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Rob Smaal

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NPB players want more money to play in WBC

by Rob Smaal (Dec 17, 2010)

Japan may have won the first two editions of the World Baseball Classic, but there's no guarantee they'll even show up for the next tournament in 2013.

"The (NPB players association) has indicated that they're not ready yet to come to the next World Baseball Classic," Jim Small, managing director of MLB Japan, said Thursday at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan. "They're looking at the finances of the tournament and they have not yet agreed to come to the next WBC."

Small was speaking at a forum on baseball in America and Japan, which was also attended by Milwaukee Brewers slugger Prince Fielder and former San Francisco Giants pitcher Masanori Murakami, the first Japanese to play in the major leagues back in 1964.

Small said the sticking point for Japan, which won both the WBC in 2006 and 2009, was money.

"We've had several meetings with them," said Small. "They feel they should be compensated differently than they are right now. We obviously disagree with that."

Small said that the tournament is run by a company called WBC Inc., which is operated by Major League Baseball and the MLB Players' Association.

"The funds from the tournament go into the pot and are split up among all the participants, including the IBAF," said Small. "Our goal is to have most of the money from the tournament go back into building baseball, baseball in South Africa, baseball in China.

"With baseball out of the Olympics, this is how these countries are funding their baseball programs. The players from Japan need to understand that every dollar they try to take for themselves is money that's not going to baseball in China or South Africa, places that really need the development dollars."

Small also said that MLB players, who make up 80 percent of the WBC rosters, "are not guaranteed one penny for playing the event," while Japan's players have been guaranteed that "they will be paid something" by NPB.

Small also touched on the sad state of affairs within Japanese baseball nowadays, citing media reports that the NPB league office lost 60 million yen this year, the fourth year in a row it has been in the red, and mentioning that all 12 NPB teams have run at deficit over the past two years.

"Industry revenues in Major League Baseball are the highest they've ever been--six times higher than they were in 1992," said Small, comparing the two organizations. "Clearly, what we're doing is working to attract fans and build our business in the United States. The situation with NPB right now is a little more precarious. The Japan Series this year had only four of their games on terrestrial TV, which is astounding.

"We (MLB) are in the entertainment business, and I'm not sure that NPB looks at it that way."

Murakami, who said Japanese ballplayers these days were "spoiled and lacked discipline," also took aim at the structure of NPB.

"Right now, the NPB commissioner does not have enough authority," noted Murakami, whose departure for the major leagues in the 1960s caused a rift in NPB-MLB relations. "The 12 teams all rank themselves higher than the commissioner and don't give him much power. In MLB, the commissioner can take a stand, but here the teams all seem to stand above the commissioner. The pyramid needs to have the commissioner on top."

Small also said that a game or series featuring the Japan Series champion against the World Series winner was still under discussion, but not looking good at the moment. He cited weather issues in November, players reaching free agency at the conclusion of the World Series, and a packed U.S. sports schedule in mid-November as issues that would have to be overcome.


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