For those of you that may not realize it, today is opening day for Major League Baseball.
Amidst a slew of spring training games, the 2008 season officially starts today in a land known for its food, culture and love of baseball ... Japan.
For some strange reason, Major League Baseball and Commissioner Bud Selig have decided to yet again start "America’s Pastime" in a country other than America. While I am certainly not that patriotic, something about starting the baseball season in a country other than this one is downright ludicrous.
But apparently I’m not the only one.
Just last week, members of one of the two teams playing (the Boston Red Sox) were on the verge of boycotting the entire trip.
But their beef wasn’t with the idea of opening up the season on the other side of the globe, their beef was with what most baseball players complain about ... money.
The Red Sox signed a unanimous petition to boycott their final spring training game and the opening day trip to Japan because, unlike the players and manager, the coaches and staff were not going to be given a $40,000 stipend. Eventually the dispute was settled, and the players, coaches and staff of both the Red Sox and their opponent, the Oakland A’s, boarded their respective planes bound for the Far East. And today they will play baseball.
Some may applaud the Red Sox for standing up for the less appreciated members of the franchise, but what the members of the defending world champions really did was hammer home my point of why Major League Baseball doesn’t need to open the season in Japan.
Think about it. If you have to bribe the players with a $40,000 stipend in order for them to make the trip, then there is an obvious flaw in the system.
Don’t get me wrong, I understand where Selig is coming from. He wants to grow the sport (i.e. his wallet) by sending one of the most popular franchises in the world (the Red Sox) to Japan to open the season. And it’s no coincidence that the Red Sox have two players on their roster (Daisuke Matsuzaka and Hideki Okajima) who once starred in Japan and will no doubt double the attendence numbers at the game.
Does anybody else find it strange that in the only two years (this year and in 2007) that Major League Baseball has opened the season in Japan, that at least one former Japanese-born star (in 2007 in was New York Yankees outfielder Hideki Matsui) playing in the game?
And does anybody else find it odd that the most popular franchise in the world (the Yankees) and one of the top-five franchises in the world (the Red Sox) have both made the around-the-world trek to open the season?
The answer is obvious. Money, money and more money. The Yankees and Red Sox are the two most featured franchises that baseball has. They make the most money, they spend the most money, they have the best players and year-in and year-out they are competing for a World Series title, so of course they would be a good draw no matter where the game was played.
Selig could say that next year, the Yankees and/or the Red Sox are opening the 2009 season in a third-world country and the game would be sold out in an instant. The teams are that popular, and for that reason you won’t see the Tampa Bay Rays taking on the Kansas City Royals playing in a far away land to open the season any time soon. (And by any time soon, I mean ever.)
Regardless of how I feel, the baseball season officially begins today at 6:05 a.m. EST. And while baseball and breakfast sounds delictable, for some reason the concept of starting "America’s Pastime" any where other than in a ballpark in America makes me lose my appetite.
So I guess it’s play ball, or should I say, "purei boru."