Eric at Offwing has a very interesting post on the troubles of Japanese professional baseball. Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) is experiencing a team merger and a possible merger of its two leagues. I don’t know much about NPB, but I am fascinated by the league’s attempt to replicate not just the American game, but the structure of MLB. Though the league only has 12 teams, it has two separate leagues, the Central League and the Pacific League, to mimic the AL and NL of MLB. And only the Central League employs the DH rule. For more discussion on the similarities between Japanese and American baseball see this paper: Baseball in Japan and North America: Same Game, Same Rules, Same Results?
But, back to Eric’s post. Eric notes that NPB’s problem is that it is NOT run like a business as most American teams are. Well, maybe some billionaires will lose money to win, but I think the monetary incentives to turn a profit are pretty strong in MLB. Anyway…
What’s the problem? For the most part, Japanese baseball isn’t really run as a business, but as more of a promotional arm of the companies that own the teams. For the most part, teams are run by lower level executives of the larger conglomerates that own the teams, so a career in baseball is more of a pit stop on the company ladder, rather than an all-consuming career for a Billy Beane-type….
What we’re really seeing here is just another example of globalization in action. Japanese baseball as currently constituted simply can’t compete anymore. Because of the inherent weakness of their business model, they can’t afford to retain top athletic talent, and because of the way they manage their organizations, they can’t seem to develop top-flight front office operations either.
I don’t have much more to add to this other than I think it is something worth watching.