Yesterday Major League Baseball’s collective bargaining agreement (CBA) for 2017-2021 was draft complete and released. Included within the weighty tome, was information we in the UK have been waiting for. A series of games will be coming to the British Isles in June 2019 and 2020.
We have had rumours, we have had whispers, we have had long discussion and blog posts about this subject. However, we can firmly say, they are coming.
First reported by Eric Fisher at Sports Business Journal – highlighted by Rob Noverraz – in this series of tweets:
After many months of drafting, the 2017-21 MLB CBA, agreed to last offseason, was finally published today. https://t.co/GMa5jx2uD0
— Eric Fisher (@EricFisherSBJ) July 28, 2017
More MLB games in Mexico, PR/DR and Asia continue in '19-21, supplemented with plans to play in the UK in June 2019 and June 2020
— Eric Fisher (@EricFisherSBJ) July 28, 2017
We can picture the scene in the MLB UK offices, they are just clearing up the last few specks of dust and torn hair after the madness of MLB Battlegrounds. Then this news drops. It’s going to get very busy, very quickly for those guys. So we — as the public desperate for this to happen — have to give them our full backing and support to ensure this 2019 and 2020 series continues for much longer into the future.
So who’s coming? No idea, but let’s speculate.
Options for matchups
The easiest option is to pick an NL East or an AL East matchup. The teams there have the lowest travel time to the UK and probably the most recognisable brands. I would be very surprised if the Yankees and Red Sox both came over for a series, no matter how great it would be (Sorry John).
More likely would be something like Tampa Bay or Miami coming over. Seeing as they can’t fill their ballparks on a regular basis, this sell-out crowd opportunity (it has to be a sell-out, right?) and the chance to expand their brand internationally is a must. So if the Rays or Marlins are the undercard, who will be the headline act in this?
Well a Yankees or Red Sox Vs the Rays makes sense. What about the Marlins? Which big brand could support them in the NL East? The Mets? Maybe.
We need to remember we are talking 2019 and 2020. Forget Bryce Harper and his Washington Nationals, chances are he won’t be there. Forget the Mets rotation, that’s probably going to get broken up before they even think about touching down in London.
Who has the brand? Who has the prospects for that great team in the future?
For that, we should look to go inter-league.
The above table (provided by Wikipedia) shows the scheduled inter-league play. For the ease of me not going through every single team, let’s stick to the East.
NL East Vs AL Central
Will the Nats still be a force? Will the Mets still be around? Or will it be those rebuilding teams of the Phillies and Braves taking centre stage? I know I said about attendance and brand awareness, but for this marquee matchup let’s forget the Marlins.
As for the central, the Indians will lose some big names off the books soon, the Royals are famously having one last push this year. What about the White Sox? They have an incredibly packed farm system that is looking more dangerous by the day.
So what am I rooting for? Think of that solid Braves support, the farm system and all the Brits being utterly confused at a Tomahawk logo. Then match it up against White Sox and their stacked farm system and potential in 2019, it’s the dream matchup for me.
Tom’s pick: Braves @ White Sox
AL East Vs NL West
The easiest option here would be for an MLB Battlegrounds reunion of the Red Sox against the Dodgers. So let’s forget the easy option and look elsewhere.
The Orioles are in a state of weird (see yesterday’s Hellickson trade), the Blue Jays are probably going to enter a stage of rebuilding this season, maybe next. The Rays, as we have already said look a good option for brand building and gaining some supporters.
Let’s be honest, if the AL East is involved it has to be Boston or New York. If my head tells me anything, it’s that damned interlocked NY logo that folk know and it’s that damn logo that MLB will want for series one in London.
As for the West, the Rockies are a team wanting to push a brand and get known. The Diamondbacks could be a force in 2019 with the way they have gone about the 2017 season. The Giants will more than likely be involved in some form of rebuild next season if things don’t start well. As for those plucky Padres, well they have a stacked system but it really isn’t forecast to be a serious force until 2020, so 2019 may be too early for them.
So, with a heavy heart, I have to pick the two most recognisable logos in baseball. It makes total sense to bring the big guns for series one in 2019.
Tom’s pick: Dodgers @ Yankees
This is just 2019, I think we can save the 2020 speculation until next season.
The news yesterday was just a confirmation of what we expected. To now have months and years locked down for games is fantastic, we the British Baseball public can get incredibly excited about MLB coming to town.
As long as there is proper investment and commitment to not only the series of games, but to our domestic game as well, then we can make a serious difference to the public’s opinion of the game. No longer should it be referred to as rounders for fat blokes.
If one looks back to 2014, when MLB played a regular game series in Australia, two western US teams made the trip: the Dodgers and the Diamondbacks. I would expect that, at least in 2019, two eastern teams will travel to the UK. My pick would be Mets vs. the Nationals. In other words, New York vs. Washington in London. Can’t get much more high profile than that.