VIVA LA DIFFERENCE: My WeatherBug temperature read 22.8 degrees when I awoke this morning -- and, having been outside to get the newspapers, I can testify to its accuracy -- but tomorrow at that time, we'll be watching baseball that counts. The Red Sox and A's are now less than 24 hours away from the season's first pitch at The Big Egg (a.k.a. the Tokyo Dome) after four days in Japan that have allowed them to adjust to the time and cultural differences. Sean McAdam contemplates those differences -- cultural, not time -- in a fascinating piece contrasting Japanese baseball against its American parent. Our own Denise Bass, writing on her blog, gives a personal view of the Far East fan experience. (Beer girls with kegs strapped to their backs??) Bob Breidenbach is sending back tons of pictures -- which we've been turning into slideshows, such as the ones you can find here and here (with more to come today) -- to give you a further feel for what it's like across the world.
GETTING DOWN TO BUSINESS: In the end, though, these games count no matter where they're played, and the Sox -- who, reports McAdam, are excited to start the season (here are tomorrow's probable lineups) -- got ready for them with a pair of exhibitions over the weekend. On Saturday afternoon Tokyo time/Friday night local time, Clay Buchholz struggled but David Ortiz and J.D. Drew homered in a 6-5 win over the Hanshin Tigers. Then, Sunday night Tokyo time/Sunday morning local time, Drew continued his hot hitting with a grand slam as the Sox routed the Yomiuri Giants, 7-2. McAdam has the details on both games. It's all in preparation for a season that McAdam previews here, with the concluding line: " If injuries don’t derail these Red Sox, it would seem little else can."
CAREFUL DOWN THOSE TRACKS: But injuries, as we know, have been a problem this spring, and the biggest has been the back woes of Josh Beckett. Back in Fort Myers, though, Joe McDonald reports Beckett appears to be on the road to recovery, even if that road won't reach Boston in time for Opening Day . . . either in Tokyo or next week in Oakland.
PLUG TIME: Come to projo.com tomorrow for in-game updates by Sean McAdam, photos by Bob Breidenbach, a pitch-by-pitch account of the game from our Associated Press score service, and a complete postgame report immediately following the final pitch. And if you're complaining about the 6 a.m. starting time, it could be worse; the game begins at 3 a.m. in the home of the Sox' opponent, the Oakland A's . . . and the San Jose Mercury News' Mark Purdy is one crusty curmudgeon on that topic.
ONCE MORE, WITH FEELING: On his Hacks With Haggs blog, Joe Haggerty reports on Peter Gammons' appearance on 890 ESPN in which he discusses the Red Sox' near-boycott of the Japanese trip: "I talked to the Yankees and their coaches and players and I talked to the Phillies and they all thought it was a great thing because Major League Baseball and the Players’ Association don’t care about anyone unless they’re making millions . . .They just don’t care . . . [The Sox] did a great job and they are heroes within baseball, I can tell you that . . . I’ve been with Major League coaches, players, clubhouse guys and the Yankees clubhouse guys were saying, ‘You know what? [The Sox] are the best group of human beings in the game.’ They were really proud of them, and they’re the best acting, the best behaved and the tightest team, and I thought it was great that they pulled together."
AND FINALLY . . . Newsday's Neil Best found this YouTube clip of the opening of NBC's broadcast of Game Four of the 1973 World Series. The talk was all about Charlie Finley's attempts to "fire" Mike Andrews, and that's pretty interesting in an of itself. But me, I just love to see how the broadcasts have changed so dramatically: