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Rob Smaal

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Wham! Thwack! Powell!

by Rob Smaal (Feb 15, 2008)

The latest twist in the Jeremy Powell saga came Wednesday, when the Orix Buffaloes decided to take their case to the NPB commissioner's office.

"My take on this whole thing is that it's absolutely ridiculous," Powell said Thursday in an email to the IHT-Asahi from his home in Phoenix. "It's been totally micro-dissected and blown so far out of proportion."

At the risk of furthering that trend, here's a quick recap: Powell, a free-agent pitcher, was deemed to have signed contracts with two Pacific League ballclubs, first Orix and then the Softbank Hawks.

Powell initially signed a faxed document--not containing any financial figures--at Orix's urging so that the process of getting his work permit sorted out could begin. However, the 31-year-old right-hander said the Buffs then tried to rework parts of the deal previously agreed upon in the club's favor, citing a knee problem Powell says he has fully recovered from.

This didn't sit well with Powell and his agent, and when the Hawks offered him an official contract, he signed with them instead, believing he was still a free agent. That's when the fun really started.

With both clubs laying claim to the big righty, PL boss Tadao Koike was awoken from a deep slumber and asked to make a ruling. He eventually decided that the Hawks held Powell's rights, but that the player would be suspended for three months from the beginning of the season for disturbing the relative wa of Japanese baseball.

That, however, was not enough to placate the steamed Buffs, who now seem to want NPB commissioner Yasuchika Negoro to either overturn the earlier verdict and award the player to them or, at the very least, increase Powell's ban to a full year.

Powell says even the 90-day ban came as a complete shock.

"A 90-day suspension!" he wrote. "I would have gotten a lesser penalty if I were to, say, rob a bank, or test positive for a banned substance, or maybe even punched my manager in the face. What a joke!"

Powell has been a proven winner in his seven seasons of Japanese baseball, which is why there is so much interest in him. He had a PL-best 17 wins for Kintetsu in 2002 and has hit double-digits in wins four times here. The former Montreal Expo spent the past two seasons with the Yomiuri Giants but a knee injury limited him to just seven starts in 2007. He has a 67-59 record in Japan with a 3.89 ERA.

Powell remains adamant that he signed only one official contract, and that was with the Hawks.

"The bottom line is I had a verbal agreement with (Orix), but they tried to reneg on that agreement and I was tired of dealing with it. They had plenty of days to get it done. I was ready and 100 percent committed. They were not.

"Now Orix is simply trying to bully not only the whole of NPB, but the whole damn country. Why? Because the almighty suits that head up NPB can't man up and make a solid decision based on facts and evidence. A thousand years of Japanese culture tells these people to try to make everybody happy, let's make them both winners ... 'Hawks, you get JP; Orix, we'll give him a suspension.'"

For now, Powell sits at home and waits for the latest news to trickle out of Japan. He says he's working out with a buddy's team in Arizona and getting paid by the Hawks, "ticked off because I can't be there with my team battling for a rotation spot ... continuing to read how Orix has hoodwinked everybody."

Stay tuned. There will, no doubt, be more to come.


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