MLB’s Experiment In Europe: Takeaways From The Yankees In London

Fittingly pictured with Royalty - the New York Yankees (Photo: newsypeople.com)
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As the Yankees board their flight from London to New York, fresh from sweeping the Red Sox, what are some takeaways from MLB’s experiment in Europe?

**** Can anyone in MLB’s American Baseball pitch a baseball effectively? Europeans, who were treated to a hitting explosion over two games in which the Yankees totaled 29 runs on 32 base hits, have cause to be left with the mistaken impression these games are typical. Check the boxscores here.

Regular followers of America’s Pastime know these games were atypical, even in the context of a Yankees vs Red Sox series. It’ll be interesting over the next day or two to see how MLB spins the abnormal snapshot of American baseball as it seeks to expand interest in the game throughout Europe.

Guess Who. He's one of Europe's premeier soccer players (Photo: independent.ie)
Guess Who. He’s one of Europe’s premier soccer players (Photo: independent.ie)

**** Ryan Giggs, Cristiano Ronaldo (pictured right), Eric Cantona, Peter Schmeichel, and George Best. Recognize the names? Didn’t think so (me too). They’re all legends who play, or have played, soccer for Manchester United’s team, recognized easily on the streets of London.

Walking those same streets at 6’7″ tall, the Yankees Aaron Judge, noticing Londonites wearing caps with the interlocked NY logo, went unrecognized was forced to stop them with a “Hi, I’m Aaron” greeting.

Proving once again MLB has its work cut out in spreading the word, and perhaps more significantly, televised games throughout Europe.

**** Faced with the challenge of retro-fitting London Stadium in a little over two weeks from a venue made for the 2012 Olympics, MLB did the best they could but fell short in several areas.

The background in today’s afternoon game (London time) was impossible for hitters. The glare facing them was vividly portrayed by the TV shots behind home plate. Uncomfortable, cricket-like swings were common. Ironically, the hitting explosion counteracts this and leads to the next point…

Masahiro Tanaka delivers a pitch at London Stadium 6/29/2019) (Photo: manichi.jp)
Masahiro Tanaka delivers a pitch at London Stadium 6/29/2019) (Photo: manichi.jp)

**** The pitcher’s mound wasn’t quite right. Rick Porcello and Yankees first game starter, Masahiro Tanaka, the first to take the mound, do not (each) give up six runs in the first inning. They just don’t. Both were respectful in understanding the overall purpose of these games, refusing to use the mound as an excuse for their performance.

Nevertheless, MLB needs to interview a cross-section of Yankees and Red Sox pitchers to get to the bottom of what was wrong with the mound. This, to make corrections for next year’s July contests between the St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago Cubs.

The London Series: Tired but triumphant Yankees (Photo: New York Post)
The London Series: Tired but triumphant Yankees (Photo: New York Post)

**** No matter how you slice it, the trip across the pond has to have taken a toll on Yankees and Red Sox players. Adjusting to the six-hour time difference, playing on artificial turf, two five-hour flights, two extra-long games, awareness of doing and saying all the right things…this was not easy for players.

Or, for that matter, anyone who made the trip. Just ask John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman, radio announcers for the Yankees (Shut up, both of you).

But seriously, we’ll see the aftereffects over the next couple of days on both teams. Buoyed by a sweep of both games, the Yankees have a one-up on the Red Sox.

Teams are scheduled to arrive home late on Sunday night with an off day scheduled on Monday.

Is that enough time to get back into that all-important routine of regular season games? Yet another question for MLB to research and answer.

**** According to MLB, attendance at both games was divided between Londonites (70 percent) and Americans who made the trip (30 percent). Both games were sell-outs and tickets sold equaled the number of fans attending the games (a marked contrast to the empty seats we see at Yankee Stadium).

Record-breaking heat throughout all of Europe added to the triumph of avoiding what could have been a colossal embarrassment, otherwise.

MLB installed chickwire to protect outfield lights in London - those triangles (Photo: New York Post)
MLB installed chicken wire to protect outfield lights in London – those triangles (Photo: New York Post)

**** Chicken wire, turf, batting cages, and tons of other equipment are being gathered up, to be stored in a warehouse MLB has purchased for use in 2020, and hopefully beyond. It’s anyone’s guess as to how many pounds or, if you will, British stones, all this equipment will weigh.

**** And finally, the impact on the pennant race in the American League East. Demoralizing for the Red Sox, to be sure.

Their bullpen suffered its 17th blown save Sunday, second-most in the majors and ahead of only the Mets, who have 24. Rationalizing, at least the team has a clear target to pursue at the trade deadline if they’re going to get back in the race.

For the Yankees, the steamroller moves along at a pace to which the team will have 105 wins this year. Injuries (to both Giancarlo Stanton and Luke Voit) don’t seem to matter. They are the top team in the American League and second only to the Dodgers (MLB says so), with all signs indicate they will stay there.

Two struggling teams, the Mets and Tampa Bay Rays, are next on the Yankees schedule. Still, the tandem of Aaron Boone, CC Sabathia, and Brett Gardner needs to up the ante in keeping the troops alive and hungry…

Written by Steve Contursi, Editor, Reflections On Baseball
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Author: stevecontursi

I am an amateur writer with a passion for baseball and all things Yankees and Mets.

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