MLB is not the first, nor will it be the last, professional sports league that wants to test the waters of international expansion. By playing games in Australia, Mexico and Japan in the last 20 years, plus contests in US commonwealth Puerto Rico, there has been a continued attempt to cultivate new fans. MLB isn’t done yet and the next city it will bring its product to is London. The league is putting its best foot forward as well, sending the greatest rivalry in North American sports to Great Britain, with the Boston Red and New York Yankees set to play two games at London Stadium in 2019.
Not counting games against the Toronto Expos and Montreal Expos, the Red Sox have played only two game outside of the United States, as they split a two-game set with the Oakland A’s at the Tokyo Dome in 2008. As one of the most recognizable and popular franchises in MLB’s portfolio, the Red Sox make sense to serve as an ambassador to international markets. Could London just be the next stop on a continuing international tour for MLB and the Red Sox? Maybe. Probably not. But if it was going to, what countries could be next?
With the number of huge stars that have come from the DR and the presence of international scouting and development academies in the country, its actually pretty shocking there has not yet been a regular season MLB game played on Dominican Republic soil. The Red Sox are a team that has employed some of the best players from the country, including Pedro Martinez, David Ortiz, Manny Ramirez and current roster members Hanley Ramirez, Rafael Devers, Eduardo Nunez and Williams Jerez. This one just seems like a matter of time.
If MLB is intent on expanding into Europe, then next on its list after Great Britain should be the Netherlands. The Dutch have come in fourth place in each of the last two World Baseball Classics, so there’s some talent there, even if a lot of the players on the team were actually from Dutch constituent countries like Curacao and Aruba.
Speaking of, current Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts is a native of this island off the coast of Venezuela. He would undoubtedly serve as an excellent draw as he is far and away the best player from the country. (No offense to Sidney Ponson).
While they’re in Aruba, the Red Sox might as well take a short trip south to Venezuela and throw some pitches in the home country of both Eduardo Rodriguez and Sandy Leon. For MLB as a whole, Venezuela makes sense because it has created the most international players besides the Dominican Republic.
In terms of the continent of Asia, Japan makes all the sense in the world to be a location for MLB games, but there is plenty of baseball interest outside of Tokyo as well. South Korea just hosted the Winter Olympics and can clearly handle an international sporting spectacle, and a few MLB games would require far less fanfare than that. Plus, with players like Chan Ho Park, Shin-Soo Choo, Byung-Hyun Kim and Hyun-Jin Ryu, its not like this is a country that has never created a talented MLB player.
Canada (specifically Montreal)
BRING THE EXPOS BACK!
These are just a few of the countries that seem ripe to get some MLB games in the near future, especially if the Red Sox are involved. What countries would you like to see get a visit? Sound off in the comments.
Losing sucks. Here’s what else we found out last night. (Chad Jennings; The Athletic Boston) ($$)
Even though he gave up the eventual game-winning hit last night, its tough to blame Joe Kelly since he came in with the bases loaded. Other than that hit, he pitched 1 1⁄3 innings of shutout ball. That’s pretty good. So is Al Horford. (Christopher Smith; MassLive)
Kelly may have lost the battle, but he’s figuring out how to win the war on the mound. (Brett Cowett; BP Boston)
David Price is not going to start tonight. Obviously if he misses extended time that is bad for everyone involved. (Nick Cafardo; Boston Globe)
You may have noticed that Mitch Moreland did not hit last night. Alex Cora wanted to use him, but just didn’t find the right time. (Christopher Smith; MassLive)
Moreland not playing wasn’t the reason the Sox lost, but he has helped with wining as the team gets plenty of production from first base. (Matthew Kory; The Athletic Boston) ($$)