After eleven years, professional baseball is returning to Australia, according to this AP article. Kind of surprising that professional baseball has been absent that long Down Under, when it is obviously a popular sport there, at least given the fact that four current major leaguers (relievers Grant Balfour of Tampa Bay Rays, Peter Moylan of the Atlanta Braves and Brad Thomas of the Detroit Tigers, and starting pitcher Ryan Rowland-Smith of the Seattle Mariners) and 84 current minor leaguers, plus at least a few in Japan, Taiwan and South Korea, are Aussies.
The new league is getting funding from MLB and a $400,00o grant from the Australian government. They will most likely field six teams playing a 40 games schedule, which in my mind is a little lame. Even playing only on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, the top revenue-producing days, a league should be able to get in 60 games over a 20 week season.
As an American, part of the allure of the game is that they play almost every day of a long season. Unlike football or even basketball, one game just doesn’t matter all that much. Teams have to grind it out six days a week for six months to separate the contenders from the pretenders.
A 40 or 42 game season, like they play in Holland and Italy’s professional leagues, just doesn’t have that dimension. Instead, it’s almost like a season of exhibition games, sort of like Spring Training. In the U.S. even top college teams, where the student athletes are at least supposed to be working on their degrees, play 60 games schedules.
Still, a forty game professional season is better than none, and I hope the new Australian league is successful enough to play a real schedule a few years from now.