As you read this, the first game of the 2012 Major League Baseball season is in the books. The Oakland A’s and the Seattle Mariners are getting things under way in…Tokyo, Japan. This of course is not the first time a season has begun in the Land of the Rising Sun. It has happened three previous times in 2000, 2004 and 2008 (is this the Olympics?). The first time baseball opened outside one of its cities was in Monterrey, Mexico in 1999. While it is noble that MLB is trying (and succeeding) to grow the game globally, repeatedly making two teams start play multiple time zones from home is wrong on a few different levels.
For one, the A’s-Mariners games in Tokyo will begin at 7 PM in Japan or 3 AM PST. Imagine you are fan of one of those teams and you have been waiting since October for some real baseball. But alas, the only way to watch your beloved A’s or M’s is by cutting off some serious Z’s. The next time the teams see regular season action is on April 6th. What happened to fan friendliness? Also, with Oakland and Seattle situated in the American League West, it is important they get off to a fast start in order to compete with heavyweights Texas Rangers and Los Angeles Angels. Starting the season in Japan will not help that cause. While the New York Mets in 2000, New York Yankees in 2004 and Boston Red Sox in 2008 all made the playoffs, all teams had sluggish starts to begin the first 10-15 games of the season. The A’s and Mariners are not good enough to overcome a shaky beginning.
Most of all, baseball’s first game of the season, as it was for many years, should be the property of the Cincinnati Reds. Major League Baseball likes to state that no other sport can match its traditions or its history. That has rung hollow for the last 20 years or so when the traditional Opening Game was removed from Cincinnati. Opening Day was granted to Cincinnati from 1876 to 1989 as nod to the game’s oldest franchise. Sadly, like everything else this tradition has been scrapped to the almighty dollar. Would it kill baseball to forgo a couple of dollars and make sure the Reds host the first game every season?
If baseball won’t go back to Cincinnati, then maybe there is one area they can copy the NFL. They should make Opening Night a stand-alone game on a Thursday with the defending champions opening at home against a division rival. That makes much more sense than opening when 90% of the country is asleep.
Follow me on Twitter @ltj41 and at http://venomstrikes.com, a blog about the Arizona Diamondbacks.