Did you know baseball season has started?
Really. Spring training games are done, over with, in the books.
Wait, what? The Red Sox still have six spring training games left?
When I woke up early Saturday morning, I put on the MLB Network and there it was, Opening Day in Australia. The L.A. Dodgers and the Arizona Diamondbacks were playing game one of 162 down under. Foster’s beer was flowing freely throughout the stands and it was 7:30 in the morning right there on my TV.
A quick check on MLB.com shows that the Dodgers are 2-0 on the regular season. So I wasn’t dreaming.
Baseball already thrives in Japan and stands on solid footing in Australia considering the league down under is only in its fifth season. So then why does Major League Baseball insist on scheduling these trips to other countries to market their sport?
This is only about one thing for MLB: the almighty dollar. Baseball wants to maximize its reach in every country at the expense of its players.
Arizona is where most west coast teams train in the springtime. The flight from Tucson to Sydney measures 7,826.4 miles and takes approximately 16 hours 15 minutes. For two games, is this all really worth it to MLB, or, more specifically, the Diamondbacks and Dodgers?
It alienates the fan base by allowing Opening Day to happen in another country. Plus we all know that Magic Johnson needs all the gate money he can get after the Red Sox fleeced him in the Adrian Gonzalez,Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett, Nick Punto deal.
This doesn’t resonate with fans here in America. Can’t MLB think of a better marketing plan to get fans excited for baseball that won’t affect the upcoming season? They could do something simple like off-season meet and greets with a few top performers from the past season. This way you don’t risk injury and it won’t take two months for the jet lag to wear off.
It will also cut down on phantom injuries, like that ever so common “sightseeing” injury, former Red Sox and current Dodger Adrian Gonzalez suffered, forcing him to miss an exhibition game vs team Australia. You think Gonzalez was trying to hang 10 at the Gold Coast? Just think back to when the Red Sox traveled to Japan in 2008 from Fort Myers. Who could forget JD Drew hurting his back taking batting practice? Shocking I know.
When you use “sightseeing” as an excuse to miss a game, to me it feels as though some players aren’t buying into any of these trips. The Dodgers may be 2-0 as they head back to the states. But don’t be surprised if they start using the trip as an excuse during a losing streak.
MLB has to have some creative people in their front offices who can think of better marketing plans that don’t include risking a player’s health or having loyal fans deprived of a couple extra games to attend, just to spread the word about their game. Next year just go to the local Outback and call it a day!