March 28, 2008

Season openers abroad

by Dan Bilicki In: Baseball

It’s getting a bit ridiculous and cheap ploy for publicity when almost every North American sports league opens their regular seasons overseas. The NHL did it in London for the beginning of their 07-08 campaign and are doubling efforts next season with openers in Prague and Sweden. The NFL played a game in England last season and even had a minor league running in Europe that was forced to close down. The NBA is looking at European expansion as their future and are marketing heavily in China. Even the English Premier League was looking into having regular season games on the other side of the pond.

But here’s the nuttiest one of them all: Major League Baseball – who has been opening in Japan for several seasons now — staged games in Tokyo featuring the Red Sox and A’s while the preseason was still being played out stateside. Even better, the A’s and Red Sox will come back and play more preseason games after they’ve already opened their seasons. How does this make any sense at all?

Even when the Braves and Nationals open the regular season in the states on Sunday night, there will still have been three Spring Training games that took place during the afternoon. I would expect this kind of lunacy from a shifty league like the NHL but not from MLB.

The players who are forced to travel and play at what amounts to six a.m. on the body clocks only hurts their performance and can throw a monkey into the beginning of the teams’ seasons. Maybe they’re lucky that they can have a tune up before playing more real ball, but I don’t see how this benefits anybody.

The simple solution would be to make the Japan games exhibitions, but then you may not draw a big crowd and teams would likely bring over more scrubs than stars. Would you be a Tokyo-er if you couldn’t watch Manny or Big Papi?

So can we try to straighten this out sometime soon? Having a fantasy baseball draft a week earlier than usual to try to get in two games is quite absurd.

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