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Saturday Sports: Naomi Osaka Skips News Conferences At French Open

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

And I wait all week to say now it's time for sports.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SIMON: Wouldn't that make a great T-shirt? Naomi Osaka says no merci to post-match press conferences at the French Open. And was a great play by Javy Baez of the Cubs just luck or, as informed observers say, a breathtaking act of genius? We're joined now by ESPN's Howard Bryant. Good morning, Howard.

HOWARD BRYANT, BYLINE: OK, Scott, you got me. A breathtaking act of genius - yes, yes, yes.

SIMON: Well...

BRYANT: Please continue.

SIMON: ...We'll get to that. First, Naomi Osaka says no press conferences. She said some of the questions could affect her mental health. She could face a $20,000 fine for skipping them. I think she can afford that. I want to respect anyone who says they're concerned about their mental health. She says, I'm not going to subject myself to people who doubt me. But even some athletes have said - especially some athletes have said this week that this is part of what a professional athlete does to earn millions of dollars.

BRYANT: Well, exactly. And this is one of the big questions here. Naomi Osaka is under enormous pressure. This is a very difficult period for her. She does not play great on the clay. She's not a great player on grass for the - because Wimbledon is the next tournament. She hasn't gotten into the second week in either of those tournaments. And then on top of that, you've got the pressure of the Olympics. And I think that she's trying to manage. She's trying to maintain what her schedule is going to be. And clearly, this is a strategy, that is a radical strategy in a lot of ways, to just say you're not going to do any press for one of the four biggest tournaments of the year.

I think the big other question here, too, is whether or not we're creating a trend, whether or not the question in this growing power of athletes suggests now that it's not part of your professional responsibility to speak to the public and speak to the press or if you're only going to control your own message. So far, there's been a pretty good backlash from the other athletes - Serena Williams, who's done press, and Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic. And I'm waiting to hear their comments. I think Nadal said the other day that this is part of the deal. Iga Swiatek, who won the French Open last year, said the same thing, that speaking to the press, speaking to the public after matches is part of the job.

SIMON: OK, viral story of the week - Thursday, Bucs v. Cubs - two outs, Javy Baez grounds the ball to third, gets the ball - the ball gets to first in plenty of time for the third out, but Will Craig, first baseman, doesn't step on the base. Javy dances. The Cubs score. Javy gets to second. You and I have differing views about this, I gather.

BRYANT: It was a magical, funny play. But, Scott, a first baseman has been doing this since they were five years old. You step on the bag. I feel bad for Will Craig. He made a mistake that will haunt him on bloopers for the rest of his life.

SIMON: He had a very gracious statement.

BRYANT: And he did. He did. But it was a phenomenal play, something you never see in baseball.

SIMON: I maintain that Javy deserves extra credit here for his creative reaction to a first baseman's mistake.

BRYANT: Well, absolutely. That's the magic of this play, where I will give you the phenomenal credit of this, is his presence of mind when things are going sort of haywire.

And that is the thing about baseball. And you watch baseball. There are two types of mistakes in baseball. There's the physical error. There's the mental error. The physical error is when the ball goes through your legs or you drop a fly ball. But the mental error is the one where you're just not quite alert. And Will Craig had a brain freeze, and Javy Baez's head was completely in the game not just to do what he did...

SIMON: Yeah.

BRYANT: ...But also to motion the safe sign before then racing to first and then racing to second base. It was phenomenal.

SIMON: I would trust Javy Baez to operate on my brain. Howard Bryant, thanks so much.

BRYANT: (Laughter) Thank you, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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