MLB playing hardball with NPBPA

I absolutely love this photo. Ichiro Suzuki and Sadaharu Oh after Japan's first win of the WBC tournament in 2006. (Photo by Chris Carlson/AP)

I absolutely love this photo. Ichiro Suzuki and Sadaharu Oh after Japan’s first win of the WBC tournament in 2006. (Photo by Chris Carlson/AP)

Major League Baseball is playing hardball (no-pun intended!) with Nippon Professional Baseball Players Association. Team Japan may even boycott 2013 World Baseball Classic. Yes, really.

Here is a good background by Jim Allen of Daily Yomiuri “Japan WBC players want more money.” This was reported on July 23.

Japan’s players union on Friday said it would not participate in the third edition of the World Baseball Classic, set for 2013, unless changes are made to the tournament.

At a meeting of the Nippon Professional Baseball Players Association, union chairman Takahiro Arai said in a statement that there were a number of issues with the invitational tournament, won both times by Japan.

Chief among the players grievances was the distribution of sponsorship revenue by the tournament’s organizing body, WBC Incorporated.

“Until the WBCI recognizes the rights of individual countries to their sponsorship and licensing revenues, we will not participate,” the statement said.

“At least half of the sponsorship revenue for the tournament is coming from Japanese companies. Yet, 66 percent of the profits went to MLB and the MLB player’s association with just 13 percent going to Japan.”

The union said the WBC should be organized along the lines of FIFA’s World Cup and the Olympics.

Although this is a tack the Japan union has been taking since last autumn, Jim Small, MLB’s vice president for Asia, said Friday’s announcement came as a shock.

“We’re very surprised at this announcement,” Small told The Daily Yomiuri. “We don’t think this is something Japanese fans are going to accept.”

Negotiations concerning the tournament’s organization are expected to take place in mid-August.

And now this: “JPBPA has demands turned down by MLB,” written by Kyodo News Wire. On August 11.

The Japan Professional Baseball Players Association on Wednesday requested in a meeting with Major League Baseball that the Japanese team receive a bigger slice of the revenue for the next World Baseball Classic in 2013 but its demand was turned down.

As part of its demands at the negotiations held in Tokyo, the JPBPA had asked that sponsorship rights and the rights to baseball memorabilia for the Japanese team be transferred to Nippon Professional Baseball.

The Japanese players’ union said it still plans, in coordination with NPB and the Japanese pro baseball clubs, to demand that the rights be secured as a condition for Japan to play in 2013.

JPBPA executive director Toru Matsubara said, “Right now, for the future of Japan we must have a solid contract.”

According to a source, MLB and the MLB Players Association, which will organize the 2013 tournament, have notified the JPBPA and NPB that the deadline to reply on whether or not Japan will participate in the tournament is the end of September.

Jim Small, MLB’s vice president for Asia, has said that the MLB will go ahead with the WBC, even if Japan does not play.

I absolutely love (or loved, depending on the outcome) World Baseball Classic, and I’ve been to both tournaments in 2006 (a blog post about it) and 2009 (another blog post) on my own expense, I may add, to California. But if Japan doesn’t play? I’ll be furious. The games are intense, even in March, and really exciting. Second Japan-Cuba game, an elimination game where loser was eliminated, were so intense, and that was where I first saw Hisashi Iwakuma (That is probably why my opinion of him are so skewed, photos here), who dominated Cuban hitters. Absolutely loved it. One of the best game ever.

I also saw 2006 Japan-vs-USA game in Los Angeles, and the line-up of that game was Ichiro, Nishioka, Tamura, Fukudome, Iwamura, Ogasawara, Tanishige (with Aoki pinch-hitting in the 9th) and Kawasaki. Koji Uehara was the starter.

Five of the players who started that game are now playing (or have played) in MLB. That is remarkable. And two, or three more could come this year. Outfielder Norichika Aoki and infielder Munenori Kawasaki. Maybe even Hanshin closer Kyuji Fujikawa who came in in the 9th and took the loss in that game. Not to mention one of the 2009 hero Yu Darvish who will be a big, big news.

By the way, who could forget, Twins Tsuyoshi Nishioka was the runner who was out at third after the appeal play in that very game against the team U.S.A. Funny that Japanese people that I know still remember the umpire’s name (see Bob Davidson’s wiki page!)… Anyway. Back to my point. I love everything about WBC, my Team Japan hat is still my favorite baseball cap (I’d say it is tied as my favorite with black-logo-on-black DiCaprio-Departed Red Sox hat), and I have always advocated, supported, argued for, spoke highly of, spoke very excitedly about, and WILLINGLY PAID THE MONEY FOR, the WBC. But if the money is what stops them from playing this beautiful game (notice I am not pointing my finger to one party or the other) I will be very, VERY disappointed. Hope all will work out and I will be there for the tournament in 2013.

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