As part of the most recent CBA agreed to by the league and the players, there was an agreement for MLB to start playing some games overseas. It was a bit of a vague provision with only one specific city being named as a destination. That city was London, and there are apparently plans to get games in England’s capital as soon as next season. According to a report from Bloomberg, the Red Sox and Yankees are close to an agreement to play a two-game series in London in June of 2019.
This is a really interesting concept, as MLB is the last major sports league to get their sport into a major European city. Baseball, like every other professional sports league, is trying to expand its reach on an international level, though it obviously has some work to do on a domestic level as well. It also doesn’t hurt that this proposed series will come a year before baseball is set to make its return to the Olympics. One thing MLB is doing correctly in this case is getting a marquee matchup into their international showcase. If you follow the NFL at all, you know that London football fans are often gifted with compelling matchups like Jaguars vs. Titans and Bills vs. Browns. (I know three of those teams made the playoffs this year but these are generally bad games and you get my point.) Potentially getting one of the most stories rivalries in all of sports as the first games to be played in Europe gives them a much better chance of generating some local buzz.
The details of how this would work are particularly interesting to me. In other sports, when teams travel internationally to play they are generally given some extra off-days to deal with the effects of travel. Baseball, obviously, doesn’t really work that way as teams get one off-day at most before playing again. I suppose the league could schedule an off-day before and after the two-games series, but I’ll admit I don’t know enough about international travel (I’ve been to Canada a couple times!) to say if that’s enough or not. Additionally, it’s not clear how this will affect the team’s scheduling for home games. It would make sense for each team to give up a home game here, but Joel Sherman is reporting that the Red Sox would likely be the home team for both.
Can confirm this report. I hear if finalized (and it is close) it would be a 2-game series in June 2019, #Redsox likely home team. MLB has felt unlike in baseball-steeped places like Japan/Mexico, had to put marquee matchup for 1st games ever reg season games in Europe. https://t.co/FjypHiaVgp— Joel Sherman (@Joelsherman1) March 19, 2018
Presumably this would mean the Red Sox would lose two games at Fenway while the Yankees lose zero at Yankee Stadium, so there must be some concession given here. I think. I don’t really know how this works, in case you can’t tell.
There’s also the time difference issue for fans back in the States, though that’s not a big deal for a game in England. If they plan for a 7:00 PM start time locally, that would mean a 3:00 PM first pitch time for those of us on the East Coast. A 1:00 PM local start would be a 9:00 AM first pitch, which would be weird but also a little cool for a two-game stretch. Anyway, we’ll have more on this as more details come out and it gets finalized, but all signs are pointing towards this happening.