Baseball season has begun – - in Japan for the first time. While I do not like that idea exactly, I do think that the early morning telecasts of the games from Japan may provide an interesting marketing ploy for MLB. Let me explain.
Starting the season in Japan only to have the two teams return to the States and play some more Spring Training games before actually playing more “games that count” is just bizarre. Imagine the NFL doing that. They start their season with a game in England two weeks before everyone else starts and then those teams return and play another exhibition game before everyone starts the season in earnest. That just doesn’t work. So in order to play real games in Japan, maybe what MLB needs to do is to schedule the teams to play there just before the All-Star break so that the teams can have a three day “respites” upon flying home – - and schedule both teams to play on the West Coast for a week upon their return.
Yes, I realize that might mean some players might choose to miss the All Star Game to get their biological clocks reset properly. That would be their choice – - as it is now whether or not to actually participate in the All Star Game.
However, that early morning TV game made me wonder if that might not work in several cities in the US. Why can’t there be “Breakfast at the Ballpark Days”? There are day games during the week called “Businessman Specials”; why not a morning game or two? Obviously, these games will not work for a late season clash between the Tampa Rays and the Baltimore Orioles, which will not draw flies even at night. But why not one of the White Sox/Cubs games played in the early hours – - and then everyone goes to work later in the morning?
Frankly, I enjoyed waking up and seeing baseball on TV. Driving to work and listening to a ball game on the radio – - they would have to be on a national broadcast feed – - has to beat most of the morning radio fare available. Some marketing guru for MLB ought to look into this.
The Washington Nationals will open their season in their new ballpark. Ever since the Orioles moved to Camden Yards, the opening of a new park has been a cue for teams to see large attendance increases in the next season – some as large as 79%. Since the Nationals played to crowds that could be counted between pitches at the end of last season, a large attendance increase this year should be easily attainable. However, the attraction will be the park and not the team. The Nationals will be fortunate to win 75 games this year
Keep an eye on the Pittsburgh Pirates this year. If they have another losing season, it will be their 16th in a row and that will tie them with the Phillies’ teams of 1933-1948 for the MLB record of most consecutive losing seasons. Last year they won only 68 games so you might think a losing season is in the bag for them this year. But consider that they do play in a mediocre division with a Reds team that looks to be a loser, with a Cardinals team whose starting rotation looks like one that might not win a championship in AAA ball and an Astros team whose starting pitchers gave up a lot of runs last year. Nevertheless, it does seem as if the Pirates have a date with destiny at the end of this season.
Here is something to make Cubs’ fans happy. Kerry Woods had back spasms during spring training. At least it wasn’t pain in the elbow or shoulder this time…
The Florida Marlins blew up their team in the off-season trading away two of their three quality players. Their projected starting rotation has five pitchers with ERAs north of 5.0 for last year; their projected closer had an ERA of 3.54 last year. Losing 120 games in a season is not an easy thing to do, so I will not suggest that they will do that; but they will lose 100 times and might sneak up to 110 in the loss column.
The KC Royals will not win much this year either in part because they have to play in a division with Cleveland, Detroit, Minnesota and the White Sox. Such is the case with the Baltimore Orioles and the Tampa Rays who have to play with Boston, NY and Toronto.
Speaking of the Orioles, why have so many players who have been caught up in the steroid mess of MLB been part of the Orioles organization? The team has not won any division titles in a while but they sure seemed fixated on winning the Mitchell Report Citation race.
The AL West could be very exciting. The Mariners could make a serious run at the post-season and in the post-season once they get there. The other teams in the AL West are good too – - but all have their flaws. The Angels have two starting pitchers with arm trouble before the season starts; the Rangers pitching staff cannot get anybody out and the A’s have to pray that Bobby Crosby and Eric Chavez can stay healthy for the whole season – something they have not done recently. And by the way, if you have never seen Ichiro Suzuki in person and if he is coming to a city near you this season, make it a point to go out to see him play. Go early and watch him in batting practice and in the field before the game. Watch him in the dugout and watch him between pitches in the outfield. He is a treat to watch; he is the only player in MLB today that I would make a journey to see play a baseball game.
The new José Canseco book is about to hit the shelves. There was a story that Canseco had offered Magglio Ordonez the opportunity to keep Ordonez’ name out of the new book if Ordonez would invest in a movie project that Canseco was involved with. At least that is how Scott Boras – Ordonez’ agent – portrayed it as he reported this sordid mess to the FBI. That would be extortion if it happened. Moreover, just as no one in baseball has yet sued Canseco for slander/libel, the FBI has not indicted him for extortion yet either.
Finally, a baseball note from Scott Ostler in the SF Chronicle:
“The Giants ‘08 slogan is ‘All out, all season.’ But that’s misleading. I think some of the guys will be out, like, half the season.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports…