Friday, December 25, 2009

Does Matsui's move mean less MLB on TV in Japan?

Last week, Hideki Matsui signed a 1-year contract with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. By itself, this isn't a particularly surprising move, but it has enormous implications for televised major league games here in Japan.

There are currently 5 Japanese position players in the majors (Matsui, Ichiro in Seattle, Akinori Iwamura of the Pirates, Kosuke Fukudome of the Cubs, and Kazuo Matsui of the Astros). But for TV purposes, there are really only 2: Hideki Matsui and Ichiro; the other 3 rarely get their games televised here. So what's the problem?

With Matsui joining the Angels, both stars are now on the West Coast. Which means that on a lot of our mornings, they will be playing games at the same time (10 pm EDT or 11 am JST). While Matsui was on the Yankees, we often got an East Coast game at 8 am and then Ichiro's Mariner game at 11 am. Now, who are they going to show at 8 am? Even the Cubs are not appropriate, as their afternoon tilts occur in our overnight and their Central Time zone location means their night games start at 9 am here. Same goes for Houston. Which leaves the woeful Pirates. I can't believe that I'm going to be watching too many Pittsburgh games this season; the team doesn't have much cachet in Japan even with Iwamura there.

It's too early to know what the national broadcaster NHK is going to do. I suspect we might get more Red Sox games with Daisuke Matsuzaka and Jun Tazawa starting and Hideki Okajima in the bullpen. Takashi Saito's move to Atlanta where Kenshin Kawakami is in the rotation might lead to a few of their games being shown. Koji Uehara is on Baltimore and newcomer Ryota Igarashi has been signed by the Mets, so they offer more East Coast options. So we may get even more variety.

It's also possible that they'll skip the early games and just show both West Coast games at the same time on different channels. But I only get one of those channels, so it would mean less TV baseball for me. Which means I'll be continuing with my MLB.TV subscription for another season.

Next up

I'm off to Kyoto this weekend and will be watching another bj League game while there. Next Tuesday I'll be at National Stadium again to watch Vegalta Sendai take on Gamba Osaka in Emperor's Cup semifinal action. And Wednesday is my last day of work! Check back here for reports on those games and preparations for the January trip.

Merry Christmas everyone!


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