Hope you got plenty of frequent flier miles if you plan on being there for Mariners opening day. Per Greg Johns the Mariners will be opening the 2012 season off in Japan, March 28th and 29th versus the Oakland Athletics.
Of course there will be plenty of attention paid to Ichiro over the course of the off-season and with this trip. I’m sure there will also be plenty of various stories that will come up surrounding the trip and MLB reaching out to Japan. But, personally what I’m most looking forward to the most is all the talk surroudning the exhibition games.
But, NPB is something that I’ve always wanted to know more about. I just haven’t dedicated as much time to it as I would like. That said it’ll be interesting to see who the Mariners end up getting paired with and judging on the team it’ll be interesting to see what the desparity is between the two leagues.
I don’t question that Major League Baseball is the better of the two leagues, and the American League being superior to the National. (SSI had a nice little post on it almost exactly one year ago. I suggest you read it.) But, that said NPB isn’t what it used to be, it’s gotten better and the gap between the two leagues on opposite continents has closed.
I think it’s just a positive thing for the two leagues to compete against, even if it’s just a exihibition game. Regardless it fosters a better relationship. This is extremely important realtionship for the MLB to cultivate as we have seen the NPB become a very relible source for talent both domestically (Colby Lewis and Ryan Vogelsong) and internationally (Ichiro and Hideki Matsui).
The league itself is becoming a sort of a AAAA land of misfit toyas where some players that never quiet make in the MLB are learning to fix some of the issues or holes in their game. Problems that prevented some of them from becoming major league regulars.
Then again some of them aren’t fixing anything and just making a pay check doing what they do best. Such as the story that is certainly interesting for some Tacoma Rainier fans –and possibly some Mariner fans–Wladimir Balentine, who has made quiet a name for himself over there with his home runs.
Of course he has cooled off since his initial hot start, currently through 482 PA’s he has posted a line of .239 /.332/.500. He currently leads the Central League in home runs with 29 and second behind Takeya Nakamura (44) in the NPB. Though he continues his hacking way with 114 strike outs to his name.
Getting back to the two games, I for one, would be fine with an exihibition game against Yakult or Softbank. A game between one of the best NPB teams and (let’s be honest with ourselves) one of the lesser MLB teams, could provide some interesting conjecture heading into the 2013 world baseball classic.
I for one am excited about this decision by Major League Baseball. I know some people like to travel and attend the games when they are down in Oakland and I realize it’s a hardship on the players. But, I’ll be looking forward to the unique opportunities that both the series against the A’s and the exihibition games present.