Beane lauds benefits of Opening Series overseas
'It's how we grow the game,' says A's GM, who would like to be a part of all instances
Oakland A's general manager Billy Beane has one objection to Major League Baseball opening its season in Australia this year.
The series will feature the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Arizona Diamondbacks, not the A's.
The A's participated in the last two Opening Series overseas, in Japan in 2008 and 2012, and Beane is a believer in the importance of such a series.
"I have volunteered to Commissioner [Bud] Selig that we will play any time," said Beane. "When we heard the rumblings about the trip to Australia, I tried to get in on that one, too, but there are only so many they are going to let us play in."
Oh, there are logistical challenges involved with MLB's overseas efforts, including the fact that the participating teams open Spring Training a week earlier than anybody else so they can have their players game-ready by the time they play in Australia March 22-23.
There is a faction that expresses concern that the extra week wears on the teams involved in the overseas Opening Series, and leaves them at a competitive disadvantage during the 162-game regular season.
Beane doesn't believe that claim.
"The worst part for us was [in 2012] facing Felix Hernandez in the [first] game of the season [in Japan] and the fourth game [in Oakland]," said Beane. "But we had no issues getting players ready. We played those two games [in Japan] and came back [to Spring Training] for a week before resuming the season.
"We had plenty of time off to recover from the time changes."
And history doesn't support the fears of others.
There have been six season-opening series played in non-Major League cities, including 1999, when Colorado and San Diego opened in Monterrey, Mexico, and 2001, when Texas and Toronto opened the season in San Juan, P.R. Those were both one-game events, and because of their proximity, they did not require any time adjustments. Both times the teams had a day off after the opener and resumed the season.
There was more of a travel issue with the four series in Japan, the first two played in 2000 and 2004, but one of the teams involved in each of them has advanced to the postseason.
The New York Mets opened 2000 in Japan against the Cubs. Their season finished in New York, losing to the Yankees in the World Series. The Mets were the National League Wild Card that year, going 94-68, beating San Francisco in four games in the NL Division Series and St. Louis in five games in the NL Championship Series. The Cubs finished in last place for the second season in a row.
The Yankees faced Tampa Bay in Japan to open 2004 and went on to win the seventh of nine consecutive American League East titles, winning at least 100 games for the third consecutive season. They beat Minnesota in four games in the ALDS, and then were stunned by Boston in the ALCS. The Yankees won the first three games against the Red Sox, who rallied to become the first Major League team in a best-of-seven series to overcome an 0-3 deficit.
Tampa Bay went 70-91 and finished fourth in the AL East, the only time in its first 10 years of existence that the club won 70 games and didn't finish in last place.
In 2008, Boston built off its Opening Series in Japan against Oakland to claim the AL Wild Card, the fourth of six postseason appearances in a seven-year stretch. The Red Sox beat the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in four games in the ALDS, but lost to Tampa Bay in seven games in the ALCS. The A's suffered a losing record for the second of three consecutive seasons.
And two years ago, the A's not only won the AL West after opening the season in Japan against Seattle, but they showed no fatigue late in the season. In putting together their second winning record in six years, the A's won 27 of their final 38 games, including a season-ending three-game sweep of Texas that allowed Oakland to overtake the Rangers and win the division by one game. Seattle finished 75-87, its third of four consecutive losing seasons.
The biggest winner, however, is the sport of baseball, said Beane.
"Anytime we can take the game out of the country, it is a great idea," he said. "It's how we grow the game. It's how we get exposure and create interest."
Beane thinks baseball should do it every year.
And he says the A's will be happy to fill one of the two slots.
Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.