After a several cycle absence. baseball and softball were restored to the slate of games for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. Which, of course, will now take place in 2021.
A few years back there was at least some talk of a deal being struck that could allow for active major leaguers to take part in the games. There were talks between international baseball and softball authorities and Rob Manfred about it at least. They ended up not really going anywhere.
Instead, only players who (a) were not on 40-man rosters; and (b) players who are on 40-man rosters but who were not in the big leagues were cleared to participate in the Olympics, and even then, big league teams could deny those guys permission to play if they chose to. That deal theoretically allowed a handful of top prospects and some minor league veterans, but it was a far cry from putting the best players in the world in the uniform of their home country on the planet’s greatest athletic stage.
At least one big leaguer thinks that’s lame. Bryce Harper. He had this to say on a Bartstool Sports podcast this week:
“It is such a travesty to me. 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 . . .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?”
For big leaguers to be in the Olympics, MLB would almost certainly have to shut down for part of the season like the NHL did in the games in which it allowed its stars to participate (it ceased doing so before the 2018 Winter Games). Baseball was already loathe to do that in the middle of the summer when it has the national sports stage to itself. A year after losing a gigantic chunk of the season to the COVID-19 pandemic, there is likely no way MLB would agree to such a thing for 2021.
Even if Bryce Harper thinks it’s dumb not to.