|MLB Should Nix Opening in Japan|
Written by Jim Mancari (Contact & Archive) on April 04, 2012
Tonight's game between the Cardinals and Marlins will be advertised as Opening Day for the 2012 season, but the Athletics and Mariners split two games in the Tokyo Dome in Japan one week ago.
Was it really worth it considering all of the hassle?
This year was the fourth time that the MLB season opened in Japan, and the criticism from fans and analysts poured in each time. Of course, this opening series is great for the global appeal of baseball, but it's almost as if the long anticipated hype surrounding the true Opening Day came and went without much notice.
Put yourself in the shoes of a Mariners or A's fan. Both teams aren't expected to make too much noise in a division featuring the Rangers and Angels. But Opening Day is always a thrill despite the talent level of a team.
With the time difference, however, the official start of the MLB season came just after 3 a.m. Pacific time Wednesday morning. There likely aren't too many fans -- except the true die-hards -- that interrupted their sleep to watch the game.
Meanwhile, tonight's game at 8 p.m. Eastern time is expected to receive ratings off the charts. The Cardinals are the reigning World Series champions and the new-look Marlins are the talk of the league. The game will also be played at the new Marlins Park. This will be the real Opening Day in many fans' opinions.
Though two official games have been played, both teams will now play a week's worth of final spring training games before facing each other in their first series on home soil. The players got amped up for these two games, but they will likely regress back to exhibition mode. Once again, it doesn't seem fair to the two participating teams.
Starting the season in Japan also takes away from the holiday that Opening Day has become. Sure, fans will "call in sick" to work during their team's first game, but it's not the same feel as being at the true Opening Day. It's basically just your team's home opener.
The Athletics had to have felt very out of place last week. Though technically they were home for one of the games, the Japanese faithful rallied behind their beloved Ichiro. It seemed like the crowd was pulling for the Mariners just because they wanted Ichiro to win.
If MLB was so committed to opening the season in Japan, maybe the game could have been between Ichiro and Mariners against Yu Darvish and the Rangers. While the time difference still would have made the game at an odd time in the US, more fans would have likely gotten up to watch Darvish make his professional debut.
Baseball is already competing with football as America's true pastime. Opening Day should be in the US every year, and there should be no experimenting with this tradition.
Maybe a compromise can be worked out that each team plays one two-game spring training series in Japan. In that case, Japanese baseball lovers can get to see every team, but yet the games don't count towards the standings.
Hopefully, MLB will analyze the ratings and decide that a more traditional Opening Day is the way to go.