Baseball’s return to the Summer Olympics will be delayed and so too will Erik Kratz‘s chances to represent the United States (and the New York Yankees) on the diamond.
Following the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, the International Olympic Committee elected to remove baseball and softball from their list of medal-eligible sports. The widely discussed reasoning centered on MLB’s refusal to allow their star players to participate — a fair argument considering the Summer Olympics take place during the heart of the regular season; shutting down the league for two weeks would be no small task.
Baseball (and softball) are set to return for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, scheduled to take place between July 29 and August 8. Those plans changed following the release of a statement by the IOC that the Olympic Games would be postponed due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus pandemic.
While the sport’s return to the Olympics will be delayed — perhaps only until next year — the delay will have an impact on at least one current Yankees, veteran catcher Erik Kratz.
Baseball’s return to the Olympics marked a compromise by MLB. Players not on their team’s 40-man roster would be eligible to play for Team USA. Should a player be added to their team’s 40-man roster before the Olympic Games begin, they would need to be replaced on the Team USA roster.
Kratz was the lone Yankee player on Team USA’s 28-man qualifying roster when it was announced in October. The veteran came to New York last June, signing a minor league deal with the Yankees following his release by the Tampa Bay Rays. Over parts of ten seasons in the major leagues, he’s appeared in 316 games, batting .205/.252/.354 over 921 plate appearances.
Kratz, who will turn 40 in June, is one of only four players on the roster over the age of 30. There’s no way to know if Kratz will still be an option for this roster in a year. His career could be over.
He’s also the most experienced depth the Yankees have behind the plate. While he’s never been an offensive threat, a backup catcher is often only asked to provide defense and leadership in the clubhouse. With only two catchers on the current 40-man roster, should something happen to Gary Sanchez or Kyle Higashioka then Kratz could very well find himself buttoning up a jersey with pinstripes at some point once the season begins again, which would make the Olympics delay entirely a moot point.
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Of course, Team USA has yet to qualify for the Summer Olympics. The team failed to do so during the Premier12 qualifying tournament that was held in November, losing the final game to Mexico on a 10th-inning walk-off. Mexico joined Japan, Israel, and South Korea in the six-team tournament. The final two participants will be determined through another qualifying tournament, which has yet to be rescheduled.
Kratz, for his part, was a solid contributor throughout the tournament, going 8-for-21 with a double and a pair of home runs.