An Open Letter to NPB Commissioner Ryozo Kato

» 01 July 2008 » In npb »

Incoming NPB Commissioner Ryozo Kato assumed his new post on Tuesday, succeeding Yasuchika Negoro.The former Ambassador to the United States started by announcing his hope to collaborate with MLB for the benefit of both leagues. I think this is a great objective, and I would love to see more exchange and cooperation between the two leagues. However, I also think that more can be done to help ensure the long-term sustainability of NPB. So, Kato-commisioner, if you’re reading this, here are my thoughts:

Negotiate an agreement for NPB teams to receive compensation when MLB teams sign NPB free agents.
NPB teams compensate each other with money and players when signing free agents. MLB teams compensate each other with draft picks. There is no compensation (that I know of) for NPB teams when they lose players via free agency to NPB. Some level of compensation might force MLB teams to be a little more strategic in acquiring Japanese players, and it might soften the blow just slightly to the NPB teams. I’m not sure what the best form of compensation would be, probably cash or commercial considerations.

Don’t count international players signed as amateurs against the foreign player limit.
The Giants have signed a couple of kids out of high schools in Taiwan over the last couple of years, but if they’re going to play at the top level in Japan they’ll have to be good. The current foreign player limit will force them to compete with much more experienced foreign players for roster spots and playing time, which will likely hinder their development. Removing the limit for international amateurs would give teams more flexibility in giving these types of players time to develop and ease into the top level.

NPB needs to broaden the pool of talent it draws from, and one way to do that is to create new opportunities for international amateurs.

Pump up the NPB’s web presence.
Japan has some of the world’s best technology companies and one of the world’s high broadband penetration rates. Let’s see an NPB equivalent of www.mlb.com, with video highlights, stats, and text content. I think making video highlights available online outside of Japan would be a good investment as well.

Partner with the professional leagues in Taiwan and Korea.
The Konami Cup is good, but more can be done. Maybe NPB teams could hold spring training jointly with Korean and Taiwanese teams. Maybe their could be a little more of an open exchange of players and coaches between the leagues. I think there are a lot of opportunities for the three leagues to cooperate, and I hope they will be explored.

On that last point, Kato-commissioner seems to be thinking in that direction already. Quote taken from Sanspo:

“It’s not just Japan-America; baseball is spreading in Asia and I think Japan should take leadership in that”

With new leadership comes hope. Japan has produced a lot of world-class baseball players and has an exciting league. Hopefully the future will see NPB overcome some of the challenges it faces and find new ways to thrive.

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