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, 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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  1. Patrick
    02/07/2008 at 7:33 am Permalink

    I know that I really should be writing more often about things I learn, as they aren’t common knowledge, but much of what you want is already in the works:

    1. NPB tried two years in a row to allow 1 Asian player not count against the foreign player limit. Korea and Taiwan objected fearing that NPB would strip them of their talent. It’s not exactly what you’re looking for, but the owners want to be able to use more foreign players – it’s the Players Association that is blocking much progress in that regard.

    2. While Son-san (SoftBank) really wants (wanted) to change NPB for the better, Yahoo! Douga (who has the 6 Pacific League teams games on the Internet) is hampered with requirements from the Japanese version of the RIAA. Despite at least one person claiming that they didn’t want their games DRM (Data Rights Management) encombered, “the system won’t allow it to be turned off.” Since they’re married to Microsoft, I can’t view their games and I live in Japan.

    Oh, and at least one team has been in talks with ESPN 360 in the States.

    Right now it’s a team-by-team thing, with the Pacific League looking to break down these barriers (to a degree). It would be nice if the Commissioner could force the Central League into the 21st century.

    3. Lotte has partnerships with the Lotte Giants in Korea and La New Bears in Taiwan. SoftBank, the Giants, and others have all put a great deal of money into the Mainland China league (CBL). I’m sure that there are others with working agreements, but those are the only ones I know of right now.

    I envision Katoh-Commissioner coming and and working together well with the Pacific League teams – most of which are very forward thinking and developing well. But without the ability to move the dinosaurs in the Central League, his hands will be tied and nothing substantial will be done. That’s my biggest fear.

  2. Patrick
    02/07/2008 at 8:15 am Permalink

    1. Yeah, I remember the Asian one player exception. It’s not really just Asian players though; Yakult had a number of Brazilian Nikkei-jin players that never got into many ichi-gun games.

    2. Softbank had a site a few years ago where you could watch the games outside of Japan a few years ago. And you’re right, the Pacific League has been leading the charge on the Internet front. I would like to see NPB bring up to date though.

    3. I didn’t realize that Lotte had those partnerships in place, but I knew about the NPB teams investment in China. I’d like to see more of an open exchange between the leagues.

    I suppose change has to be competitive. If the Pacific League can manage to comprehensively beat the Central, on the field and the balance sheet, maybe we’ll see some movement.