Tag Archives: MLB

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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A roadmap to better baseball

This is the fifth and final article on the potential for growth of Japanese pro baseball following the national team’s World Baseball Classic triumph. The idea for these posts was Robert Whiting’s quick-hit reaction “WBC title is great for Japan, but NPB needs to concentrate on enhancing its product going forward” in March.

So far I’ve touched on:

Today, I want to address five specific changes that could lead to Japanese pro baseball being a much better product than it is now, and even a superior competition to MLB.

Paying to play

Since Japan’s first pro league opened for business in 1936, it has been a tool for selling newspapers, railroad fares and providing advertising for parent companies. At first there were just a handful of decent ballparks and teams had to share, with most clubs hosting at least a few home games in all the Japan League’s big parks. That’s no longer an issue, but the idea that it’s good enough to rent a stadium to host a game has persisted.

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