Note to MLB: Olympic baseball return is great, but don't shorten regular season

MLB should absolutely return to the Olympics, but shortening the regular season to do it is completely out of the question.
World Baseball Classic Championship: United States v Japan
World Baseball Classic Championship: United States v Japan / Jasen Vinlove/Miami Marlins/GettyImages

Big news for baseball fans broke Wednesday: MLB players just might be allowed to participate in the 2028 Olympics.

That's right. Per Evan Drellich of The Athletic, a proposal was pitched to the owners detailing how Olympic baseball could be condensed to a tournament taking less than a week to play. This tournament would feature fewer countries, and -- most importantly to the owners -- overlap with the MLB All-Star break.

Unfortunately, there are a couple caveats that come with these talks that will give many a baseball fan pause. For one, it has been suggested that the MLB All-Star Game be either cancelled or postponed to accommodate the Olympics. Not exactly what you want to hear, but hey, no better time than right after the NFL Pro Bowl to suggest cancelling an All-Star game, am I right? Even if baseball's All-Star Game is the only good All-Star Game, that sacrifice is one that I think could be sold to fans, especially given the fact those 2028 games are being played in Los Angeles. In fact, the idea of a concurrent All-Star event was even mentioned. Oh, and there was one other wrinkle: shortening the regular season.

Mostly good news, right? Baseball should never have left the Olympics. As Drellich notes, the success of the WBC has gone a long way towards underscoring both the intrinsic passion for the game, and the extrinsic benefits of letting the best players participate in these kinds of exhibitions. Everyone wins if MLB players get to participate. Plus, all of the players not participating would love, and benefit from, the longer break.

Shortening the MLB regular season to accommodate this, though? That's completely out of the question.

One caveat. If the MLB already opts to shorten the season by then, objection withdrawn. Obviously no room to complain if the regular season is already 158, or even 154 again! With all the handwringing from casuals and outsiders, it's not an impossibility. Then again, each game is an opportunity to make money ... so we'll probably still be on 162 when the 2028 games roll around.

Which brings me to my two major issues with this. Now, I say these with full appreciation that plenty of the few of you reading this will just roll your eyes and brand me as a get-off-my-yard traditionalist. A crime that I'm admittedly guilty of. The DH? Dumb. The extra inning rule? To quote Bull Durham's Crash Davis, there should be a constitutional amendment against it. With those cards on the table, though, I think these are pretty legitimate qualms that all generations of baseball fans can agree on.

For starters, what about regular season records? The suggested curtailment is four games. What if those four games are all that stands between Aaron Judge, Shohei Ohtani, or Matt Olson setting a new home run record? Barry Bonds hit four home runs in the last four games of the 2001 season. What if those four games' worth of at-bats are all that one of today's top-tier and presumably steroid-free sluggers need to expunge Bonds out of the top line in the record books? Just pick a single-season feat. Homers. Stolen bases. Hits. Pick a career total for an aging veteran. Records matter in baseball, more than any other sport arguably. And that's just to the fans. They absolutely matter to the players.

For another, even if all the teams are dealing with it to some extent, what about the competitive integrity of the league? No matter how MLB decides to cut games, it is going to have an impact on the path to the playoffs, especially if you consider that the easiest fix is probably going to be just having every division team play their rival one fewer time. What happens when a team wins their division by one game, or -- even worse -- because of a tie-breaker? The same goes for the wild cards.

Are any players and/or teams impacted by this just going to be told that they should have done it in 2027 or 2029?

Of course not. Putting players or teams in that position is absurd, especially when you consider the fact that there's no reason to do it. Just start the season a little earlier and end a little later. Doing one or the other, or a little of both, solves the problem.

Ultimately, today was a great day for baseball. The game is better off with baseball's best back in the Olympics. Any plan that cancels games, though, is overthinking at best, and disastrous at worst.