Wouldn't it be great to see major leaguers on the Olympic baseball team?
In 1984, when baseball was an exhibition event at the Games, the U.S. entered a team deemed the finest collection of amateur ballplayers ever assembled in this country.The roster included such future big-leaguers as Mark McGwire, Will Clark, Cory Snyder, Mike Dunne, B.J. Surhoff, Oddibe McDowell and Scott Bankhead, and such prospects as John Marzano and Shane Mack.
But in the championship game of the Olympic round-robin tournament, Japan won the gold medal with a a stunning 6-3 defeat of the Americans.
Now that baseball is an official Olympic event, why can't teams that are obviously out of their division races "donate" a few big-name players to the Games for a few weeks, just long enough to grab some gold and show the rest of the world how baseball is played.
Here's a glamour lineup of players from teams that are at least 15 games out of first: Catcher - Lance Parrish; First base - Wally Joyner; Second base - Juan Samuel (sorry, Harold Reynolds, there's no glamour in Seattle); Third base - Mike Schmidt; Shortstop - Ozzie Smith (or Cal Ripken); Left field - Chili Davis; Center field - Willie McGee; Right field - Dale Murphy; Pitchers - Kevin Gross, Charlie Hough, Jose Guzman, Mark Langston, Scott Bankhead, Steve Bedrosian, Todd Worrell, Bobby Thigpen, Tom Niedenfuer. They're not all having great seasons, but I know they could hit Japanese pitching or stump Russian batters.
The team owners would get good p.r. from lending their players, and fans would get a share of pride as their favorite players won gold while their teams languished in the cellar.
UNSUNG KIRBY: Minnesota's underappreciated outfielder, Kirby Puckett, has a chance to achieve a distinction that would probably not get him anymore recognition than he now has. If he gets 206 hits this year, the compact Puckett will wind up with 1,000 hits in his first five major-league seasons - a feat equaled only by Hall of Famer Paul Waner. Of late, Puckett is the only American Leaguer putting any heat on Boston's Wade Boggs for the league batting title, and he has even taken the lead twice, but nobody seemed to notice.
By comparison, Pete Rose had 899 hits after five seasons.
GO FIGURE: The Atlanta Braves say they will bring Manager Russ Nixon back next season despite the fact he's compiled a 29-52 record since replacing Chuck Tanner May 22. That's a .358 winning percentage, which would be good enough for - you guessed it - last place in the National League.