The Red Sox and Yankees rivalry has just about seen it all in the last 117 years, but apparently, it hasn’t quite yet. Sox owner John Henry and Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner have reportedly discussed a London series between the two franchises for the last two years, according to the Boston Herald. The series could be played as soon as 2018. If that were to happen, it could very well reignite the near dead Sox-Yanks rivalry.
Recently, Red Sox president Sam Kennedy spoke of the discussions:
“It would be great...we would really like to do it.” Kennedy also downplayed the situation, saying “There’s nothing to the story at this point. However, if Major League Baseball decides that we are a good fit for it down the road, the team would love to do it.”
Yankees president Randy Levine expressed even greater enthusiasm:
“The Yankees have been at the forefront of suggesting that we bring the great game of baseball to London...There have been some meaningful attempts to do so, and we are hopeful and confident that we can play there soon. Playing the Red Sox in London would be a special and unique event.”
The recently ratified collective bargaining agreement states the MLB’s commitment to playing multiple international games, but the only place stated is London. Though, the contract explains that there will be no more than two of such series played under this 5-year CBA.
Also, according to the Herald, the commissioner’s office and the MLBPA would sign off on this plan “no earlier than this spring.” That would be due to World Baseball Classic talks heating up, with the league needing to focus on all of that for the time being. So, don’t expect there to be a decision for a little while now. But, considering that Henry and Steinbrenner’s talks have apparently been ongoing for two years now, Spring may be just the time it’s made official.
If this really does happen, there would be some obstacles that everyone involved would have to get through for it to be made successful. First off, it’d be difficult for the MLB to find an ideal way to fit such a series in such a different timezone and country in the presumably summer months and make everything go smoothly. That’s just not realistic. No matter how the blueprint is laid out, it will be hard to please everyone and will probably be tough on the players and coaches in some way.
Second, both teams and the league would have to agree upon some way to account for the lost revenue for the supposedly three-game set. As the Herald’s Michael Silverman suggested, the league could come to terms on some type of sponsorship deal, making up for the however many number of home games lost between the two teams. I’m sure that’s not the only option and there are a plethora of other ideas that the league have up their sleeves, but it feels as if lately the MLB has tried a little too hard when it comes to compensating for lost revenue and it doesn’t necessarily always pan out compared to previous years.
Another thing would be how the league represents their sport and their brand to a new audience. I personally know a few England-living, baseball-loving people, but that obviously doesn’t speak for the entire country. As you know, baseball isn’t adored over there as it is over here, and some people may not like the idea of baseball being forced down their throats on their home land. It’s kind of like how the NFL has played a few London games this season, but at least this baseball series would actually be a good matchup and people would be introduced to the sport in a good way, unlike how the NFL throws the actual worst teams overseas for their games. Plus, as I previously mentioned, the CBA states that a maximum of two international series will be played over the next five years, so it isn’t going to be easy to lure people in no matter what.
One last issue that baseball faces here is where the games would actually be played. They would most likely be played at a soccer or rugby field. Luckily for the Red Sox, however, finding a place to play will probably be simple, due to the fact that Fenway Sports Group owns the Liverpool Football Club and investors include Tom Werner and John Henry. A frontrunner for hosting this series is reportedly Olympic Stadium, which was built for the 2012 summer games and isn’t a bad option.
As for introducing the sport to this new audience, honestly, what better way to do it than to showcase a rivalry like Boston and New York? If MLB is truly serious about expanding their brand, this is the best way to start out. Just about any sports fan is at least aware of their rivalry and story, therefore it may be intriguing to them to watch the two teams play and get a feel for the game in such fashion. Sure, the rivalry certainly isn’t what it used to be, but the jist of it is appealing, nonetheless.
Like I mentioned before, Major League Baseball is tiptoeing their way behind the NFL and following in their footsteps, but obviously have a better sense of how to make it successful. The NFL’s London matchups are notoriously atrocious, and there are few people in the USA who actually care enough to get up early and watch a game. For example, in late November, a London-played Redskins-Texans game ended in a tie, for crying out loud. That’s probably the worst possible way to get outsiders interested in the sport. Thankfully, as it goes for baseball, there are no ties and MLB is in a better position compared to the NFL, as baseball has a greater number of currently better/interesting/successful teams.
As a Red Sox fan, I’m kind of turned on by this possibility. Baseball is baseball; if there’s grass, a baseball diamond and an outfield and a couple of teams, I’ll tune in. Who knows, since discussions are deep, maybe those issues I mentioned won’t be issues at all. I’m excited to see where this heads, whenever that may be.