MLB cancels A's-M's Tokyo seriesPosted: Tuesday March 18, 2003 3:38 PM
Updated: Wednesday March 19, 2003 11:13 AM
Major league baseball took no chances, deciding Tuesday to cancel next week's season-opening series in Tokyo between Seattle and Oakland because of the threat of war in Iraq.
"You can't just open the door and be in Japan," said Suzuki, Seattle's star leadoff hitter. "You have to take the logistics into account. Japan is probably the safer place but getting to Japan is what you have to worry about."
The teams were scheduled to leave Wednesday for games March 25-26 at the Tokyo Dome.
"Given the uncertainty that now exists throughout the world, we believe the safest course of action for the players involved and the many staff personnel who must work the games is to reschedule the opening series," commissioner Bud Selig said. "It would be unfair and terribly unsettling for them to be half a world away -- away from their families at this critical juncture."
A's third base coach Ron Washington looked forward to getting a traditional Japanese massage. Manager Ken Macha couldn't wait to meet up with some old friends from his four years playing in Japan. Seattle reliever Shigetoshi Hasegawa had purchased 120 tickets for each game for relatives and friends in his homeland.
Mariners closer Kazuhiro Sasaki's mother was coming from Sendai City, Japan, and his wife and two children from Yokohama.
"I'm disappointed," Macha said. "The safety of the players going over there and the spectators is utmost. A lot of things do happen. Whoever foresaw 9-11? Those people were just going to work. That was a huge wake-up call to this country -- anything can happen."
Seattle's visit was highly anticipated because of Suzuki and Sasaki. It also would have been the first time Seattle owner Hiroshi Yamauchi, who lives in Japan, saw his team play.
Some players were reluctant to make the trip.
"I don't like the idea of being out of the country when the country is going to war," Seattle first baseman John Olerud said.
The games were rescheduled for April 3 and June 30 in Oakland.
"With world tensions so high, this is the prudent course of action," union head Donald Fehr said.
Baseball had already been planning to have the New York Yankees open the 2004 season in Japan, probably against Tampa Bay, Toronto or Baltimore.
"I find it extremely unfortunate, but it's because of war and there is little we can do," Japanese baseball commissioner Hiromori Kawashima said. "Japanese baseball fans who were looking forward to the event must find it extremely disappointing."
That's for sure. Fans had bought 200,000 tickets for the two games, and for exhibition games in the days leading up to the opener.
"It can't be helped," Moriyoshi Kaneko, a fishmonger in Tokyo. "I guess the threat of terrorism is frightening."
Other sports also discussed contingency plans, but the NCAA said Tuesday that it would not change its schedule for the men's and women's basketball tournaments, which start this week.
There also has been talk that NCAA games and other sports events might be moved from network television to cable if war breaks out in Iraq.
Mariners reliever Jeff Nelson understood baseball's decision.
"I think when you heard the president's speech yesterday, you were kind of wondering where we were going to be in that 48-hour deadline," he said. "We probably would have been halfway over to Japan and maybe they would have called us and told us to turn back. I'm disappointed. I wish that we would have gone. But obviously with the security and the safety reasons, there was no way we could go."
Even though several baseball officials already were in Japan setting up for the series, many players had been jittery about going.
"We've got guys going to war for our country," Oakland third baseman Eric Chavez said before the decision. "I want to be here. Call me patriotic or whatever, this is where I want to be."
On Monday, President Bush said Saddam Hussein must leave Iraq or face a U.S.-led invasion. In an evening speech to the nation, Bush gave the Iraqi leader 48 hours.
Unlike the 2000 Japan trip, where many players took their families to see the sights, the traveling parties for the A's and Mariners had shaped up to be much smaller. AL MVP Miguel Tejada and Athletics outfielder Jermaine Dye were among those who planned to leave their families at home.
"It's a tough decision," Tejada said. "We're a team. We all have to stick together."
Some players were disappointed.
"I was looking forward to going," Oakland outfielder Terrence Long said. "I think everybody was. A lot of people don't get this opportunity. I doubt I'll get a chance to go back."
New York Yankees manager Joe Torre said earlier he'd be OK with going to play this year's opener in Tokyo.
"It wouldn't bother me. These other people know more than I
do," he said. "We want to go on with our lives and once we're
seen to alter -- other than being more aware and diligent in what we
do -- we lose the war if we're going to all of a sudden lock
ourselves in our houses."