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I mean this in the nicest way; Major League Baseball should stick to playing games in the United States. I can't say I know from experience, having never had to endure the brutal schedule of playing 162 games a year, not to mention the additional work/games played during Spring Training, but can you blame Josh Beckett for suddenly having a back "ailment" a mere week before his team packs there bags and travels half way around the world to play four, (yes, thats right, four games, two exhibition and two regular season) in Japan? I get the whole idea of globalization, and MLB’s desire to expand popularity in a region of the world that has already embraced America’s favorite pastime, but at what expense are they willing to follow through with this plan? Players have to prepare themselves physically as well as mentally to compete at the highest levels of the game; they don’t need to worry about a ridiculously far road trip when they have 162+ games ahead of them.
Japan is approximately a 14,000 mile round trip from Boston. Dividing that by 4 (1 for each game played) comes to a grand total of 3,500 miles of travel per game played. Josh Beckett recently “developed” a back problem that could conceivably keep him from starting in his rightful spot at the helm of Boston’s rotation for the first game of the season. I surmise Red Sox fans have nothing to worry about, as this condition will probably magically heal itself following the Red Sox trip across the Pacific. Listen, I’m not discounting the actual pain this guy may in fact be feeling, but my guess is that if the Red Sox were to open the season anywhere in the contiguous 48 states, he would be ready to get batters out whiffing at his high heat followed by his drooping change-up.
Two years ago, MLB introduced the World Baseball Classic; the perfect solution for globalization of baseball WORLDWIDE, as opposed to region-centric. Bud Selig, along with Donald Fehr, both continue to support this tournament of teams from as far and wide as South Africa, to as close as the Dominican Republic. It’s quite interesting to note that the game will travel several time-zones beyond the west-coast to promote a sport that is already played on a professional level with players that are quite possibly “Major League ready”.
A couple of years ago, before the Washington Nationals became the Washington Nationals, the then-Montreal Expos played several games in Puerto Rico. Many of the players we root for today are of Latin heritage. Baseball is not just a game in the Caribbean, Mexico, and South America; it is in fact a way of life. Teams such as the New York Mets have opened up baseball academies in the Dominican Republic to promote the game, while allowing themselves the greatest shot at harvesting, and developing the best players this region can offer. Major League Baseball may want to re-examine the globalization of the game and explore new ways to target new regions, including but not limited to having games played in the Caribbean, South America, and for that matter Europe.
Last year the NFL sent the soon to be Super Bowl Champion New York Giants to play the Miami Dolphins in London’s Wembley Stadium. Roger Goodell, the NFL’s new commissioner said at the time that “Our future success will be determined in large part by our ability to globalize. As our world shrinks thanks to changing technology, we will increasingly become partners." I recently read an article in the New York Times that stated New York Rangers GM Glen Sather of the National Hockey League was in the Czech Republic recently, to complete a deal that will have the Rangers playing two games in the 2008-2009 NHL season in Prague (the Rangers opponent will be the Tampa Bay Lightning). Major League Baseball should follow suit and promote the game worldwide, and not just where the dollars are at the present time. By exploring new markets, we may be able to unearth some new talent while actually gaining popularity for the sports we all know and love.