Mar 21, 2014, 7:59 AM EDT
Baseball has long dispensed with the Cincinnati Reds getting the first game of the season at home. I’m generally OK with this. People in Cincinnati complain about it all the time because they claim status as the oldest baseball franchise and thus feel entitled to the first game each year, but the fact is (a) the current Braves franchise has way more of a claim to being the oldest franchise, not the Reds; and (b) how does the fact that baseball has been played elsewhere earlier detract from Opening Day festivities if you’re on the ground in Cincinnati enjoying things? You still get your parade and your day baseball and your soupy chili, so don’t worry about it.
But the Opening Day grumpiness has spread beyond Cincinnati as baseball has eschewed an American Opening Day more and more in recent years. In 1999 the Rockies and Padres met in Monterrey, Mexico to kick things off. The season began in Puerto Rico in 2001. It kicked off in Japan in 2000, 2004, 2008 and 2012. Now, it begins in Australia, with the Dodgers facing the Diamondbacks at 4AM Eastern time tomorrow morning.
Baseball’s answer is that it wishes to globalize the sport. Here’s Bud Selig in the press release announcing the Australia series last year:
“The globalization of our game continues to be paramount to Major League Baseball, and Australia is an essential part of our long-term efforts to grow the sport.”
Likewise, late MLBPA Executive Director Michael Weiner said that the players “view this series as an important step in furthering their commitment to help increase the global popularity of baseball.”
Popularity and globalization can mean a couple of different, albeit related things. On the one hand there is popularity of the sport within the country. Getting the Australians to like baseball more and play baseball more. To develop little leagues and prep leagues and the like. To boost the importance and quality of Australia’s (already respectable) national team for the WBC and, perhaps one day, the Olympics if baseball is restored as an event. To help support the Australian Baseball League, Australian Baseball Federation and MLB Australian Academy Program. This is the stuff we hear a lot about in connection with this series.
Of course, it’s probably worth noting that the Australians have done quite an excellent job of growing the sport in their country already. Its little league participation is large, trailing only the United States, Canada and Mexico, and recently began competing in the Little League World Series. It has produced multiple major leaguers in recent years, including Grant Balfour, Dave Nilsson, Peter Moylan and Graeme Lloyd. In 2004 Australia won a silver medal at the Athens Olympics.
Given that strong foundation, it’s wrong to think of the Dodgers and Diamondbacks coming to to Australia as some sort of “let’s show Australians what baseball is all about” thing. And it’s certainly wrong to say that Major League Baseball’s trip to Sydney is some silly “The Gods Must Be Crazy” exercise in playing baseball where it isn’t understood, wanted or loved. Australians aren’t baseball fanatics like the Japanese, but there is already considerable knowledge and appreciation for the sport there.
Which leads to the second, less-publicized aspect of Major League Baseball’s visit to Australia: marketing. I don’t think it’s some dirty secret nor do I think anyone associated with Major League Baseball would deny it if asked point blank, but along with growing Australia’s appreciation of baseball, a clear co-motivation for this series is to grow Major League Baseball’s brand in Australia. To give Australian fans a glimpse of baseball played at a significantly higher level than they’re used to seeing and maybe whet their appetites for the MLB product. Maybe it leads to a fledgling broadcasting deal there? Maybe it sells a bunch of Diamondbacks and Dodgers caps? Maybe it sells some MLB.tv subscriptions? Again: nothing wrong with that at all, and not anything I think anyone is hiding or ashamed of. It’s in Major League Baseball’s interests to grow its brand and this presents a good opportunity to do that.
Ultimately, it’s only two games. And ultimately U.S. fans will think of their own team’s Opening Day as the beginning of the baseball season. Even Dodgers and Dbacks fans will likely become more engaged once their teams are back in Los Angeles and Phoenix. The stuff going on tomorrow and Sunday in Sydney will be forgotten here. Which is fine, because it’s not for us. It’s for the Australians and the league.
Aug 5, 2015, 8:46 AM EDT
And it wasn’t me this time!
Aug 5, 2015, 7:41 AM EDT
The Red Sox had a 2-1 lead in the sixth inning of this one. If you were watching, I hope you weren’t the type who falls asleep during the sixth inning.
Aug 4, 2015, 11:02 PM EDT
O’Flaherty owns an ugly-looking 5.91 ERA in 25 appearances this season, but the 30-year-old has held left-handed batters to a .186/.286/.209 batting line in 2015 and a .201/.266/.263 line for his career.
Aug 4, 2015, 10:50 PM EDT
Shaffer, a first-round pick in 2012 out of Clemson University, was sporting an impressive .954 OPS and 16 home runs through 55 games this season at Triple-A Durham.
Aug 4, 2015, 10:21 PM EDT
Reds center fielder Billy Hamilton robbed Jason Heyward of extra bases on Tuesday night in Cincy …
Aug 4, 2015, 9:13 PM EDT
Walker was selected 24th overall back in June and later agreed to a $1.78 million signing bonus — around $314,400 under his recommended slot value.
Aug 4, 2015, 8:08 PM EDT
Jimmy Rollins received a huge ovation Tuesday evening in his first game back in Philly …
Aug 4, 2015, 7:15 PM EDT
Turner is having a tremendous season for the National League West-leading Dodgers, boasting a .323/.387/.563 slash line with 13 home runs, 20 doubles, and 44 RBI in 87 games.
Aug 4, 2015, 6:32 PM EDT
Tigers owner Mike Ilitch cut ties with longtime general manager Dave Dombrowski on Tuesday afternoon, but it doesn’t sound like anybody else is on the chopping block yet.
Aug 4, 2015, 5:20 PM EDT
After arriving in 2002, Dombrowski rebuilt an organization that was an utter dumpster fire.
Aug 4, 2015, 5:01 PM EDT
Martin heads back to the minors as a 27-year-old with nearly 1,500 plate appearances as a big leaguer.
Aug 4, 2015, 4:14 PM EDT
A shocking announcement from the Tigers today.
Aug 4, 2015, 3:45 PM EDT
He has a strained forearm.
Aug 4, 2015, 3:12 PM EDT
No Royals were suspended.
Aug 4, 2015, 3:00 PM EDT
He calls it a “hail Mary”
Aug 4, 2015, 2:46 PM EDT
In between the DL stints Freeman played just 10 games.
Aug 4, 2015, 1:19 PM EDT
He played two games for the Yankees.
Aug 4, 2015, 12:27 PM EDT
Incredible numbers for a 20-year-old shortstop.
Gregg Zaun to Yordano Ventura: “stop writing checks with your mouth that your skinny ass can’t cash”
Aug 4, 2015, 11:44 AM EDT
Gregg Zaun, as always, providing a voice of reason.
Aug 4, 2015, 10:30 AM EDT
He’s pitcher number two they received in the David Price deal.
- And That Happened: Tuesday’s scores and highlights 20
- Brad Ausmus receives a vote of confidence from new Tigers general manager Al Avila 15
- Title or no title, Dave Dombrowski’s tenure in Detroit was a success 34
- Dave Dombrowski out as Tigers General Manager, team president; Al Avila takes over 59
- Blue Jays’ Aaron Sanchez, John Gibbons disciplined in the wake of Sunday’s plunkings 72
- Believe the hype: Carlos Correa is already a superstar 34
- And That Happened: Monday’s scores and highlights 55
- The benches cleared in Friday’s Giants-Rangers game (208)
- Blue Jays acquire David Price from the Tigers (113)
- Rangers land ace left-hander Cole Hamels from Phillies (106)
- And That Happened: Sunday’s scores and highlights (88)