Nippon Professional Baseball Commissioner Atsushi Saito said Tuesday Japan’s two top-tier leagues are considering playing more than their current 143-game schedule after 2021 in order to make up for the losses incurred in the coronavirus-hit 2020 season, the Nikkan Sports reported.
“One thing we can consider is related to the number of games. We now have 143, but if we increase the number of games, we can increase revenue.”–NPB Commissioner Atsushi Saito
Saito said preparations are in the works for combatting the coronavirus this year, when Japan is set to host the Summer Olympics, and even next, and said he’s heard that some players would be on board with an expanded schedule.
Saito didn’t say why NPB didn’t consider MLB’s scorched-earth model of firing scouts, coaches and minor leaguers.
NPB’s coronavirus response mirrored the stance of Japan’s central government. In February 2020, when the virus was considered a threat to holding the the Olympics on schedule, preseason games were held behind closed doors and NPB mimicked the government by first saying the season would start on schedule and then repeatedly announcing new starting dates.
All that changed on March 24, the day Japan bowed to the obvious, that a July-August 2020 Tokyo Olympics were impossible when the IOC said it was a no-go.
No longer needing the illusion that Tokyo would be safe to host the Olympics from July, Japan’s infection count jumped by a factor of eight, and the fiction that pro baseball’s season would begin in April was abandoned.
The government soon announced its first state of emergency, and when it was lifted in May, NPB announced its June 13 Opening Day behind closed doors for a 120-game season with no all-star break or interleague play. Teams were allowed to admit up to 5,000 fans from July 10.
Teams were permitted to admit roughly half their venues’ attendance from the start of September.
Japan is now on the verge of announcing another state of emergency with infection rates hitting record levels. The government is also restricting entry to non-resident foreign nationals following the emergence of new strains of the coronavirus, and there is concern about the ability of players to travel here in time for the start of Spring Training on Feb. 1.
On Monday, the Orix Buffaloes announced that infielder Steven Moya arrived in Japan on Sunday in order to avoid any entry hassle. This year, he will be competing for playing time with both Adam Jones and returning slugger Stefen Romero, who had a productive 2020 season with the Rakuten Eagles.