The Yankees Go to China

Last year, I wrote a book about the export of baseball around the globe in the nineteenth century—an Editor’s Choice selection of the NYTBR, I might add—so, as you can imagine, the expansion of the game to foreign shores remains a subject of considerable interest. Last year the World Baseball Classic, for all its flaws and detractors, was a tremendous and inspirational success. (The Boston front office was clearly paying attention to the champion Japan squad.) It is thus with great pleasure that we learned today that the Yankees have signed an agreement with the Chinese Baseball Association by which the team will send coaches and training personnel to China to assist with the development of the game in that nation, and also welcome members of the CBA to Yankeeland back in the USA, so they can see how things are done here. There will, no doubt, be some nattering nabobs complaining of American cultural imperialism, and carping that the Yankees only interest is a mercenary desire to exploit a vast open market. Those arguments are only so fair. When does a healthy desire to share our national culture with others become an act of imperialism? Not all cultural exchange is hegemonic. Like it or not, our capitalistic system means that culture is business; the development of the two naturally go together. More than 100 years ago, the great baseball impressario Albert Spalding set off to plant baseball’s flag around the globe. Like the Yankees, he was acting to a large degree on his own behalf—wherever the game could be established, he would have a new market for his nascent sporting-goods empire, and his team, today’s Cubs, would be in the news.* But he knew well that the trip would lose money in the short run, and genuinely believed there was no greater good then spreading the American game, and through it the American way. If he were alive today, I suspect he’d be proud.

* Yankee fans can be forever grateful for Spalding’s efforts to establish baseball in Australia. That late 90s dynasty may never have happened without Aussie Graeme Lloyd.

56 comments… add one
  • Ya, it’s interesting.. I read about it this morning and I guess it’s finally catching on. Mao banned it and set it back quite a bit for a country with a billion and a half people. Or else maybe we would see Chinese stars by now.
    Also seems interesting, since I also just read another article about the NFL and China – and that they wanted a Chinese kicker on an NFL team. (from Chinese soccer/rugby players) Global market indeed!

    Lar January 30, 2007, 10:13 am
  • Yankees only interest is a mercenary desire to exploit a vast open market
    Really, not to demean YFs expertise on this (which is massive) or the wonderfully utopian sentiments within this post, but the above statment does sum it up. The Yankees aren’t cultural ambassadors here, trying to show the Chinese the way of the West, any more than Google is with China despite their supposedly upstanding corporate ethics. The Yankees are doing this to find and cultivate talent for their use, to increase the value of the franchise. They are not great re-educators.
    I don’t mean to dismiss this either: this is a very smart move by the Yankees. I hope other teams (read: the Sox) follow suit.

    SF January 30, 2007, 10:15 am
  • congratulations on the book yf…cultural diversity in our favorite sport is not new as you obviously well know…the game’s been international for a long time…organizations that embrace [i hate the word exploit] that like the yankees have been doing with some of their foreign ventures can gain benefits on a lot of fronts…yes, the yanks will be accused of being mercenary, but all the teams have an obligation to improve their organizations…the yanks can go about it differently because they are among the teams that have the resources to do this kind of thing…on the other hand, whether anyone wants to recognize the yanks for having a motive beyond enriching themselves, there’s the goodwill that spalding referred to…if handled properly, this is good for baseball, the fans, and the perception of us [americans] around the world…

    dc January 30, 2007, 10:31 am
  • I don’t think it’s “mercenary”. I think it’s smart business. Just because I don’t think the Yankees are on a grand cultural mission doesn’t reduce what they are doing to mercenary behavior, in my opinion.
    “Good for baseball” is a synonym for “potentially lucrative”.

    SF January 30, 2007, 10:36 am
  • Why can’t it be both? I think that’s YF’s point, it is both, what’s good for business can be for the greater good.

    LocklandSF January 30, 2007, 10:52 am
  • Sorry, didn’t see SF’s last post, exactly.

    LocklandSF January 30, 2007, 10:53 am
  • After their discussions in China, the Yankees are also heading to Japan to talk with owners of the Yomiuri Giants. Then to the Hashin Tigers to thank them for their help in getting Kei Igawa.

    Russell January 30, 2007, 11:05 am
  • I don’t mean to dismiss this either: this is a very smart move by the Yankees. I hope other teams (read: the Sox) follow suit.”
    SF, Does your arse get sore from all that fence riding?
    I respect your opinions and insight,but I sure wish you would come down on one side of an issue or the other a little more often.

    Anonymous January 30, 2007, 11:43 am
  • I’m anon

    Andrews January 30, 2007, 11:44 am
  • Why is this an “issue?”
    By the way, the Sox organization already stated that this is not a Yankees-only thing – all of MLB is working on getting involved in China. I gather that the Yankees are spearheading it, but they are not the only team involved.

    Rob (Middletown, CT) January 30, 2007, 11:44 am
  • Uh, Andrews, my position is darn clear: I think it’s a good move. I hope the Sox follow suit. What’s the beef? How can I be any more clear?

    SF January 30, 2007, 11:59 am
  • I’m pretty sure calling this a what it is- a business venture with some probable positive social implications- and wishing one’s own team would follow suit doesn’t qualify as “fence-riding.” It’s pretty much an endorsement…it just qualifies the social impact for what it is: The biproduct of a business venture. Not really a slight against the Yankees, it’s just realistic. Just like it’s fair to say that when Boston was talking about ‘connecting’ to the East, it really meant “opening new markets to make MLB richer while finding new talent for ourselves.” Also fairly similar to the baseball academies that exist all over South America…I’m sure they’re lovely alternatives to living in poverty and never getting an education, but teams aren’t opening them because they want to be nice…they’re opening them to cultivate talent.
    Incidentally…China recently banned ESPN and Star Sports for no apparent reason. So I would imagine that this will make it a little more difficult for MLB (or any other American professional league) to make inroads over there…unless there are state-run American sport channels that I’m unaware of.

    desturbd1 January 30, 2007, 12:00 pm
  • I guess that Lucchino = Lucifer is already panicking saying that Redsox also wants a piece of China and planning to create baseball academy as well… Redsox are copycats losers.

    JyungLi January 30, 2007, 12:16 pm
  • As a Chinese Americans and Yankees Fan, I don’t want the Redsox visiting my country. No thanks.

    Juying Li January 30, 2007, 12:18 pm
  • It’s that kind of brilliant insight, JyungLi, that keeps me coming back to this forum. The intelligence, the attention to detail.
    On-topic…I’ll echo everyone else: good move, Yankees.

    Devine January 30, 2007, 12:25 pm
  • Now this is funny…
    “Jonathan Papelbon [stats] was booed Sunday night when he was introduced at the New York Baseball Writers Dinner in Manhattan.”

    LocklandSF January 30, 2007, 12:52 pm
  • Well, little do the Yankees know that the Red Sox are passing over China entirely and heading to Russia! So THERE!
    …on a less humorous note, didn’t the Red Sox FO already say they were setting up something in China around the time of Matsuzaka’s acquisition?

    Scott SF January 30, 2007, 1:05 pm
  • Shutting down the Yankees essentially every time you face them over the course of a season will do that, I guess. :-P

    Paul SF January 30, 2007, 1:17 pm
  • That’s alright, he shouldn’t be attending dinner functions in NY, he should be moose hunting in Maine!

    Scott SF January 30, 2007, 1:25 pm
  • Oh, I’m certain it was a boo of respect, I mean, they are going to be booing Kyle Snyder.

    LocklandSF January 30, 2007, 1:29 pm
  • You sure they weren’t saying “Moo-vers”?

    SF January 30, 2007, 1:29 pm
  • “By the way, the Sox organization already stated that this is not a Yankees-only thing – all of MLB is working on getting involved in China. I gather that the Yankees are spearheading it, but they are not the only team involved.”
    Can you be any more biased and totally fail to recognize any accomplishment made outside your beloved Red Sox? I’m sorry to say this, but I don’t think the the Red Sox have an exclusive arrangement with the CBA where they will swap coaches, player development, etc. and help train the Chinese.

    Russell January 30, 2007, 1:48 pm
  • uh oh, the last time the yankees went over seas (japan) giambi became injected with some form of weird flu which took a year to get over.

    sf rod January 30, 2007, 1:48 pm
  • uh….i meant infected…..maybe.

    sf rod January 30, 2007, 1:50 pm
  • “Jonathan Papelbon [stats] was booed Sunday night when he was introduced at the New York Baseball Writers Dinner in Manhattan.”
    No surprise there.

    Russell January 30, 2007, 1:50 pm
  • Well, little do the Yankees know that the Red Sox are passing over China entirely and heading to Russia! So THERE!
    …on a less humorous note, didn’t the Red Sox FO already say they were setting up something in China around the time of Matsuzaka’s acquisition?
    If you want to play dirty… the Sox organization is not run as an effective business operation. They overpay for Matsuzaka, sit there and touch themselves for a little while because they won by a bid of about $20+ million, then hear the Yankees have embarked on a much more business-savvy venture and then say everyone is doing it. Where have you heard that the Red Sox are doing what the Yankees are just about to do? The truth, nowhere, until this news came out. LOWWWWWW

    Russell January 30, 2007, 1:54 pm
  • This site is permeated with Red Sox fans. Yanks fans are off elsewhere enjoying their success, I am their representative. If you say something stupid or unintriguing, don’t expect a response.

    Russell January 30, 2007, 1:56 pm
  • wow. Someone missed his bus today.

    Brad January 30, 2007, 2:05 pm
  • “Yanks fans are off elsewhere enjoying their success,”
    ….by “elsewhere” do you mean the ’90s?

    sf rod January 30, 2007, 2:09 pm
  • Wow, put down the gun…I thought I had heard that somewhere before. If someone (or myself with some research) can confirm or debunk that, fine. Sheesh…

    Scott SF January 30, 2007, 2:09 pm
  • sf rod cracks me up.
    I’m glad Russell now speaks for YF, Nick, dc, by78 and all the other regular Yank fan posters here. If I were them, I’d be a bit embarrassed.

    Paul SF January 30, 2007, 2:17 pm
  • russell, please don’t represent me. ever.
    i do like this move however. i’m really interested in seeing what kind of talent they can find in china. i’m trying to think back to the WBC, but was the chinese team any good? i remember the koreans and japanese fielding very good teams.

    m.g. yanks fan January 30, 2007, 2:31 pm
  • Russell:
    A quick google search of “Sox Far East” lands you at this article from November. There are many others searching the web differently. Please note the mention of the Sox hoping to establish camps in China, Taiwan, elsewhere.
    And one of the first thoughts from most people in baseball (and here, and elsewhere in the blogosphere) was that the Matsuzaka bid was done to, as Buster Olney says, “plant a flag in the far east”.

    SF January 30, 2007, 2:33 pm
  • So, one could say the Yanks are actually the copycats.
    Not that I’m actually saying that. Just saying that someone COULD say that.

    Paul SF January 30, 2007, 2:35 pm
  • Does Chien Ming Wang was successful last year? Last time I checked Taiwan spoke Mandarin and Taiwanese languages. Also China spoke Mandarin as their main language. Redsox are so jealous of Wang’s success last year that Lucifer= Lucchino and Theo had to bid so high for Matsuzaka. Who’s the copycat now? The Redsox are….

    Jyung Li January 30, 2007, 2:42 pm
  • Um, it would be nice if we could keep the level of discourse here slighly above 3rd grade he said-she said quality. This is an interesting and important topic, especially for me; there’s no reason for it to devolve into this kind of pathetic miasmia of idiocy. I find it personally insulting. If you don’t have something serious or constructive to say…..

    YF January 30, 2007, 2:50 pm
  • Baseball is huge in Taiwan, so much so that it’s on their $500 note. I believe it’s still fairly unpopular in mainland China…like Lar said, Mao banned it once already and there’s still a certain stigma attached. This Washington Post article is sort of interesting, describing baseball in China as a “fringe sport.” It also makes it sound as though the Chinese government is interested in baseball primarily because of the 2008 Olympics…but who knows. Anyway, basketball and soccer are the two bigguns…I could be wrong but I’m pretty sure Cricket’s growing quickly, too. Not to say there’s no room for baseball, but it’s a crowded field. Also, wikipedia could be wrong…but it says that the regular season was less than 3 months long. Maybe that’s because there’s only 6 teams…but it seems a little strange. Hard to drum up interest with little to no baseball on TV and a season that doesn’t last the summer.
    PS: Not trying to start a fight about Taiwan and Chinese relations…

    desturbd1 January 30, 2007, 2:52 pm
  • That was supposed to be in response to m.g. yanks fan…came a little late.

    desturbd1 January 30, 2007, 2:53 pm
  • i totally hear ya jyung. back in 1903 the sox were won the first world series ever played. it’s now a 103 years later and teams are still trying to copy the sox. but that was back when your yankees were called “the baltimore orioles”.
    sorry. that was my last one YF.

    sf rod January 30, 2007, 2:56 pm
  • The 90’s Rod?
    Russell, these guys are pretty cool here, take it easy on them. Sure sometimes their bias shows, but so does everyones once in awhile. (not saying you are wrong in this case at all SF’s)
    Deep breath.

    Triskaidekaphobia January 30, 2007, 2:57 pm
  • Thanks for getting this back on course d1. You’re right about the fringe position of baseball in China. But it’s such a huge country, that the sport can enjoy a pretty healthy success even as a second tier sport. My hope is that the expanding contacts between MLB and the CBA lead to a higher visibility of the game in the East. I think the idea that the Yanks are looking for an immediate payoff in talent acquisition is ridiculous. This is a long term move, and the better for it. And yes, I’m sure the Sox and the rest of MLB will be following a similar course, and more power to ’em.

    YF January 30, 2007, 2:58 pm
  • Does anyone else think Jyung Li is really an Italian guy from Brooklyn. I feel like he’s tricking us….Hmmmmmm.

    Triskaidekaphobia January 30, 2007, 3:00 pm
  • SF’s, don’t feed the troll =P

    Lar January 30, 2007, 3:01 pm
  • I wonder what the development timeframe is, though. With the NBA,Yao has had some impact, but there hasn’t exactly been a major influx of talent. This has a lot to do with the Chinese authorities, but it probably also has to do with a lack of available talent. With baseball, if there’s even less of an infrastructure extant, what are we talking about as an R&D expenditure, and for how long? I wonder what the cost of this venture is for the Yankees, and when they expect returns on their investment? Is it a 10 year commitment? A 20 year commitment? I have a feeling that this is going to require tremendous patience, barring some discovery of a bizarre outlier talent.
    Like I said, I think this is a great idea. I just wonder when we might see results.

    SF January 30, 2007, 3:04 pm
  • Out of curiosity…YF, do you know how the CBA is structured? Are the teams privately owned or does the state run the entire system? (I’m sort of assuming the latter…) I realize wikipedia is a questionable source when it’s at its best…but apparently one of the teams, the China Hope Stars, is comprised entirely of the country’s most promising under-21’s. This seems like kind of an odd strategy…put all the young talent on one team and watch as they either continually get clobbered because they’re overmatched, or wind up so dominant that there’s no further room for improvement. Although, if they hold some sort of draft after players turn 21, thereby distributing the players to the other 5 teams…that could actually work pretty well. Further…if ESPN has really been banned…any idea how they plan on giving baseball the exposure it needs to gain interest?
    And yeah…this can’t possibly start paying dividends for at least 15-20 years. I mean there’s no such thing as a baseball prodigy, at least none that I’ve ever heard of…so the odds of a baseball Yao just kinda showing up are slim to nil.

    desturbd1 January 30, 2007, 3:12 pm
  • Russell,
    You’re a tool. I’M A YANKEES FAN. That is all.

    Rob (Middletown, CT) January 30, 2007, 3:26 pm
  • ” just wonder when we might see results”
    Probably not for quite some time, yeah. The Chinese do have that all-out training mentality, it seems, so if they’re serious about this maybe it’ll move a tad quicker than in another country (like, say, Russia). But still… they’re starting from scratch, right? Even if they get some help from Taiwan (dunno how politically viable that is), I’d think we’re talking about a decade.

    Rob (Middletown, CT) January 30, 2007, 3:31 pm
  • interesting, because i think i read somewhere, (maybe Pete Abraham’s blog) that he asked Cashman if it would be conceivable to see a Chinese player in the minors in 2 years, and I think Cashman said yeah. that’s probably lofty thinking, on his part though. From everything i’m reading, I hope they don’t expect such quick results.

    m.g. yanks fan January 30, 2007, 3:41 pm
  • I can’t imagine Taiwan helping China out on anything, or — more importantly — China asking for help from Taiwan. Relations between the countires have never been good, and they’ve been better than they are now.

    Paul SF January 30, 2007, 3:43 pm
  • in 2003 MLB signed a deal with the China Baseball Association to help develop the sport. supposedly this was done to gear china up for the ’08 olympics in beijing. ex sox great bruce hurst served as the pitching coach during qualifing rounds for the Asian Championships where the chinese team went 3-3.

    sf rod January 30, 2007, 3:48 pm
  • Seeing a minor leaguer in two years is not an outrageous expectation, but that’s because “a minor leaguer” is an amazingly vague qualifier. Could there be a kid who has played for a few years who is a guinea pig, and gets thrown into low rookie ball, even though he has no future in MLB? This seems like a totally viable situation, particularly if China and MLB are looking for a good PR opportunity.

    SF January 30, 2007, 3:49 pm
  • i gave my serious comments earlier…nobody speaks for me, when that happens, i’ll let you guys know…you’re such a cynic sf…but you’re right the sox will follow the yanks, like they always do, one step behind…

    dc January 30, 2007, 3:59 pm
  • I wouldn’t say having a Chinese minor leaguer qualifies as “seeing results.” I meant an influx of talent at the ML level.
    As for Taiwanese-Chinese relations… if I understand it correctly (and I very well may not), it’s not a simple thing. There is a lot of cooperation, including business cooperation. There are political differences and squabbles, but at the same time it’s the same basic culture. They’re all Chinese, and even the Taiwanese who want full indepedence see it that way, I think.
    But like I said, I could be wrong.

    Rob (Middletown, CT) January 30, 2007, 4:05 pm
  • Underestimate Russian baseball at your peril—I can tell you this from experience. I believe there already are several prospects from Russia in the minors, or at least in serious college ball. Hey they’ve even got a pretty swell stadium at Moscow University:

    YF January 30, 2007, 4:11 pm
  • SF January 30, 2007, 4:26 pm
  • “Uh, Andrews, my position is darn clear”
    You’re right, I misread your post, sorry.
    Sometimes my eyes don’t work first thing in the morning, (very late gig last night) at least not until the coffee is flowing freely through my IV setup :)

    Andrews January 30, 2007, 4:28 pm

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