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Re: [j-ball] Making changes

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  • Michael Westbay
    ... Our family has gone to Yokohama for a few day games, and it s always great! (The best one was last August when we went with Jim Allen and about 20 others
    Message 1 of 7 , Jul 13, 1998
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      Dan Latham wrote:

      > A few years ago, one local sportswriter mentioned that he was compiling a
      > list of 100 things about Japanese baseball that needed changing. I
      > haven't seen him follow up on that plan, but I do think it's something
      > worth discussing. So, to get things started, here are a few of my own
      > ideas.
      >
      > Making games more enjoyable for fans:
      >
      > ...
      >
      > 2) More day games: The Pacific League holds a lot of day games on
      > weekends as do the BayStars, Tigers and Carp. But the Swallows, Dragons
      > and Giants almost exclusively hold "nighta's," which may be good for the
      > television viewing audience but is not so great for families and kids who
      > want to see games on weekends. I realize it can be awfully hot during
      > summer days, but even in the domes, weekend games are usually scheduled
      > for evenings.

      Our family has gone to Yokohama for a few day games, and it's always great!
      (The best one was last August when we went with Jim Allen and about 20 others
      to see the BayStars humiliate the Tigers at the start of their drive for the
      pennant.) I had tickets to the Giants vs. BayStars game at Tokyo Dome on
      Childrens' Day (5/5), but didn't go because it'd be way too late for my
      darling little girl (who's a huge baseball fan - any kind of ball is a
      "b-ball" - and she always shouts "b-ball" when a game is on TV or some people
      are playing in the park near home) to be out.

      > ...
      >
      > 5) Tear down the chain link fences surrounding the fields: though they're
      > supposed to protect fans from line-drive fouls and keep drunks from
      > climbing onto the playing field, but the fences really obstruct the view.

      I agree that the fence makes viewing difficult, but its purpose is for the
      safety of the fans. Americans have a different way of thinking. If you don't
      get out of the way, it's your own fault! (Sounds kind of like
      Hoshino-kantoku. Was he raised in the U.S.?) Japanese don't duck at the
      sound of gun fire because they're looking for the fireworks. Fans SHOULD pay
      attention to the game enough to know to get out of the way of a line drive
      over the first base dugout, but a lot of them don't. How many kids with
      shiners want to go back to the ball park? It's a tough call. I don't like
      the fence there, but I understand and somewhat agree to its purpose.

      > Making Japanese teams and leagues stronger:
      >
      > 1) Eliminate the limit on foreign players: Not only is the quota
      > discriminatory, but it limits competition. If a Japanese player needs a
      > quota to protect his job, he has no business playing for the top team.
      > Greater competition from foreign players will give the Japanese a greater
      > opportunity to learn and develop.

      This is a topic that a lot of foreigners complain about, but I have no problem
      with. The "quota" keeps climbing, and may one day be eliminated. I'm in no
      hurry to see it go. Of course, who would have thought 5 years ago that so
      many pitchers would do so well here? Back then, a team was only allowed two
      foreigners, and just about every team wanted a big slugger like Bass or
      Horner. Then it was increased to three to help teams who wanted pitching.
      Then 4 to make it so that the teams didn't have to weigh hitting over
      pitching.

      Actually, a few weeks ago in Shube (Shukan Baseball) there was an article
      about what to do to boost attendance (against the media onslaught caused by
      the World Cup). It was either there or in one of the other articles (I don't
      have it on hand), but one person said that a team made up of all gaijin
      located near Yokosuka would be a great addition to Pro Yakyu. Yokosuka would
      be good to get a lot of the U.S. military in the Kanto area to come out and
      watch, and make a great rivalry for Japanese fans. Personally, I think that'd
      cause more problems than it'd cure, but it was an idea.

      > Also, the quota is simply not necessary. Look around -- virtually every
      > team has between four and seven foreign players, but several ball clubs
      > (Hawks, Carp, Dragons, BayStars, Swallows, Giants, Lions, Marines) are
      > using fewer than they are allowed (four).

      That's a good point. Let's look at some of these teams. The Carp, BayStars,
      Swallows, and Marines are all low budget teams and can't really afford to
      attract that many high cost foreign players. The Hawks have dished out a lot
      of money and have been burned. The Giants simply don't have it together
      upstairs. Then the Lions probably have (had?) the best player development
      programs of any team, despite having one of the worst managers the team has
      had in a long time.

      What kind of effects would this have? Would a team full of foreigners start
      up? Would the standard language used on the field become English or Spanish?
      Would the Japanese players really benefit from having the higher competition
      for positions? Could low budget teams continue to compete? (Actually, I
      think they can - and the Japanese players on those teams would greatly improve
      while those on the teams with lots of foreigners will waste away.)

      Out of the 40,000 fans that go to every Tokyo Dome Giants' game (no, I don't
      believe there are EVER 55,000 fans), what percentage is Japanese? Do those
      fans want to see a lot of foreign players or to chear for some home grown
      players? Considering the fan base, I don't see that eliminating the quota is
      an essential for making Pro Yakyu more exciting for fans.

      > ...
      >
      > 2) Develop a deeper farm system:
      >
      > ...

      This is where the Japanese teams need to be fixed the most. Not only by a
      deeper farm system, but by reworking how player development is run. A team
      like Bobby Valentine brought over could work wonders with a lot of the talent
      by putting them onto weight training programs to develop strength where needed
      and to help prevent injuries. Most teams have retired players trying to make
      carbon copies of themselves with the young 2-gun players, and failing.
      Players with natural talent are going to waste because many of the 2-gun and
      1-gun coaches feel that spirit is more important than talent. When Doi-coach
      (Giants) was Orix's manager, he let Ichiro rot at 2-gun because he didn't like
      his work ethic. With a coaching staff that knows how to coach, the farm
      system can become a place where future stars are born rather than a place for
      rehabilitating players to practice or take a mini-camp.

      The major problem with expanding to more levels is economics. I go to several
      2-gun BayStars' games a year now, and there are a few hundred fans at best.
      2-gun can't pay for itself.

      The Lions have Seibu's hotel chain (Prince Hotels) which could be considered
      an amateur level extension to their farm system. Sure, other teams may draft
      from Price, but Seibu tends to do most of the picking from there.

      You mentioned that Japanese Officials are trying to work out an agreement to
      allow their players to train in North America. Yakult has had several
      rehabilitating pitchers do just that the past couple of seasons with the
      Indians. This seems like a good way to go to me. I think that what most
      teams are most concerned with is a Major League team stealing their players.

      > 3) Start thinking internationally:

      This is an excellent suggestion!

      > The Major Leagues are trying to host
      > regular season games in Mexico, Hawaii and maybe in Japan in a few years.

      I read last week that there may be some open-sen (pre-season games) between a
      couple of Japanese and Major League teams next year. Orix were teaming up
      with the Mariners in Arizona (I think), and I think that one team was going to
      come over here. I don't remember the details, but that's a step in the right
      direction.

      > ...
      > But even if a "World Series" between the Japanese
      > and Major League champions is currently out of the question, how about an
      > Asian Series where the Taiwan and Korean teams meet in a playoff series
      > and the winner takes on Japan?

      Why should Japan be seeded #1? I like the idea of a tournament between Japan,
      Taiwan, Korea, and Australia (if it's timely - isn't our fall their Spring?
      Are they just getting ready then?).

      As for internationalization, I'd like to see it go a step further. Each Japan
      team (start off with just the Pa-League, since the Ce-League won't give up its
      Giants' games) would make a round of 2 games against half of the Major League
      teams (Pa against AL, Ce against NL), hosting half of those, going on 5-6 long
      road stands for the remainder. Increase that to 3 games home and away against
      Taiwan and Korea. That would make for some very interesting international
      baseball.

      --
      Michael, Margarita, and Jobana Westbay
      Japan Pro Yakyu This Week
      http://www.seaple.icc.ne.jp/~westbay




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    • Michael Westbay
      ... Ummm, not to be disagreeable or anything, but it s four gaijin this year, two pitchers and two fielders. ... You said exactly what I tried to say in the
      Message 2 of 7 , Jul 13, 1998
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        Magee-san wrote:

        > ...
        > For my part, I think rebuilding the minors has to be the biggest key to
        > making yakyu more competitive. I admit ending the three-gaijin limit is
        > key step, because if you don't play with the best (whoever they are)
        > you'll never be able to beat the best.

        Ummm, not to be disagreeable or anything, but it's four gaijin this year,
        two pitchers and two fielders.

        > But I would argue that improving
        > the minor league structure would benefit more players to a greater
        > degree and in a shorter period of time than ending the three-gaijin
        > limit would. Ending the limit would benefit the best players more than
        > the pool as a whole.
        > ...

        You said exactly what I tried to say in the previous post. Only your answer
        is better thought out and put together. I agree 100%. The farm is what
        needs improving most.

        > The second part of the minor rebuilding plan I would like to see is
        > closer relationships with local communities. Minor league teams should
        > make their homes in cities that don't already have a top-level team,
        > rather than playing in the same parks (more or less) that the big teams
        > play.

        Yokohama is trying this. Their minor league team has "Yokosuka" on the
        players' sleeves, and they (try to) go by the name of the "Yokosuka
        BayStars." And you don't see "Maruha" in the name of either team. I've
        heard from several people that Yokohama's front office is as bad as Hanshin,
        but I haven't seen it. In fact, they're trying a lot of new things, using
        MLB clubs as a model. All around the area are schedule posters for the
        2-gun games. I've seen them all up and down the Keihin Kyuko line as far as
        Shinagawa, about 40 minutes away from Oppama where they play. And in
        Oppama, BayStars goods are fairly easy to come by. The Seibu department
        store (owned by the Seiyu group) has a fairly good sized BayStars' goods
        section (but nothing for the Seiyu Lions). Oppama Stadium, where they play,
        was just rebuilt two years ago and is very nice. A lot of kids line up on
        the other side of the outfield fence to watch the games for free out there.
        They've got autograph sessions and photo sessions (puri-kura) with players
        before each game as well. 1,000 yen for adults, 500 yen for elementary aged
        kids isn't bad. And the BayStars offer several "oen" plans for fans to make
        it even less (if not free for 2-gun games).

        The big draw back to Yokohama's farm team is that they just aren't
        competitive. Nor do I think are they getting the proper instruction to
        become better. They've got the appearance of being like a MLB minor league
        team, but that's just up front. They've got about twice as many losses than
        wins for the second season in a row and find themselves at the bottom of the
        Eastern League.

        I saw Maholms pitch a few of weeks ago there at Oppama, and he had no
        control at all. He walked at least a batter every inning. It's amazing
        that he only gave up 2 runs as the Lions were on the base baths all day.
        Why was he left in for 7 innings? Did any of the coaches talk to him
        between innings to find out why he lacked control so bad? Did anybody give
        him any kind of advice to pitch better his next outing? How about their
        batting? They've been blanked so many times that I've gone to watch them
        that I don't remember the last time I saw them score a run. Is anybody at
        all working on batting? Do they think that everyone will suddenly start
        hitting when they go up to the main club? I don't think that any of the
        questions have a positive answer.

        Player development! That's what's needed more than foreign players. Thanks
        Magee-san for the comments. I couldn't agree more.

        --
        Michael, Margarita, and Jobana Westbay
        Japan Pro Yakyu This Week
        http://www.seaple.icc.ne.jp/~westbay




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      • Rob Magee
        Hello everybody, Below are some questions for you and everyone. Answer any or all, at whatever length you like, but I would like to hear what people think on
        Message 3 of 7 , Jul 14, 1998
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          Hello everybody,

          Below are some questions for you and everyone. Answer any or all, at
          whatever length you like, but I would like to hear what people think on
          these issues.


          Question for everyone #1:

          (Dan: Nice post of suggestions for the betterment of yakyu. Was there
          any order of priority to your suggestions?)
          On making yakyu stronger: Is it more important that the three-gaijin
          limit be raised before the minor-league system is rebuilt? Or should
          other considerations have more priority? If just one step could be
          taken to improve MLB-Pro Yakyu-parity, what do you think it should be?


          Question for everyone #2:

          (MLB-watchers may have the most fun with this one.)
          Which is better? A very fluid labor situation like in MLB, where
          players can move from team to team very quickly and a team can move from
          first to last and back again with the sale and purchase of a few key
          free agents; or a situation like in Japan where players can spend their
          whole playing careers with one team?


          Question for everybody #3:

          Who are your all-star picks (for yakyu)? The results of the fan voting
          here were announced yesterday, and I'm sure someone will post them for
          us shortly. (My wife took the paper with her when she went to work this
          morning, so it's not gonna be me.) Who do YOU think should be playing
          in the all-star game? Who do you think should NOT have made the team?
          Who are your picks for first-half MVP and so on? Should all-star teams
          have a three-gaijin limit?



          I only have time for an answer to #1 right now. It's my answer -- pick
          it apart if you will (but don't get personal, hunh?), or support me if
          you agree. Get on your soapboxes!

          For my part, I think rebuilding the minors has to be the biggest key to
          making yakyu more competitive. I admit ending the three-gaijin limit is
          key step, because if you don't play with the best (whoever they are)
          you'll never be able to beat the best. But I would argue that improving
          the minor league structure would benefit more players to a greater
          degree and in a shorter period of time than ending the three-gaijin
          limit would. Ending the limit would benefit the best players more than
          the pool as a whole.

          I would like to see two steps to boost the minors: first, the minors
          should be more competitive. As Dan said in an earlier post (or on his
          YSHP), the minors in Japan now are just a holding tank where players are
          sent if they screw up on the big team. They should be a place where
          talent is sharpened and skills are honed in a competitive atmosphere
          where players are competing for a shot at the top level. Work with
          players to make them better, not to make them into reproductions of
          other players. Adding another tier of teams would be one way to do
          this, but just making the minors as they are today more serious, making
          the teams more like teams fighting for (minor) league championships
          instead of like closets where players are dumped for storage.

          The second part of the minor rebuilding plan I would like to see is
          closer relationships with local communities. Minor league teams should
          make their homes in cities that don't already have a top-level team,
          rather than playing in the same parks (more or less) that the big teams
          play. The J-League soccer organization has done a beautiful job of
          this. All teams have to have a local name (rather than a corporate name
          e.g. Yomiuri, Orix, Nippon Ham), and there is a strong connection
          between people and the local team. The team is part of the community
          and they're right there where local fans can go see them, not playing on
          TV a hundred miles away.

          I can go on and on about this, but I would like to hear what some of the
          rest of you think.

          Best to all,

          Rob Magee



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        • Jim Allen
          Message 4 of 7 , Jul 15, 1998
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          • Michael Westbay
            ... One of my favorite things about Pro Yakyu (as compared to MLB) is that players tend to be career players for a single team. In the Majors, you get to know
            Message 5 of 7 , Jul 16, 1998
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              Magee-san wrote:

              > Question for everyone #2:
              >
              > (MLB-watchers may have the most fun with this one.)
              > Which is better? A very fluid labor situation like in MLB, where
              > players can move from team to team very quickly and a team can move from
              > first to last and back again with the sale and purchase of a few key
              > free agents; or a situation like in Japan where players can spend their
              > whole playing careers with one team?

              One of my favorite things about Pro Yakyu (as compared to MLB) is that
              players tend to be career players for a single team. In the Majors, you get
              to know the players and like them, then if they switch teams, you're often
              at a loss as to how to cheer. I really liked Bret Butler while he was with
              the Giants (sure, he was traded there from the Braves, but...), then when he
              was traded to the stinking Dodgers, he was the enemy. The mixed feelings it
              caused weren't good.

              It seems to me that there wasn't so much changing back in the '70's. I knew
              pretty much the whole team at the start of each season. But now, the few
              times that I catch a SF Giants' game on TV, it seems that there are only a
              couple of players that I do know. I still haven't gotten all of the new
              faces down from last year, and now they're all gone and another group is in
              there. I would expect a lot of changes from a team that finished last,
              but...

              With so many changes so often, I don't feel that I CAN keep up with MLB any
              more. So I just focus on Pro Yakyu now. That should reassure Nabetsu
              (Watanabe-owner), who, when explaining why real Major League games in Japan
              were a bad idea said something to the effect of, "If Japanese fans see the
              difference (between Pro Yakyu and MLB), then we'll lose our fans." Well,
              then, Nabe, become a part of it! Seibu's owner is going ahead and trying to
              host such games. He says that changes have to be made, and if an MLB team
              (or teams) rent a field in Japan to play, there's nothing that can be done
              about it. You tell him! Leave it to the Pa-League to instantiate change.
              Those of you wanting a revolution in Pro Yakyu, it looks like he's the man
              to talk to.



              --
              Michael, Margarita, and Jobana Westbay
              Japan Pro Yakyu This Week
              http://www.seaple.icc.ne.jp/~westbay




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            • Michael Westbay
              Most of this Making changes thread has focused on changes that have to be made at the highest level of baseball. So long as the Giants are around, though,
              Message 6 of 7 , Jul 21, 1998
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                Most of this "Making changes" thread has focused on changes that have to be
                made at the highest level of baseball. So long as the Giants are around,
                though, these will probably never be done. What I think we need to do is
                focus on what the Pacific League can do independently, then get a maverick
                like Tsutsumi-owner (Lions) to push for them. (Tsutsumi-owner has said that
                changes are necessary, I'd like to see how far he's willing to go against
                Watanabe-owner (Giants) to revolutionize Pro Yakyu.)

                By far, the hottest topic has been for suketto limit. Can the Pacific League
                go out on their own and eliminate this rule? The only time they meet Central
                League teams when it matters is in the All Star and Nippon Series games. Like
                the DH rule, can they use the rule for foreigners according to ballpark?
                (Hmmm. If you only have a couple of Japanese on your team, that might be
                tough. Have to think up another solution...) But anyway, Nabe and the
                Central League teams won't allow inter league play, so the Pacific League
                should be able to go out on their own with it.

                The topic that didn't get much attention (but is much closer to my heart) is
                international play. I think that the Pacific League could start playing games
                that count in the standings against Taiwan and Korea, home and away. Since
                Nabetsu refuses to allow inter league play, this is the kind of revolution
                that I think the Pacific League needs.

                Thanks to NHK's BS (Broadcast Satellite) channel, Pro Yakyu already has a
                following throughout Asia. Wouldn't Korean fans get a kick out of seeing the
                Lotte Marines vs. Lotte Tigers? Talk about a great marketing gimmick for the
                parent company! How many ex-Taiwan ball players have come to Japan? Wouldn't
                they enjoy reuniting with their former teams on the field? And most of all,
                wouldn't the fans enjoy seeing a new contest? The same 6 teams meeting each
                other over and over gets to be a little much some times. More teams makes for
                more interesting competition. I think that a cycle of 5 opponents allows
                pitchers and batters to know each other far too intimately. Add some variety
                to life!

                The other topic that got some attention was the farm system. We've come to
                the conclusion that it needs to be expanded, and it would be best to expand
                outside of the home cities. (Look at the Eastern League - all 6 teams are
                within the Kanto area - Tokyo: Giants, Swallows, Fighters; Yokohama: BayStars;
                Chiba: Marines; Saitama: Lions.) These areas already have 1-gun for fan
                support. Move them out to the country where fans will appreciate them more.

                Ah, but most of the talk about the farm system has been with the way it's
                managed. I don't think a proposal to anyone involved with Pro Yakyu will be
                considered with most of what we have to say about the way they handle their
                farm teams, so maybe that should be left out of a proposal for now.

                So, can somebody more versed with words than I write up a summary of this
                thread as a proposal to submit to Tsutsumi-owner? Let the revolution begin!

                --
                Michael, Margarita, and Jobana Westbay
                Japan Pro Yakyu This Week
                http://www.seaple.icc.ne.jp/~westbay




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