Friday, March 28, 2008

Housekeeping

This is a low-quality post (Reader: “Tell me something I don’t know”), here mostly to mention that I am trying to figure out the new Blogger sidebar options, and getting that set up (they actually made it a lot easier to customize the sidebar for those of us who aren’t HTML experts, but I’ll still have to figure it out). So the links or the archives might disappear for a while, but they’ll be back eventually.

Anyway, I wanted to briefly touch on the Opening Day in Tokyo “issue”. I use quotation marks because I don’t understand what all the fuss is about. There are two strains of commentary on the issue: one is from intelligent people, and another is from those who are appear to be jingoists. I’m not opposed to a little jingoism here and there, but not in the baseball world (unless you’re one of those fools who claim that rooting for the US in the World Baseball Classic constitutes jingoism).

Dealing with the intelligent criticisms, I just don’t understand what all the fuss is about. MLB is attempting to increase its worldwide profile, and I think that is a great thing. So there were some Japanese league games going on at the same time that may have been overshadowed? So what? It’s a long season, they’ll be plenty of time for Japanese fans to focus on their league (and of course, no one was stopping them from doing so if they wanted to ignore the MLB games).

I direct the same point about it being a long season to those who are disturbed that A’s fans lost two home games. In the long run, the difference between 79 and 81 games is negligible. I don’t believe that a season ticket holder would even notice the difference if the season was cut from 162 to 158 games, unless they went out of their way to count how many tickets they had.

Some say that Opening Day is a special day, and it is. But home Opening Day is special too, and the Red Sox and A’s will still hold one of those. So the A’s started their home schedule in a road park. Excuse me if I am not overcome with sympathy. The Indians have not opened the season at home since 2001(including three years in a row at beautiful Comiskey Park). Last year, their first three scheduled home games had to be moved to Milwaukee. I think the A’s fans can live with waiting a week for their home opener, and having it not be the season opener.

The Japanese fans have seen a large number of talented players leave their teams for major league teams. The situation is a bit different than those of players from other countries that immigrate to MLB since the Japanese leagues represent a much higher level of play and professionalism than can be found in Latin America. I don’t want to suggest that this means MLB owes them in any way; after all, baseball players are not national assets except in the twisted mind of Fidel Castro, and Hideki Matsui can choose to go play in the US if he pleases. However, is it too much to ask that the Japanese occasionally be rewarded with a major league game in their country? Perhaps one that actually counts, rather than patronizing them with an exhibition as if they were a bunch of baseball neophytes like the Chinese?

I am no fan of Bud Selig, but it must be said that MLB is doing well right now. You don’t necessarily have to give him or the current owners or the MLBPA or any other group credit for it, but likewise some go over-the-top in their criticisms of the man. Personally, I am no fan of interleague play, unbalanced schedules, a 16 team NL and a 14 team AL that spits in the face of all historical precedent, five-game playoff series, or the “This time it counts” All-Star Game. But I can also give credit where credit is due, and sharing baseball with Japan and other countries of comparable baseball passion is an idea that deserves credit. That in no way implies that Selig or anything MLB has done is the cause of that passion. Embracing it is what I applaud.

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