In this March 14, 2017, file photo, Japan starting pitcher Tomoyuki Sugano throws to a Cuba batter during the first inning of a second-round game at the World Baseball Classic in Tokyo. Host Japan is favored to win at the Tokyo Games. . Right-hander Tomoyuki Sugano, the reigning Central League MVP, heads a pitching staff that includes current Rookies of the Year Masato Morishita and Kaima Taira. (AP Photo/Toru Takahashi, File)

By RONALD BLUM

AP Baseball Writer

Team USA

Manning the infield for the red, white, and blue is Nick Allen (Oakland Athletics AA), Eddy Alvarez (Miami Marlins AAA), Triston Casas (Boston Red Sox AA), Todd Frazier, and Jamie Westbrook (Milwaukee Brewers AAA). Tyler Austin (Yokohama DeNA Baybears), Eric Filia (Seattle Mariners AAA), Patrick Kivlehan (San Diego Padres AAA), and Bubba Starling (Kansas City AAA) will patrol the outfield, and Jack Lopez (Boston Red Sox AAA) will serve in a utility role for the squad.

Behind the dish will be Tim Federowicz (Los Angeles Dodgers AAA) and Mark Kolozsvary (Cincinnati Reds AA), and the duo will manage the 12-pitcher staff of Shane Baz (Tampa Bay Rays AAA), Anthony Carter (Saraperos de Saltillo), Brandon Dickson (St. Louis Cardinals AAA), Anthony Gose (Cleveland Indians AAA), Edwin Jackson, Scott Kazmir (San Francisco Giants AAA), Nick Martinez (Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks), Scott McGough (Tokyo Yakult Swallows), David Robertson, Joe Ryan (Tampa Bay Rays AAA), Ryder Ryan (Texas Rangers AAA), and Simeon Woods-Richardson (Toronto Blue Jays AA).

Fourteen members of the Olympic Team have logged time in Major League Baseball, including two World Series champions in Jackson (2011) and Robertson (2009). Collectively, the squad holds seven All-Star Game appearances, led by Kazmir (3) and Frazier (2). Frazier also won the Home Run Derby in 2015.