I have no problem with opening the MLB season in Japan. What I find remarkable is that the opener wasn’t shown live in the U.S., and that both the Seattle Mariners and Oakland Athletics are actually going back to spring training once they get back from Japan! What can you say that hasn’t been said about Bud Selig and the way in which MLB handles their business. It’s no wonder that football has left baseball in the dust since about the mid-’90s. The PR machine that should be looking for progressive ways to promote the MLB brand can’t seem to get out of their own way.
It’s not the first time that the MLB season has had games overseas. I understand expanding the base to places like Japan, Mexico, and Europe. Japan, however, is already baseball crazy. The fact that they came out in droves to watch two of the worst teams in baseball proves the point. Granted, Ichiro came to town and that was the cause of much joy for Japanese fans who were able to see him in his Mariners uniform for the first time in person.
I knew that the game was scheduled for 6am EST on Wednesday here in the States. I didn’t get up especially for the game, but I figured instead of watching CNN before going to work I’d catch an inning of the game. So the search began; I first went to ESPN – nothing. MLB Network – nothing. Hmm, I thought to myself. Maybe it’s on TBS or TNT? Nothing. As it turned out, the first game of the MLB season wasn’t shown live. It was shown on tape delay later that morning. Tape delay! That’s what used to happen in the late ’70s and early ’80s in the NHL and NBA. West coast games that started at 10:00 or 10:30 EST would come on an hour later because the networks wouldn’t turn away from their prime time lineups. They were the money makers, not live sports. It’s hard to imagine that a Lakers – Celtics playoff game would ever be tape delayed back east. It did happen though, so as baseball is prone to doing, they set network sports back 35 years. Perhaps they’ve heard of Heidi? During the final minutes of a thrilling game between the Oakland Raiders and NY Jets in 1968, NBC decided to cut away from the game so they could air their pseudo-popular kids show. Luckily I was only two years old so I couldn’t throw a rock at the TV when they made the switch. Needless to say that’s never happened again.
The notion of playing more spring training games after starting the regular season starts is just strange. The A’s and Mariners both will be 1-1 until next Wednesday when the Miami Marlins open their new stadium against the Cards. Again, what rocket scientist came up with this plan? MLB needs to watch how the NFL conducts business. MLB Network was showing a replay of a spring training game at 6:30am Wednesday. A channel that shows nothing but baseball didn’t show a live game on opening day? It’s puzzling to say the least. At least I can count on the NHL Network showing live hockey when it’s available, even if it is Calgary vs. Edmonton.