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:
- How MLB’s hypersonic growth was a reaction to its being stripped of its old business model in which it sold tickets and broadcast rights to its monopoly without having to pay market value for labor. Free agency was an accident of history MLB fought all the way, but which forced it to adopt a new business model in the way Japan has not had to.
- The objectively false notion that the World Baseball Classic is not a real competition but an exhibition.
- The ways in which Japanese culture both enables and deters change within pro baseball through the demands placed on coaches.
- An amateur baseball structure that discourages players from adopting innovative styles and ruins many of the nation’s best pitching arms before they even get to high school
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.Continue reading A roadmap to better baseball