Jeremy Powell's winter of discontent is nearly over. Thanks to a ruling on Wednesday by acting commissioner Yasuchika Negoro, Powell will likely be a member of the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks within a week.
For nearly a month, both the Hawks and Orix Buffaloes have claimed the pitcher, but Negoro voided both teams' existing contracts and told them to try again.
Negoro said only one contract can be recognized, and since Buffaloes execs have spent three weeks vilifying the pitcher, there seems no chance Powell will complete the paperwork Orix needs.
"As long as [general manager Katsuhiro] Nakamura, [international director Takashi] Miyata, [team representative Toshio] Hatatani or any of those other clowns are in that front office...or any other part of any team, I will never play for them," Powell wrote in an e-mail to The Daily Yomiuri on Monday.
Hatatani was surprised by the decision that will leave his club empty-handed.
"It was unexpected. I am extremely surprised," he said. "I can't say I understood it at first, but it doesn't help to prolong it. It's not what we hoped for, but I suppose there is nothing we can do but accept it."
It also appears there will be no suspension for Powell. After PL president Tadao Koike ruled both teams had valid contracts, he offered a Feb. 4 compromise that Powell play for SoftBank but be excluded from the first half of the season.
Koike said that proposal was now history and a suspension was not being discussed. Afterward, league secretary general Shigeru Murata made it clearer.
"It won't happen," Murata said. "There won't be a suspension."
Both Orix and SoftBank had rejected the president's proposal over the suspension. Orix demanded a year and the Hawks wanted less. Orix took its case to the commissioner on Feb. 14. Negoro said Wednesday that baseball didn't need "this kind of tedious news."
He also sympathized with Koike's plight.
"I know the president wanted to solve this as quickly as possible," Negoro said. "He took a big swing at it but missed."
Koike echoed that sentiment, saying he tried to keep the issue within the league and reach a compromise.
"It's regrettable that it didn't work but when two sides refuse to back down, then you need a unilateral decision," Koike said. "In this case, the acting commissioner provided that."
The Hawks wasted little time on Monday, securing Powell's rights to a new deal.
"We had already completed the paperwork necessary for a foreign player on Jan. 14," said Hawks executive Takanori Takeuchi. "Now we will reconfirm his intent to join our team and send him the necessary documents."
SoftBank manager Sadaharu Oh was pleased with the outcome but disappointed it took so long.
"This went the long way around, but it worked out well for us in the end," Oh said. "It became complicated when one contract is a fax or whatever and the two are treated the same."
Negoro said work was needed to prevent similar trouble in the future.
"When dealing with players, particularly foreign players, we need to have stricter procedures," he said.
Powell had abandoned negotiations with Orix in the middle of January, saying he gave up after the team tried to renegotiate the details of his deal at the last minute, following an MRI conducted on Jan. 16.
The Buffaloes denied wanting to alter portions of their agreement and pointed to a faxed letter from Powell saying how eager he was to join Orix and a partial uniform player contract for 630,000 dollars with Powell's signature that was received by them on Jan. 22.
In contrast, the Hawks' deal was in Murata's words "100 percent complete and in order."
"This time we'll accept no faxes," Murata said. "They can mail them to us, but we want the originals."