America's pastime goes walkabout

From a baseball standpoint, it's hard to argue with Zack Greinke. "I can't think of one reason to be excited for it," he said at the beginning of spring training. His comments nearly set off an international incident, with Australian officials asking MLB officials to explain why their country was belittled by a guy who throws a ball for a living and gets paid too much to do it.

The Dodgers got a little upset over Greinke's comments, enough so that team president Stan Kasten stepped in to inform everyone that he's having trouble finding enough hotel rooms for the families and employees who want to make the trip. But the problem isn't with the trip, or the destination, or even the timing. The problem is with the importance of it, the folly of making baseball's Opening Day into a sideshow on the other side of the world.

According to ESPN's Mark Saxon, the Aussies are having fun painting the Dodgers as the villainous 1 percent and the Diamondbacks as the homespun -- and, presumably, highly gritty -- underdogs. A story in the Sydney Morning Herald suggested the Dodgers spend their offseason flying around in private jets, popping into a few private resorts, while the Diamondbacks "spend time catching up with family and enjoying sports on television." Clearly, if the Aussies knew their stuff they would know the Diamondbacks spend a good portion of their offseason practicing sliding headlong into first base and firing fastballs into the ribs of dummies set up in the batter's box in makeshift diamonds of East Texas ranches.

But this whole episode raises one of the enduring mysteries of sport: Why does Major League Baseball believe it's fine to mess with the regular season by creating bastardized "real" games? A good number of the already-committed fans treat Opening Day like a national holiday, so much so that some of them started a petition this year to make it official. The problem is, how many Opening Days need to be recognized? How many days off do we get? There's the Sunday night opener, the Monday afternoon opener, the Tuesday opener -- and, oh yeah, we almost forgot the Dodgers and Diamondbacks in Australia.

Sounds good. If Opening Day -- that ever-moving, ever-expanding day(s) of rest and rumination -- is a national holiday, it looks as though everybody is off through the first week of April. By today's conversion rate, though, the Aussies get to miss one shift, 1½ tops. Given their importance in the overall scheme of things, that hardly seems fair.

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