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NPB toys with expansion

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.

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Our next manager

The selectors in charge of picking the next Samurai Japan manager have leaked the news that they have settled on Hirokazu Ibata to manage Japan at the 2026 World Baseball Classic.

Despite that, NPB secretary general Atsushi Ihara, who is in charge of the committee, said there was nothing to talk about at this time. I can’t say I blame him. I have nothing bad to say about Ibata, but considering there are many guys around who have successfully managed at the pro level, Ibata’s selection seems like something NPB is not going to be eager to talk about.

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