Bryce Harper: MLB 'dumb' to keep major leaguers from playing in Olympics

At least one major league star would like to participate in the Olympics when baseball returns to the Summer Games in 2021.

Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Bryce Harper didn't hold back in voicing his desire to see major league players take part in the competition, which will be played at the Olympics for the first time since 2008 when the Games finally open in Tokyo.

"It is such a travesty to me," Harper said on a Barstool Sports podcast. "The 2020 Olympics, in Japan. And you're not sending big league guys? Are you kidding me? You want to grow the game as much as possible and you're not going to let us play in the Olympics because you don't want to [lose] out on money for a two-week period? OK, that's dumb."

Baseball was an official sport in the Olympics from 1992 to 2008, but only amateurs and minor league players participated because it would have interrupted the major league season. With the coronavirus pandemic postponing the Games until next summer, Harper sees an opportunity.

"[Major league players] have to do the Olympics every four years," Harper said. "You want to grow the game? You want to really take it to different countries and different places?

"The 2021 Olympics are next year because of the coronavirus. Why not shock the world and put all your big leaguers back into the Olympics?"

Harper is especially keen on going to Japan, where baseball is as popular as anywhere in the world. He believes the Games deserve all the best players.

"You have [Shohei] Ohtani going back playing for Japan, facing Mike Trout," Harper said. "Just imagine that. ... Can you imagine being in a foreign country, standing on the line, listening to your anthem blare? Dude, there is nothing better. It fires me up sitting here. There's nothing better."

Harper did not get into the logistics. But for comparison, the NHL first allowed players to compete in the Olympics in 1998, and remained a part of the tournament for five Winter Games. The league typically took a three-week break to accommodate the Games. But in 2018, 10 months before the Pyeongchang Winter Games, the NHL announced that it would not participate in the tournament, and it has not officially announced whether it will compete in 2022, when the Games are slated for Beijing.

Instead of interrupting its season and sending players to the Olympics, Major League Baseball has participated in the World Baseball Classic, which takes place every four years as well but early in spring training. While the event has gained interest internationally over the years, it hasn't been a must-watch in the U.S. And it doesn't have the allure of medaling in the Olympics.

Harper wants to change all of that.

"Put baseball back into the Olympics, but let the big leaguers play," he said.