Archive > 19 July 2009

Indians Release Kobayashi

» 19 July 2009 » In mlb » Comments Off on Indians Release Kobayashi

Stumbled across this on Sponichi in Japanese, then found it in English on the Japan Times site — the Indians have released Masahide Kobayashi at is request. The Japan Times has a translated comment from Kobayashi: “Nothing is decided at the moment and I am having my agent look for a team for me (in the United States). In the meantime I will just keep myself ready to pitch.”

Kobayashi was better in the minors than with Cleveland, but still uninspiring. I always take AAA numbers with a grain of salt though, as he could have been working on a changeup or something. Walking away from a contract is a gutsy move, though assuming he’s healthy I think someone will take a flyer on him.

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Time to End the Draft System?

» 19 July 2009 » In international baseball » 18 Comments

This is mostly about the MLB draft,  but applies to the NPB draft to some extent as well.

Consider the following events:

  • In 2001, the Minnesota Twins draft the relatively unknown Joe Mauer over Mark Prior, 2001’s Stephen Strasburg, for a combination of baseball and signability reasons. This turned out to the be right choice.
  • 2005, Luke Hochevar refuses to sign with the LA Dodgers after a series of blunders. The following year, Hochevar is drafted first overall by the Royals. This too is seen as a signability move.
  • In 2006, the Chicago Cubs sign Jeff Samardzjia for first-round money despite having drafted him in the fifth round.
  • In July 2008, the Oakland A’s signed Michel Ynoa to a $4m+ deal, which would have put him in the top ten largest bonuses had he been drafted. The A’s gave their first round draft pick, Jemile Weeks, a $1.9m bonus.
  • In November 2008, Junichi Tazawa avoids his country’s draft and signs with the Boston Red Sox for $3m. The most he could have gotten from the NPB draft would have been a $1m bonus and $150k salary. In retaliation,  NPB brass installs an exile rule. In theory American-born players could take the opposite route.
  • in July 2009, the Twins shell out $800k to sign 16 year-old German prospect Max Kepler.
  • Aside from those specific examples, there are obviously hundreds of international prospects who have signed with the MLB team of their choice, and a rather smaller number of international free agents who have signed with teams in Japan. Meanwhile, amateur players who are educated in the US or Japan are bound to the draft entry rules of their respective domestic leagues.

The MLB draft was established in the sixties with the intent of more evenly distributing the available amateur talent among the MLB teams. I think it basically works, though it’s been proven that teams, players, and agents can game it a bit when they want to. It’s also important to remember that the draft was established in a time when there was far less international talent in major league baseball than there is today. Nearly 30% of the players at the MLB level were born outside the US, and nearly half of minor leaguers were as well. This year we’ve seen a lot more hype around the international signing period as well. It doesn’t quite match the draft but it’s gaining ground, and the signings of Tazawa and Kepler indicate a diversification of the talent pool.

So we have a system that’s moderately regulated for domestic players, and completely unregulated for international players. Should national players not have the same rights to choose their employers as international players?

What I’d propose is a regulated amateur free agent system, in which the draft is discarded entirely. Every amateur player who meets the entry criteria (age, education, whatever) would be allowed to negotiate and sign with any team, regardless of national origin. The single regulation I’d put in place would be a spending cap and a spending floor, based on league revenues. This would be to keep the Yankees from outspending everyone, and the Marlins from going cheap. There could also be a maximum and minimum number of players signed, to keep teams from giving their entire budget to one player. Beyond that, teams would be free to compete with each other on the basis being well-run operations. Essentially, the system would give the players the freedom to choose where they work and the teams the freedom to allocate their budgets as they see fit, while taking money out of the equation to a certain extent.


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World’s First Pro Baseball Team Youtube Site

» 19 July 2009 » In npb, sports business » 5 Comments

The Seibu Lions have started a channel partnership with YouTube, the Lions@YouTube.  The service is provided for fans to view clips which are produced by the Seibu Lions. Many branded YouTube channels exist, including NBA.Com partnering with Youtube, but this is the first professional baseball team to have a channel on Youtube.

On the site, fans will be able to take a look at promotional events conducted by the Lions. What is interesting about the Lions@YouTube is that the website is not about highlight reels and game reviews, but more of a way for the fans to see behind-the-scenes and events conducted by the Lions.

In order to get a better idea, I recommend taking a look at these scenes from promotions done by the Lions:

  • Businessman Night – An opportunity for businessman off from work to live out their childhood dreams. Some of the opportunities include interacting with former players after the game by taking ground balls and challenging to throw runners out from the outfield, and playing catch on the field immediately after the game.
  • Baseball Women Night – An opportunity for female fans to interact with players and the sport. Opportunities include throwing off the mound and participate in toss batting, playing catch in the outfield and opportunities for couples to participate are available as well.

These events are conducted immediately after the game and it’s easy to see the excitement on participants’ faces in the clips. Establishing their own website in partnership with YouTube may inspire fans at home to attend the ball games themselves with their colleagues and friends.

Technology has been a big part of professional teams changing their methods of interacting with fans and the media, ie Twitter becoming the new trend in the United States. It will be interesting to see how NPB teams react to new trends and if other teams will follow with their own YouTube site or attempt for a new opportunity using a new wave of technology.

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