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Japan's baseball owners growing weary of talent drain

Japan's baseball owners growing weary of talent drain

Japan's baseball owners are looking for ways to reduce the talent drain to the major leagues.
Under Japanese baseball rules, a player cannot become a free agent until after playing nine seasons of professional baseball.
But many top players flee to the U.S. major leagues under the posting system, which allows major league teams to secure the negotiating rights for players and sign them before they become free agents.
Pitchers Daisuke Matsuzaka of the Boston Red Sox and Kei Igawa of the New York Yankees both went to the majors in the offseason under the posting system.
The system is becoming more favorable for cash-strapped Japanese teams, which used to discourage their players from pursuing careers in the majors.
The Seibu Lions, Matsuzaka's former team, pocketed US$51.1 million (euro39.85 million) that it received from the Red Sox for the negotiating rights to Matsuzaka.
Ichiro Suzuki of the Seattle Mariners also went to the majors via the posting system and his former Japanese team, the Orix BlueWave, eventually had to merge with the Kintetsu Buffaloes to stay in business.
"We've got to look at the underlying causes of this and address the issue," Hiroji Okoso, chairman of the board of the Nippon Ham Fighters, told reporters on Wednesday after an owners' meeting.
Other owners have suggested putting limits on the system.
Losing star players like Suzuki, Hideki Matsui and Matsuzaka _ whether through posting or free agency _ is taking its toll on Japanese baseball. TV ratings for Matsui's former team, the Yomiuri Giants, are way down. Attendance at many stadiums in Japan is also lagging in recent years.
The Giants, Japan's most popular team, often took a sink-or-swim attitude toward the weaker teams in the league, but there are signs the team is taking a more cooperative stance in the face of competition from the majors.
"I don't think we can eliminate the posting system," said Yomiuri GM Hidetoshi Kiyotake. "But we may be able to find ways to put limits on it."


Updated : 2021-06-16 07:38 GMT+08:00