The Japan Professional Baseball Players Association remains in a stalemate over whether to take part in the 2013 World Baseball Classic.
Founded in 2005, Japan won the inaugural tournament and repeated as champions in 2009. The third edition is scheduled to get under way next spring, with the final to played at AT&T Park in San Francisco.
The root of the players association's problem is the inability of Nippon Professional Baseball, the organization governing Japanese baseball, to negotiate with WBC organizers.
From Japan’s perspective, the first two editions of the WBC have been held under unequal conditions.
Despite more than half of the sponsorship revenue coming from Japanese companies, Japan only gets 13 percent of revenues, while U.S. organizer Major League Baseball gets 66 percent of the profits. For the third edition, WBC organizers will allow the free use of the Samurai Japan logo, but most other conditions have remained unchanged.
During his time as NPB commissioner, Ryozo Kato had bragged about how close he was to his MLB counterpart, Bud Selig. For this reason, insiders had expected a lot from Kato, who had long served as the Japanese ambassador to the United States. But Kato never fulfilled his responsibility to negotiate properly with MLB about the WBC, repeatedly insisting that it wasn’t the right time for him to bring up the topic. That’s why the players’ association had to directly negotiate with the WBC despite not being in an official position to do so.
I can understand the players’ claims that there could be future troubles if the WBC continues to be held under these conditions. The association’s decision to skip the WBC is not a threat, but a very serious decision.
The Japan Professional Baseball Players Association has always acted on decisions mirroring fan perspectives. Its decision to strike during the 2004 industry realignment was supported by baseball fans. Last year, fans across the nation also supported the group’s insistence on delaying Opening Day after the March 11 earthquake, due to energy concerns.
Some fans also support the players’ decision to skip the WBC. But there are also many fans who want to see Japan try and win a third WBC title. There should be a way to participate in the event and promote further reform. I suggest that the players association listens to the fans calmly and reconsider its decision.
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Kinya Nishimura is a senior staff writer of The Asahi Shimbun.
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