This week, as part of an interview Commissioner Rob Manfred gave on the one-year anniversary of his taking office, he revealed that Major League Baseball is moving toward playing regular-season games in Europe in 2017, specifically in London, England:
"We are very interested in playing there, and we're working hard on that one," Manfred told the AP during an interview on his first anniversary as baseball commissioner. "I don't think it will be an opener because of the weather issues. It would be later in the season."
Baseball has been looking at the Olympic Stadium as a possible venue. Manfred wouldn't discuss the possibility of shifting a high-profile matchup, such as Yankees-Red Sox, to England.
"We haven't really settled on teams, and I don't want to speculate about that," he said. "Obviously, we want to make as good a first impression in Europe as we possibly can."
As Manfred noted, MLB really couldn't do this in March, as they have with other international openers in Japan and Australia, because of the weather. You wouldn't want to take a marquee event like this and play it in March, where the average high is 53 and low is 42 and there's only a 17 percent chance of a sunny day.
So, logistically, how could they work out playing in a time zone which is five hours ahead of Eastern time?
When the NFL plays games in London, they usually have them start at 2:30 p.m. London time, which is 9:30 a.m. ET -- but those are on Sundays in the fall, and arranged so they don't interfere with other NFL Sunday games.
9:30 a.m. Eastern time wouldn't be a good time for baseball games in the summer (or any time, really), even on weekends. Fewer people are around watching TV anyway during the summer, but they're certainly not going to watch baseball in the morning.
Most likely, I'd envision London MLB games working this way: they'd be played on the weekend before the All-Star break, a two-game series, Saturday and Sunday. That way, each team involved would give up only one home date each in order to participate. Whichever teams are chosen would play series on the East Coast on the previous Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. They'd then have a day to fly from the East Coast to London, another day to get settled and organized, and then play Saturday and Sunday.
The best game time would probably be 8 p.m. London time, which would be 3 p.m. on the East Coast, 2 p.m. in Chicago and noon Pacific time. That way, the MLB players would be playing at a time when they could ordinarily be playing in the USA and could keep (more or less) to their regular time schedules.
They'd then have the four days of the All-Star break to return to North America and get over any jet lag. The only players possibly negatively affected would be anyone from those teams heading to the All-Star Game, but those players could be excused from pre-game festivities and simply head directly to the game.
I know some people are adamantly against these kinds of games but I love them. I went to Japan in 2000 when the Cubs opened the season there against the Mets and I think games like this, or the Australia opener between the Dodgers and Diamondbacks in 2014, are a great promotional tool for international baseball.
I hope to see these games happen and I'd love for the Cubs to be one of the teams involved.