Late last night the business website Bloomberg broke the latest in a series of mini-scoops relating to MLB’s progress towards delivering a series of games in Europe in 2019. Following speculation regarding the progress of the conditional bargaining agreement, and a quiet period on both sides of the pond, this article (link) was the first to name any teams linked to the series.
According to Bloomberg
The series would be played at London Stadium, the main facility for the 2012 Olympics, said the people, who asked not to be named because they weren’t authorized to discuss the matter publicly. Details still need to be ironed out.
When reached overnight by Bat Flips and Nerds, MLB’s London office declined to comment on the speculation.
Red Sox CEO, Sam Kennedy told Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald:
“The Red Sox would certainly be willing participants in a London series, but this decision will be made MLB and the MLBPA.”
Silverman added that the Red Sox “…have been in discussions about playing in London, ideally with the Yankees, but other teams, including the Mets, have sought to be one of the teams.” Speculating that a resolution may be found at April’s owners meetings.
The New York Post’s Yankees sage, Joel Sherman, struck a few notes of caution in an interesting tweet thread:
More on potential series in June ’19: Still hurdles. No promoter yet for event. Plus no deal with London Stadium (main ’12 Olympic venue) yet. MLB considered Wembley but couldn’t properly configure for baseball. Considered season opener, but April weather in London not favorable https://t.co/rWbL38WPjJ
— Joel Sherman (@Joelsherman1) March 19, 2018
At this stage this is what this is – speculation.
But it is tantalising.
The two names in the frame – New York and Boston – are the sport’s premier franchises and seem set to play a two-game split series in June 2019.
The Yankees’ YES Network’s Michael Kay was pretty excited on his show yesterday evening…
“I’ve never been to London. So, if that’s true, maybe I’m going to London. Anytime you can grow our game, I think that’s a pretty cool thing.”
“I think it would be a lot of fun, to be honest. I think the travel would be interesting, how they set that up.”
Whilst many UK fans will be disappointed to not see their own team on these shores this time round – the Blue Jays, Athletics and Florida teams have particularly fervent followings in the UK – all must accept that this would be a pretty strong statement of intent on behalf of Commissioner, Rob Manfred.
In offering the UK his top match-up; the opportunity to see Chris Sale and Craig Kimbrel square off against Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge, he is gambling that something will strike a chord. As many have observed on Twitter, this is far cry from some of the lacklustre, one-sided London match-ups served up by our NFL cousins over the last few seasons.
In this sense, Yankees vs Red Sox, is a high-roller move, but one which perhaps gives the existing UK fan community the best chance of the sport gaining a stronger foothold and seeing other storied franchises following suit.
In his podcast interview with us a fortnight ago, MLB UK chief Charlie Hill explained how he wanted to create a ‘festival of baseball’ around any London (or European) event, with food, music and culture from the participating cities all contributing.
In this, the storied pasts of New York and Boston – the birthplace of the revolution and the ultimate global metropolis – also make sense. Whether getting down to New York’s Wu-Tang Clan or Beastie Boys, air guitaring to Boston’s Pixies or Dinosaur Jr; tucking into thin crust pizza or lobster rolls; or arguing over the best founding father – Boston’s Benjamin Franklin, or Broadway’s ‘Hamilton’, there’ll be plenty of excitement surrounding these games.
Signing off his interview, Hill promised we wouldn’t have long to wait. Who had the over/under on two weeks?
You can listen to our chat with Charlie here:
In the meantime, why not get down to one of Baseball by Committee’s awesome Opening Week parties?