Let stars play Olympics - Harper

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Los Angeles (AFP)

Philadelphia Phillies star Bryce Harper believes Major League Baseball should relax its "dumb" rule preventing top players from competing in the Olympics.

The 27-year-old former National League Most Valuable Player told Barstool Sports' "Starting 9" podcast that allowing MLB players to compete would help grow the sport when baseball returns to the Olympics in Tokyo next year.

The United States team chasing a berth in Tokyo is comprised mostly of minor-league players. The US last won baseball gold in the 2000 Sydney Games.

"It is such a travesty to me," Harper said. "I'm not saying this as disrespect to minor-leaguers –- the Olympics are in Tokyo, 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.

"The 2021 Olympics are next year. Why not shock the world and put all your big-leaguers back in it?"

Baseball was due to return to the Olympics this year before the Tokyo Games were postponed for a year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The sport last featured at an Olympics in 2008, when South Korea won the gold medal with Cuba taking silver.

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred has been lukewarm on the participation of the league's players in the past, saying the league prioritized the World Baseball Classic (WBC) tournament.

Scheduling issues also create a headache, with the Olympics falling during the MLB season.

"I can't imagine a situation where we would take the kind of break that would be necessary to have our best players in the Olympics," Manfred said in 2017.

"As a result of that, we feel the WBC is crucial as a substitute, a premiere international tournament that allows our players to play for their countries."