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Opening Day the latest baseball tradition under assault

By March 30, 2012

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Opening Day is getting to be like opening day more every year. Let's forget it's a "holiday" and get rid of the capital letters.

It's another baseball tradition under assault from a money grab.

Interleague play already took a lot of fun out of the All-Star Game and World Series. Expanding the playoffs has dulled the pennant race, with a further dulling this year. And having two games played in Japan this week that actually count disrupts the flow of tradition of Opening Day.

The "traditional" Opening Day is Thursday, April 5, even though three games will have been played by then, and two will have been played a week earlier.

We all get why Major League Baseball wants to play games in Japan. It's a marketing opportunity, a cultural exchange, a way to build the game abroad. As Lisa Olson of AOL Fanhouse wrote, playing games in Japan has its perks.

"It was five whirlwind days of the Mariners and A's, having their eyes popped open like never before. It was both teams visiting the country's stricken northeast Sendai region and entering Ishinomaki, a city once so vibrant but now virtually desolate after being flattened just over a year ago by a 9.0 magnitude earthquake and the subsequent massive tsunami that came crashing into the port community."

But is it so important that it had to be two games that counted? And played at 3 a.m. in their home markets? Couldn't MLB have sent over the Oakland A's and Seattle Mariners and had them play their final two exhibition games there, with an order to play the starters?

If it's a game that has to count, maybe MLB could send over two teams to play in Japan over the All-Star break and play a three-game series, moving a series from the weekend before? Sure those flights are long, but it's 2012. It's not like they're traversing the Pacific by steam ship.

MLB's Opening Day used to be an afternoon start in Cincinnati. Then one game was moved back to allow a nationally televised game on the night before. Now it's moved back a whole week, creating a strange dynamic in which two teams are in the regular season and the rest are still in spring training.

Baseball builds up Opening Day as a tradition more than any other sport. It's a ritual that celebrates that warm weather is ahead and hope springs eternal. And opening the season in a domed stadium in Japan at three in the morning on a Wednesday cheapens that.

Baseball can't have it both ways.

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March 31, 2012 at 10:12 am
(1) rays fan says:

I agree 100%. MLB has ruined opening day. Who else opens the season with the first game on tape delay? (Second game was live on MLB network — wonder if they heard the complaints.)

Now teams begin the season on any of four days — there is no opening day nationally. MLB has taken the tradition and trashed it.

April 2, 2012 at 11:04 am
(2) joe.attaboy says:

The issues with things like Opening Day and games-that-count in Japan and be blamed on two simple words:

Bud Selig.

This man has single-handedly managed to pretty much dismantle everything that once made the game great. Making the All Star Game “count” for home field, inter-league play, extended the playoffs and allowing the culture of the league to fester with steroids can all be laid directly at Selig’s feet.

As a life long Yankees fan, I used to wait patiently for pitchers and catchers to report, and we made annual trips to spring training, just to get a glimpse as what the regular season might offer.

I barely pay attention before opening day now.

Thanks, Bud.

April 4, 2012 at 5:40 pm
(3) Reds Fan#! says:

MLB has not ruined opening day!!

April 4, 2012 at 5:49 pm
(4) Reds Fan #! says:

Opening Day is fine and you are being difficulr!

April 5, 2012 at 11:12 am
(5) Tuli Reno says:

I woke up this morning thinking the same thing. I miss the way it used to be. At the same time, I am so tired of hearing former players now announcers say: back when I was playing, back in my day, we didn’t used to…

Baseball is so steeped in tradition it can be very difficult to change things. I’m no fan of Selig, but his ability to mix things up has been amazing. (If only he had the courage to get rid of maple bats! I think someone has to die before that happens. Oh, yeah, how ’bout getting rid of the owners of my team?)

So, I am of two minds as far as tradition goes. Yes, we need more instant replay but don’t mess with opening day.

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