MLB covers up mess with “Band-Aid”

On Tuesday, Nikkan Sports first reported that Major League Baseball, concerned about the appearance of impropriety, has told its teams to terminate all working agreements with the four foreign pro baseball organizations it recognizes.

The impropriety mentioned in the order, was that of MLB teams making contact with players under contract with or reserved by foreign clubs that violate the protocol agreements MLB has with Nippon Professional Baseball, the Korea Baseball Organization, the CPBL, Taiwan’s Chinese Professional Baseball League, and Liga Mexicana de Beisbol.

That’s the kind of thing that got the Los Angeles Dodgers fined when, according to Adrian Gonzalez, Andrew Friedman and the club’s brass asked him to bring Dodgers gifts to Shohei Ohtani in 2016.

Shohei Ohtani with Edgar and Adrian Gonzalez at Tokyo Dome in 2016.

“‘Hey, if we give you a care package for him, will you present it to him? Because we cannot pursue him, it’s against the rules, but you as a person can obviously take whatever you want to any player. Of course, the Dodgers got fined and in trouble for that. But they paid their fines. They knew there was a possibility and the team paid their fines.”

-Adrian Gonzalez to Dodger Blue in January, 2024

The March 4 order from the office of the commissioner forced teams to suspend all existing agreements and prohibited them from creating new ones. It also ended any exchange of coaches, something that has alerted both MLB organizations and Japanese coaches to different ways baseball can be taught and learned.

Such beneficial exchanges are now over, because the commissioner’s office says that they create a situation where tampering with players can occur.

The order reads in part as follows:

The only permissible contact that Major League Clubs may have with players in such Foreign Professional Leagues is through the Office of the Commissioner of Baseball, and then only in accordance with the posting process described in the protocol agreement with that Foreign Professional League.

Other than as prescribed by the relevant protocol agreement, Major League Clubs and their employees may have no direct or indirect contact with players under contract or reserve to Clubs that are members of such Foreign Professional League teams.

In recent years, we have seen Major League Clubs and or their employees attempt to establish formal and informal relationships with member Clubs of Foreign Professional Leagues. Such relationships have the propensity, if not the purpose, to establish connections between Major League Clubs and players under contract or reserve to Foreign Professional League Clubs that would violate the protocol agreements with those Foreign Professional Leagues.

In other words, the relationships with foreign pro league teams are the reason tampering occurs.

It is rumored that one MLB team has been a leading actor in taking Japanese players under contract with NPB clubs out for dinner conversations to meet the MLB team’s officials.

One NPB coach said of the MLB team, “We can’t keep them away from our players.”

But that behavior was against the rules already, and takes place without regard to existing working agreements.

Thus, this new order does nothing to address the problem. Instead it is intended as a substitute for a solution, something that makes it look like MLB is concerned about fixing a problem, except it can’t because it is too busy looking away.

“MLB is always as vague as they can be,” one MLB scout said. “They always get caught off-guard by something, and then they overreact and put a Band-Aid on it.”

–An MLB scout to Kyodo News on March 27, 2023

The Kyodo News story also quoted an official of the Nippon Ham Fighters, who have had a series of working agreements over the years. Their longtime connection with the New York Yankees saw them send young players to the States in the autumn to train in mini camps run by the Yankees’ Triple-A manager, Trey Hillman.

Hillman later managed the Fighters, steering them to the Pacific League pennant in 2006 and 2007.

“I wish it (this decision) had not been handed down. Tampering is always going to happen in one form or another. It’s just the competitive nature of the game. The desire to get an advantage.”

-Trey Hillman

The Fighters also sent coach Satoshi Nakajima to the U.S. to work as a minor league instructor with the San Diego Padres. Nakajima later moved to Orix as the Buffaloes’ minor league skipper. He has since become their major league manager for three seasons, during which he has won three straight PL pennants.

The MLB rule is not going to solve a damn thing, but it is going to complicate the hell out of everything.

Japanese MLB players often spend some of their offseason in Japan, training at their former club’s facilities while sharing their experiences with former teammates. Such training sessions will now require special permission from the commissioners office.

It is very likely that Yankee advisor Hideki Matsui will no longer be able to coach players with his old club, the Yomiuri Giants, during spring training.

Progressive baseball savant @infieldflygrl had this to say:

How far does this go, indeed.

I know the timing on this might be bad, but the utter nonsense that working agreements are the cause of tampering, makes MLB look like someone suffering with a gambling addiction, the costs of which are getting worse and worse and require ever bigger and more elaborate lies to cover it up.

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