Chronicle beat writer Susan Slusser has a big scoop tonight: the A’s could play yet another opening series on the other side of the Pacific in Taiwan (Chinese Taipei). The team opened the 2008 and 2012 seasons in Japan, hosting a pair of “home” dates against the Red Sox and Mariners, respectively. Like MLB’s Dodgers-Dbacks (thanks Dan) opening series in Sydney, regular season games in Taiwan would be a new experience. The only MLB games played in Taiwan were a 5-game exhibition set in 2011, scheduled after the regular season, and a 2-game exhibition set between the Dodgers and CPBL clubs in 2010.
Unlike the venues in Japan in Australia, the parks in Taiwan (4 total) all have grass and tend towards the cozy end of the scale. The largest ballparks on the island seat only 20,000, or the tall end of AAA parks. That made the 2011 “All Star” series feel especially exhibition-like. If the two games teams play in Taiwan are in the same venue(s), it’ll be an intimate affair with in all likelihood a top-tier price. Then again, if you’re going to take China Airlines on a nonstop from SFO just to see the A’s, you probably can afford it.
Because of the small capacities in the Taiwan ballparks, MLB won’t have to rig scheduling to bring in teams with established Taiwanese stars, the same way Boston had Daisuke Matsuzaka and Seattle had Ichiro Suzuki. It wouldn’t matter anyway, since there’s no established Taiwanese star in MLB. Chien-Ming Wang has been struggling to hold onto his MLB career, and most Taiwanese players associated with MLB are actually in MiLB. If MLB chooses to go that route anyway, we could see the A’s playing the Orioles, who have a young upstart in starting hurler Wei-Yin Chen.
My favorite park of the 4 pro Taiwan parks is Intercontinental Baseball Stadium in Taichung. The 20,000-seater has distinctive arches down each base line to hold up the expansive fabric roof. The park hosted Pool B of the World Baseball Classic last year, and I found it a good, energetic venue (at least on TV).
A’s management remains open to these barnstorming trips, since it seems to promote team chemistry – at least when Bob Melvin is at the helm. The loss of two home dates would cause some folks to grumble, but consider them replacements for those early-May Monday-Tuesday night games that few would go to anyway.