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John E. Gibson

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Arbitrators give Wakui salary boost

by John E. Gibson (Jan 29, 2011)

Saitama Seibu Lions ace right-hander Hideaki Wakui will earn 253 million yen in base salary for the upcoming season after an arbitration committee on Friday in Tokyo agreed that he deserved a raise, ending a salary dispute with the team.

Wakui--whom the committee said had been seeking 300 million yen, and no less than 270 million yen--was content with the settlement, while Seibu seemed dissatisfied.

The Lions offered a salary unchanged from last season based on Wakui's overall numbers, which were down from his Sawamura Award-winning season in 2009.

The 24-year-old Wakui went 14-8 with a 3.67 ERA last season. But he only won four games in the second half of the season, and failed in his role as the stopper when the team hit the skids in late September.

The three-man committee, which included former Yomiuri Giants ace Tsuneo Horiuchi, said the Lions pointed to Wakui's failure to help the team hold onto first place down the stretch and clinch the Pacific League pennant.

"We didn't base the decision on his not winning one game," said arbitration committee chief Katsuhiko Kumazaki. "When you look at it, the Opening Day game is just as important.

"We looked at the season as a whole, and decided that each victory has its own value.

"We also looked at the fact he has been a fixture in the rotation for five straight years. That's a major contribution and no small feat," said Kumazaki, who said the committee also weighed Seibu's viewpoint.

"But we looked closely at the fact that the team has expectations with him as the ace and it came up short in its efforts to win the pennant."

It was only the seventh salary arbitration case ever, the first since lefty Tsuyoshi Shimoyanagi and the Nippon Ham Fighters used a intermediary in 2001. Wakui was also the first player to use arbitration under the new system, which in 2009 added a former player to the committee.

Wakui's agent said his side was happy with the decision to use an arbitrator. He read a statement from Wakui sent via e-mail to his mobile phone.

"I feel the members understood our position, which I think we communicated well, and I'm glad that we that we went in this direction," Wakui's statement said.

"I hope this can lead to improved evaluation of other pitchers in the future. Now that the decision is final, my mind is clear and I'm ready to go to camp and work hard to try and help the team become the best in Japan."

The Lions representatives were polite, but brief with the media.

"We would like to offer a warm thank you to the committee and will comply with the decision," said Seibu official Kohei Maeda.

The committee chief said the most important thing was for the process to be fair.

"We wanted both sides to walk away from this feeling convinced it was the right figure," Kumazaki said.


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