Nippon Professional Baseball, or rather the 12 companies who control its baseball teams, approved a pair of new minor league teams for 2024 on Friday, Shizuoka’s Hayate 223, and Albirex Niigata. Atsushi Ihara, the NPB’s secretary general, said the teams would invigorate the game, while definitely not being a precursor to major league expansion.
On this week’s Japan Baseball Weekly Podcast, recorded Saturday, John E. Gibson said those two were mutually exclusive, but I’m not so sure. We won’t have any idea of where it might go until we learn how the two teams will fit into the existing system.
Will they have access to the NPB draft? Will their players be on standard NPB contracts? Will they actually be precursors to expansion? Let’s talk about those possibilities, by starting with the whole topic of expansion.
Of the 12 Japanese teams, only one, the SoftBank Hawks, has any interest in doing the work needed to build Japanese pro baseball into an elite competition that might rival or surpass what MLB puts on the field.Continue reading NPB toys with expansion