SBD/Issue 47/Franchises

Long Home Run: Red Sox-A's To Open '08 Season In Japan

Birth Of Second Child Could Sideline
Matsuzaka For Games In Japan
The Red Sox and A’s will open the ’08 regular season March 25-26 at the 55,000-seat Tokyo Dome in Japan, marking the third time MLB has opened its season in the city. The teams will also play exhibition games against Japanese teams on March 22-23. The A’s will be the designated home team for the series (MLB). Red Sox President & CEO Larry Lucchino said of the trip to Japan, "As much as [MLB] wanted us to go, we were of course concerned with what impact it would have on our players and the competitiveness of the schedule next year. So there was plenty of internal debate." In Boston, Amalie Benjamin notes the trip may conflict with the birth of Red Sox P and Japanese native Daisuke Matsuzaka's second child. Lucchino said the team is hopeful the child will be born "at such a time that will allow him to participate as well." Nonetheless, Red Sox P Hideki Okajima, also from Japan, is "an attraction in his homeland" (BOSTON GLOBE, 11/15). Media corporation Yomiuri, which owns the Nippon Professional Baseball League Giants, will sponsor and host the games (MLB.com, 11/14). A source indicates that each player will receive about $50,000 for the games (PROVIDENCE JOURNAL, 11/15).

OPPORTUNITY KNOCKS: In Boston, Michael Silverman writes the trip, "first brought up by Japanese sponsors in late spring, never caught the imagination of Red Sox players, who were concerned primarily with the toll trans-Pacific flights can take on a body." However, there was "never enough of a groundswell of discontent to derail the plan," and MLB took steps "to make the trip less disruptive" than the '04 Yankees-D'Rays series.  Red Sox SS Alex Cora said, "We have to be good ambassadors of the game." Lucchino added, "There was a serious effort to adjust the schedule to allow for a more comfortable re-entry" (BOSTON HERALD, 11/15).  The Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo, on whether playing the season opener in Japan will hurt the Red Sox: “I think it can. The team will probably have to leave around March 19-20. To me, that’s a peak time. … You have to play competitive games almost a week before you normally do."  Cafardo added, "People look forward to going to spring training, and now you’re cutting off a couple of weeks. … People probably already have their vacations, they’re already booked” ("The Globe 10.0," NESN, 11/14). A's GM Billy Beane said the trip "is great for baseball, and what's great for baseball is great for the A's. There aren't reasons not to pursue an opportunity like this. They're giving us more than ample time to prepare, before and after the trip. The game is going global. Any attempt to restrict that is shortsighted" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 11/15).

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