Global World Series is a Great Idea

ESPN posted this brief article about the idea of a Global World Series.  Actually, what they mean is a series between the winner of the World Series and their Japanese counterparts.

The Players Union would have to agree to this, and no doubt there will be concerns over extending the already-too-long baseball season, travel time, and potential injuries.  I’m not a big fan of fixing what isn’t broken (see: Interleague Play), but I think this is a great idea.

Japanese players can play their style or ours

Baseball has lost its preeminent place in the American sporting scene to football.  Yet it’s the bees knees in Japan.  That country loves baseball, and if the last two World Baseball Classics are proof of anything, they’re really good at it.  Major League Baseball should embrace Japan as a partner in the lovely hobby of baseball love.

Here’s how to go about this.  First, tidy up the MLB season and particularly the playoffs so that the World Series ends in October.  The Japanese league championship is also held in October, so timing works.  Pacific Ocean travel is exhausting and time-consuming, so the 7-game series should alternate years between a Japanese and an American venue.  Because this is an international exhibition, and weather is a problem in November, the American series should not be played in the home stadium of the World Series winner, but rather a rotating venue with little chance of rain or snow-outs.  Baseball can cherry pick its venues (Seattle, Los Angeles) at first to ensure good attendance until the concept gains momentum.

Speaking only for myself, I’d love to watch this series.  I want to know who the best players are in Japan, and I want to see them compete against Americans.  The World Baseball Classic does not reliably set that up often enough.  This might also help stem the tide of Japanese players coming to the US.  As much as I love Ichiro!, America’s money and (allegedly) higher caliber of play is threatening to reduce the Japanese leagues into a farm system.  Letting Japanese players with “the zeal of a challenger” get their fix in this series might be enough to prevent them from bailing on their homeland league.

There are some problems with the idea.  First, it will undermine the WBC’s current monopoly on international baseball competition.  Second, finding an American city interested in a 7-game series between a Japanese team and not their hometown team may be problematic.  But as the 2008 World Series showed, nothing takes the wind out of a series’ sails like horrible weather.  I think it’s worth taking the hit in attendance in order to ensure playable conditions.  Furthermore, I expect the money in this for the MLB is in television rights, not seat prices.  So price it cheaply until it gets big.

Here’s my personal data point: I hate the Yankees, and was very unhappy that they won the 2009 World Series.  Yet if Philly had a domed stadium, I would buy a $50 ticket to watch the Yankees play in Philly against the Japanese champions.  File that away, MLB marketing drones.

I would be surprised if this happens, because I think the Players Union will not like it.  A team that just won the World Series will not want to fly to Japan for two weeks immediately afterward.  But as a fan I’d love to watch that matchup, it contains the potential for great baseball and international bragging rights, and would be an important step in baseball’s embrace of the international baseball community.

6 Responses

  1. […] A post I made to All Swings Considered about the idea of a yearly series between the winner of the World Series […]

  2. I heard Hawaii mentioned which would be something of a middle ground in terms of travel, but only slightly on the home-team ground. Clearly the Japanese could solve this by setting out with their own version of Manifest Destiny…this will end well.
    I would pay decent enough money to see such a game. First, I require a job…someone pay me to type gibberish.

  3. Hawaii makes sense in terms of travel, but probably not in terms of attendance at the games.

  4. Maybe there could be a series to open up the season? Like the exhibition games they have been having in Tokyo. Then it could be during the end of Spring Training, rather than immediately after the World Series.

  5. Either at the beginning or end of the season, I think you run into players not wanting to disrupt the routine of the year. But the WBC has trouble getting players to participate in the spring because they want to focus on the season. What’s more, the World Series champs come the following March may have a very different roster. The Yankees, for example, would show up in Tokyo with Curtis Granderson and Javier Vazquez instead of Hideki Matsui.

  6. Non-league competitive games are kind of a bizarre thing to get your head around for American sports. In soccer there are numerous international competitions that occur over the course of the season. Teams gain entry to such Cups based on the previous year’s record…so yes, the team will be different and if you’re like the Marlins (jettisoning all veteran bread winners) it’s an automatic loss.
    However, an extended All-Star break would allow for a one game Championship. This would prevent those players from appearing in the All-Star game and increase possible injury, but a 162 game sched really fills up the year.
    Another option could be an All-Star game between Japan’s League and MLB…low level of competition coupled with big names and a national showing of Japanese players that the MLB will end up pilfering (I’m looking at you, Yu Darvish).

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