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 29, 2015, 8:55 AM EDT
A quick recap from a busy Friday around MLB, including a dominant outing from Cole Hamels.
Aug 28, 2015, 11:40 PM EDT
Ike Davis recently underwent hip surgery, but is expected to be ready to participate in spring training next year.
Aug 28, 2015, 11:05 PM EDT
Chris Capuano has had an interesting season. In particular, he’s had a busy August.
Aug 28, 2015, 10:37 PM EDT
Baseball fans rejoice: Vin Scully will return to call Dodgers games in 2016.
Aug 28, 2015, 10:15 PM EDT
Phillies GM Ruben Amaro, Jr.’s contract expires after the season. There’s a chance the Phillies decide to bring him back for the 2016 season.
Aug 28, 2015, 9:42 PM EDT
The Blue Jays added some depth on Friday, claiming 1B/OF Danny Dorn off waivers from the Diamondbacks.
Aug 28, 2015, 9:25 PM EDT
The Nationals weren’t happy with how the Jayson Werth bobblehead looked, so they’ll have a new one made and give it away to fans during the off-season.
Aug 28, 2015, 8:35 PM EDT
Chris Heston will return to the Giants’ rotation to replace the injured Matt Cain on Sunday.
Aug 28, 2015, 7:45 PM EDT
Yasiel Puig is back on the disabled list with his second hamstring strain this season.
Aug 28, 2015, 6:55 PM EDT
AL West teams, including the Athletics, get the short end of the scheduling stick again in 2016.
Aug 28, 2015, 6:05 PM EDT
An unknown team claimed Padres closer Craig Kimbrel on revocable waivers.
Aug 28, 2015, 5:18 PM EDT
Will the Red Sox exercise his $13 million option for 2016?
Aug 28, 2015, 4:46 PM EDT
This is from an incident in June 2014
Aug 28, 2015, 2:20 PM EDT
An important manifesto from a woman who is both a serious baseball fan and who does not deny the bleeding obvious.
Aug 28, 2015, 2:00 PM EDT
Rough timing for the impending free agent.
Aug 28, 2015, 1:44 PM EDT
Hours after firing general manager Jack Zduriencik the Mariners have demoted one of his worst draft picks.
Aug 28, 2015, 11:42 AM EDT
Overall the Mariners went 505-595 (.459) with Zduriencik as GM.
Aug 28, 2015, 11:27 AM EDT
Two months ago, in the wake of the Astros database hacking scandal, the Cardinals fired scouting director Chris Correa.
Aug 28, 2015, 10:30 AM EDT
Pedro Martinez is one of the smartest baseball players in living memory, but he’s sniffing up the wrong tree here.
Vote of non-confidence: Reds owner says manager Bryan Price won’t be fired before the season is over
Aug 28, 2015, 10:15 AM EDT
He looks like a goner after the season.
- Settling the Score: Friday’s results 0
- Vin Scully will return in 2016 for his 67th season of broadcasting 32
- The Athletics have a travel-heavy 2016 schedule and unsuccessfully tried to have it altered 9
- Mariners fire general manager Jack Zduriencik 71
- Pedro Martinez wonders if bad chemistry is the reason the Tigers and Mariners are out of contention 50
- Vote of non-confidence: Reds owner says manager Bryan Price won’t be fired before the season is over 23
- And That Happened: Thursday’s scores and highlights 86
- Denard Span headed back to DL with hip inflammation, unlikely to return this season 10
- Sarah Palin sticks up for Curt Schilling, tells ESPN to “stick to sports” (262)
- Dan Patrick: When does ESPN cut ties with Curt Schilling? (200)
- Curt Schilling taken off of Little League World Series duty for making a really bad tweet (169)
- Curt Schilling taken off of ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball telecast this week (134)
- Phillies announcer calls Mets fans “obnoxious” (123)