Japan Baseball Exports Face Ban If They Return

In a move designed to discourage a flood of young Japanese baseball players from shunning their domestic leagues and moving to the U.S., baseball execs over on the islands have enacted a three-year ban on amateur players who leave Japan should they decide to return and attempt to play professionally.

Japanese baseball fan girl

The ban doesn’t cover major-league players who choose to relocate in the middle of their career, like Ichiro Suzuki or the wildly popular (at least in Los Angeles) Kosuke Fukudome. But it does cover players like 22-year-old Junichi Tazawa, who was considered to be one of the top players available in this fall’s Japanese baseball draft. Tazawa has decided to forgo Japanese baseball altogether to come play in the states.

The MAINICHI DAILY NEWS thankfully translated this story into English so we could learn what they’re up to over there:

The committee decided to ban players who had graduated from high school from entering professional Japanese teams for three years after returning to Japan from overseas stints, and introduce a two-year ban for such players who had been in university or company teams.

The success of Japanese players in American baseball has been a source of great pride for the nation, but the professional teams there fear that every good player is going to want to come to the U.S., leaving Bobby Valentine to manage in a league full of a bunch of Tuffy Rhodes.

There have already been requests within the Japanese professional baseball organization representing Japan’s 12 professional teams to limit contact between Japanese players and U.S. major league scouts. In the near future, a meeting of professional and amateur team representatives will be held, and the latest decision will be discussed and assistance sought from related parties.

While on the surface it seems as if this is a way to preserve the integrity of the Japanese leagues, it’s probably more about money (there’s a shocker). Players that are in the Japanese major leagues are available to American (and Canadian — don’t want to leave you out, Toronto!)  teams, but only if they are willing to pay a “posting” fee to negotiate with the player. The posting fee goes directly to the player’s Japanese team. Daisuke Matsuzaka fetched more than $51 million for his club.

If top players leave, however, before they reach the major leagues in Japan, there is no posting fee. It benefits the American organizations because they get the talented players in their farm systems early, and it saves them from having to pay just to negotiate.

The new system is harsh on players who have dreams of making it in the U.S. but wind up stuck in AA. If they want to return home, they’re facing three years of baseball exile. But for “can’t miss” guys the system could end up backfiring. What if a young player like Tazawa becomes a star in America but decides he wants to finish out his career back home while he’s still at the top of his game? Are they going to make him sit out three years, thus forcing him to stay in the states if he wants to keep playing?