The Arizona Diamondbacks and Los Angeles Dodgers are slated to begin their season with a three-game series in Australia beginning on March 22. The move to play a regular season series abroad comes relatively late for MLB; the NFL began playing one regular season game in London back in 2007. The London games have been very popular amongst the English, and it comes at no surprise that the MLB would be keen to expand its audience. Given this emerging market for the NFL, I suspect MLB adopted the same strategy with this first effort at the Sydney Cricket Grounds.
When asked about the opening series, Dodgers star Zack Greinke responded bluntly by saying he has “absolutely zero excitement for it.” The comment startled Australian officials, who contacted the Dodgers and MLB for further explanation. As expected, the League and the Dodgers assured the officials that everyone is very much looking forward to the trip.
Aside from the jet lag that occurs from such a time change, the trip will affect the Dodgers in a couple other ways. Since the series starts before the rest of the League’s Opening Day games, the team will be missing out on Cactus League preseason games. These games are essential for the team, as they give it a chance for teammates to develop chemistry in game-like situations and is a great tune-up to the speed of live game play right before the season starts. The early start will also create a problem for the starting rotation. The team will want their ace, Clayton Kershaw, to start on full rest for the Dodgers’ Opening Day home opener. Ironically, this means that Greinke will likely have to pitch in the opening series in Sydney.
I don’t see a real problem with Greinke’s comments. Players across all sports have become so well-coached in how to respond to the media that we hardly hear their true thoughts. Personally, I think it’s refreshing to hear what a player thinks. Granted, Greinke did come off a little harsh in just how excited he is to fly to Australia for one series. The media really blows slip-ups and comments from players out of proportion in order to create news, but I would actually prefer it if the players were allowed to just say whatever they wanted.
All in all, I don’t think MLB will have as great a stake in the foreign audience as the NFL does, simply because there is less of a void. Football is only played in the United States, so it is somewhat of a spectacle and a great opportunity to see something the English cannot go see another time when the NFL plays in London. Baseball is a universal sport, and while other leagues are not the same caliber as the MLB, citizens can more easily go see a game in other nations.
Contact Quinn Daly at [email protected]