Although Japanese pro baseball hasn’t had a player enter spring training without a contract since 2011, two players, Lotte Marines pitcher Roki Sasaki and Rakuten Eagles outfielder Ryosuke Tatsumi are currently on track to end that run of offseason labor harmony.
Sasaki is embroiled in a saga about when and how he can leave the Marines and begin a career in MLB, something he apparently wants to do long before he turns 25, when such a move would be extremely lucrative for both him and the Lotte organization.
If you’re the Marines, and you were only able to sign Sasaki as an amateur on the condition that you permitted him to go at a time of his choosing, you have to let him go if he persists in his demand.
The fact that the Marines have not announced Sasaki’s contract signing, makes it appear that they are fighting back in the only way they can to get Sasaki from taking off. See “Between Roki and a hard place.”
As I wrote then, this fight could get nasty, but the Marines’ PR campaign may have started.
On, Tuesday, former Marine G.G. Sato recommended Sasaki not take a hard line.
”I want Roki Sasaki to be a player who is loved by everyone,” wrote Sato, who was a contract holdout in 2008 and 2009 during his time with the Seibu Lions.
“It was my own fault I was put in a bad light. I thought I was in the right when I was fighting (with the team) over money. Now I think it would have been better if I had not been so stubborn.”
“I just wasn’t able to compromise on my sense of right and wrong. Young Roki should become flexible like one his big breaking pitches.”