It wasn’t supposed to be like this. The 2020 Summer Games were looking to be a throwback Olympics with minimal issues. Sure, it would cost too much, the weather would have been a bit too hot, and there undoubtedly would be some political and/or drug-related issues, but at least it wouldn’t be a case of a city biting off far more than it could chew. There wouldn’t be a seemingly endless number of venues left behind empty, gathering dust as a reminder of games long-since past. The city hosting the games wouldn’t go bankrupt from it all, either. Tokyo was going to have the best-run Olympics since London in 2012.
And while to varying degrees all that is still true, it will be barely a shadow of what it should have been. It’s because COVID-19, of course. So instead of what was looking like one of the best Olympics in history, this may well go down as one of the worst. Or at least one of the biggest bummers of a game.
The Olympics are often a complicated thing. On one hand, the idea of having athletes from all around the world come together in some great global city and then have competitions in over two dozen sports over a two week span is inherently dramatic, appealing, and awe-inspiring. On the other hand, it is run by the IOC, an organization that has shown time and again to be varying degrees of elitist, sexist, corporate, autocratic, out-of-touch, corrupt, and various other unflattering things. Perhaps that’s more true than ever this year, where they are quite literally holding an event in the middle of a pandemic without fans and apparently not even giving Tokyo a make-up date sometime in the 2030s or 2040s where they’d actually be able to see it and get the money from all those fans.
And yet, ultimately, once the games begin, most of us will probably forget it all, because we always do.
Anyway, now that that rumination is done, it’s time for some final predictions on Olympic Baseball. A refresher on the tournament (which is admittedly a bit out of date as far as the COVID precautions in the Olympics) can be found here. As a recap, here are the teams involved, in order of when I did previews of them. Click to go to the previews (please note these do not reflect recent changes due to injuries or COVID tests, I will likely have another update before the start of the tournament):
For gold, I think this is ultimately the homestanding Japanese team’s tournament to lose. Behind them I’m going to say that Team USA will be able to beat out Korea or the Dominican for the silver before falling to Japan. The Dominicans will edge out Korea for bronze. Mexico and Israel, thanks for playing.
However, it should be noted that as always in baseball, and especially during international play where series aren’t things, this is ultimately a crapshoot. If a team’s pitching is clicking and hitting is opportune, any one of these teams, even Israel, could conceivably win gold. On the same coin, some bad days of pitching or dead bats could lead to one of the top teams having an early trip home.
The only way we’ll be sure is when the teams take the field late on July 27.