By the IOC until after the 2004 Games, a decision on whether to drop baseball, softball and modem pentathlon from the Olympics. In August the IOC's program commission recommended the expulsion of those sports, citing high venue costs, lack of worldwide appeal and, in baseball's case, the absence of major league stars. The delay will most likely keep baseball in the Olympics through 2008, but the IOC's message is clear: Without top professionals in the Games, baseball may not make it to 2012. " Major League Baseball so far is part of the problem, not part of the solution," says Israeli IOC member Alex Gilady, who's also a vice president at NBC, which owns broadcast rights to the Games through 2008. "If the Olympics is important to them, they can show us."
It was only four Summer Olympics ago that professionals were essentially barred from the Games. But since the addition of NBA players in 1992, and the revenue their participation created, highly paid pros aren't just tolerated they're demanded. MLB's participation would create a U.S. dream team and also enable major leaguers from other countries to play for their home nations, just as NBA and NHL players have done. Baseball, though, is wary of disrupting the summer game for the Summer Games. "I do not ever see us shutting down the league solely to participate in the Olympics," says Sandy Alderson, MLB's VP of baseball operations. "That doesn't mean having major league players in a five-or six-day tournament is not possible."
Alderson lists several factors that could make Olympic participation manageable, including using a rotation of players during the Games, scheduling a tournament held in concert with the All-Star break and an Olympics that doesn't require extensive travel. ( New York and Toronto are possible hosts for 2012.) "It could happen," Alderson says. "The medal round is two days."