Bryce Harper wants MLB players in Olympics; here’s what Rob Manfred has said

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Count Bryce Harper, the Philadelphia Phillies outfielder, as somebody who would prefer to take a break during an MLB season to play in the Olympics.

MLB has never participated in the Olympics, which always fell during the regular season when baseball was part of the regular Olympic medal program from 1992-2008. It will be staged at the Tokyo Games in 2021, but not in 2024.

It could be proposed to be added by Los Angeles Olympic organizers for the 2028 Games, which would require an IOC approval, as would any proposal for baseball to return to the regular Olympic program.

As in 1992-2008, the Tokyo Olympic baseball tournament is expected to include minor leaguers but nobody on active MLB rosters. When IOC members voted baseball out of the Olympic program — by a 54-50 vote — one of the strikes against it was lack of MLB participation.

“You want to grow the game? You want to really take it to different countries and different places? You put the baseball back into the Olympics but let the big-league players play,” Harper said on a Barstool Sports podcast published this week. “That is an absolute joke to me, and I’ve said it a million times.”

After baseball was added to the Tokyo Olympics back in 2016, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred repeated that he didn’t see MLB changing its stance from prior Games and allowing its stars to take part.

“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 [World Baseball Classic] is crucial as a substitute, a premiere international tournament that allows our players to play for their countries.”

The World Baseball Classic is baseball’s flagship international tournament, held every four years (and next scheduled in 2021) outside of the MLB regular season. MLB stars participate.

“I’m taking the WBC out,” said Harper, who has never competed in the World Baseball Classic. “I’m not a big WBC guy. That’s not the Olympics. I’m not saying it’s bad. Seeing USA win it last time was awesome.”

The U.S. has yet to qualify for the six-team Tokyo Olympic baseball tournament, getting upset by Mexico in the Premier12 tournament in November. That U.S. team was made up of mostly double-A and triple-A caliber players.

For the next Olympic qualifier, originally scheduled for March, MLB expanded eligible players to include those on MLB 40-man rosters (but not active 26-man rosters). That qualifier was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“I’m not saying this is disrespect to any minor leaguers or anything like that,” Harper said. “The 2020 Olympics in Japan, 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 cut out on money for a two-week period? Like, OK, that’s dumb.”

Harper noted that the NHL took a break in its season every four years to participate in the Winter Olympics from 1998 through 2014.

Japan’s top league is expected to take a break in its season for Olympic participation. But Japan’s biggest baseball stars, like Shohei Ohtani and Masahiro Tanaka, are in the MLB and are in line to miss the Games.

“Everybody watches the Olympics,” Harper said. “I remember huddling around, when I was younger, Winter Olympics, Summer Olympics, watching Michael Phelps do his thing, watching Shaun White do his thing. You know, you’re seeing all this stuff and all these freaking people come from every single country watching cross-country skiing.”

Many players who eventually became MLB stars participated in the Olympics, including Mark McGwire and Barry Larkin in 1984, when baseball was a demonstration, non-medal sport. More recently, Jason Giambi and Nomar Garciaparra (1992), Troy Glaus (1996), Roy Oswalt and Ben Sheets (2000) and Stephen Strasburg (2008).

“They need to figure it out because there’s no greater place to grow the game than the Olympics. Not even close,” Harper said. “Why not shock the world and put all your big leaguers back into it?”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Aleksander Aamodt Kilde wins Beaver Creek downhill

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BEAVER CREEK, Colo. — Norway’s Aleksander Aamodt Kilde won his second straight World Cup downhill race to start the season, despite feeling under the weather.

Although dealing with an illness all week in training, Kilde powered through the challenging Birds of Prey course Saturday in a time of 1 minute, 42.09 seconds. It was enough to hold off Marco Odermatt of Switzerland by 0.06 seconds. James Crawford of Canada was third to earn his second career World Cup podium finish.

Kilde also won the opening downhill last weekend in Lake Louise, Alberta.

“It’s been a tough week,” Kilde said after the race. “I caught the flu in Lake Louise after a very, very nice weekend. It really hit me hard. Then I got a couple of days to rest and take it easy. … I felt OK. Still feeling it a little bit in my system.”

The Beaver Creek crew members had the course in solid shape a day after a downhill race was canceled due to high wind and snowfall.

ALPINE SKIING: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Kilde reached speeds around 75 mph in picking up his eighth World Cup downhill victory. That tied him with Kjetil Jansrud for the third-most downhill wins in the World Cup discipline among Norwegian men. The total trails only Aksel Lund Svindal (14) and Lasse Kjus (10).

“I found a really, really good set-up with my equipment and also with my skiing,” Kilde explained. “I believe in myself. I trust in myself. I have a good game plan. When I stand on the start, I don’t dwell on anything. I know that this plan is what I do and when I do that it’s going to be fast.”

Odermatt has been on the podium in all four World Cup races this season as he tries to defend his overall World Cup title. The 25-year-old finished third in the opening downhill of the season last weekend. He’s also won a giant slalom race and a super-G.

Ryan Cochran-Siegle wound up in seventh place for the top American finish. He was ninth in the downhill in Lake Louise.

“It’s been solid,” Cochran-Siegle said of his strides in the discipline. “A couple of little things here and there that pushed me off that top three. You have to ski with a lot of intensity and ski without abandon, in a sense. Today was a good step.”

Switzerland’s Beat Feuz, who won the Olympic downhill gold medal at the Beijing Games last February, tied for ninth.

The Beaver Creek stop on the circuit comes to a close Sunday with a super-G race. Odermatt will be the favorite after holding off Kilde in the opening super-G last weekend.

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Summer McIntosh, Canadian teen swimmer, caps record year with another historic time

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Summer McIntosh swam the fourth-fastest 400m individual medley in history on Friday, capping a year that already included world titles, Commonwealth Games titles and a victory over Katie Ledecky.

McIntosh, a 16-year-old Canadian whose mom swam at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, won the 400m IM in 4 minutes, 28.61 seconds at the U.S. Open in Greensboro, N.C. She prevailed by a Ledecky-like 13.24 seconds, breaking her own national record that was previously the fourth-fastest time in history.

“It’s still pretty early in the season, so I didn’t really know what to expect going into it,” she said on Peacock.

The only two women who ever went faster in the event known as the decathlon of swimming are Olympic gold medalists: Hungary’s Katinka Hosszu (world record 4:26.36 and 4:28.58) and China’s Ye Shiwen (4:28.43).

McIntosh has come a long way in a short time. Three years ago, she put all her eggs in the 1500m freestyle basket, thinking it was her best shot to merely qualify for the Tokyo Games in 2020. The one-year Olympic postponement was a blessing.

The rapidly improving McIntosh swam three individual events in Tokyo with a top finish of fourth in the 400m free, just missing becoming the youngest swimming medalist since 1996. She then told her coach she wanted to become an IMer.

At this past June’s world championships, McIntosh won two of the most grueling events — 400m IM and 200m butterfly — to become the youngest individual world champion since 2011. She also took silver to Ledecky in the 400m free, an event in which she later beat Ledecky in a short-course meet (25-meter pool rather than the 50-meter pool used for the Olympics).

A month after worlds, McIntosh swept the IMs at the Commonwealth Games, where she broke more world junior records and again took second in the 400m free (this time to Olympic champ and world record holder Ariarne Titmus of Australia).

McIntosh, who turned professional last year, now trains full-time in Sarasota, Florida, where she rents a house with her mom, Jill Horstead, who was ninth in the 200m fly at the 1984 Olympics (McIntosh, whose passions include the Kardashians and plants from Target, has seen video of her mom winning the B final at those Games). They’re a three-hour drive down Interstate 75 from Ledecky’s base in Gainesville.

Also Friday, Erin Gemmell celebrated her 18th birthday by nearly becoming the first American to beat Ledecky in a 200m freestyle in nearly nine years. Ledecky won by 42 hundredths of a second in 1:56.74 and said she had an off-day while also praising Gemmell, the daughter of her former coach.

NBC airs U.S. Open highlights on Dec. 10 at 4:30 p.m. ET.

U.S. OPEN SWIMMING: Full Results

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