A “World” Series

About two weeks ago, this Sankei News headline caught my eye:

“(Pro Yakyu) Exploratory Committee Holds First Brainstorming Session Toward a Japan-US Title Match”[1]

Reports indicate four representatives took part in the meeting: MLB VP of Asia Operations Jim Small, and three NPB representatives led by NPB International Committee Chairman Toshimasa Shimada. The agenda included whether to hold the series in spring or autumn, and whether to play in Japan, the (continental) US, or a midway point such as Hawaii. Shimada was quoted as saying “we have a number of hurdles we have to clear, but we want to advance the discussion”, while Small commented “it was a positive exchange of ideas.”

As a fan of both Major League and Nippon Professional Baseball, I heartily in endorse this idea. Moreover, I’m glad that this seems to be a priority for NPB commissioner Ryozo Kato. NPB commissioners tend to be in a lame-duck position, taking a backseat to ownership, particularly the reviled Yomiuri chairman Tsuneo Watanabe. The dynamic is rather difficult to summarize in this type of post, so I’ll point you to a July article from veteran Japan baseball writer Jim Allen.

NPB has tried to reach a little more globally in the past. A well-intentioned attempt was made at a four-country (Japan, Korea, Taiwan, China) Asia Series, but it failed to capture the attention of the public, and Japan’s representative won each year. It fell apart last year, when the title sponsor, Konami, backed out. In it’s place, a single-game Japan-Korea Club Championship was played before a crowd of about 12,000 at a minor league stadium in rural Nagasaki. As much as I would like to see the Asian leagues strengthen through collaboration, I think an MLB-NPB series will be more compelling baseball, and certainly better business.

When this series comes to fruition (and I believe it will), the NPB representative will perpetually be an underdog. It reminds me of the bi-annual US-Japan All-Star series that helped pique my interest in Japanese baseball in the 90’s. But despite that, NPB has far more to gain than to lose from this. More games against better competition should help eventually raise the level of play in NPB. More optimistically, the NPB brass may learn a few things from MLB’s marketing machine. It’s no silver bullet, but it will help.

[1] Sankei News

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Patrick Newman is a veteran enthusiast of Japanese baseball who happens to write about it at npbtracker.com, and on Twitter @npbtracker.

32 Responses to “A “World” Series”

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  1. The Duder says:

    Japan v USA or MLB?

    USA – not interesting
    MLB – blowout

    Either way I’m not super excited. I’d watch it, but I can’t imagine it being a very rockin party.

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    • NPB Champion vs MLB Champion

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      • Locke says:

        Ah, the quote threw me off. “Japan – US title match.”

        Ok, a more contructive post:

        It seems silly to market it as any sort of a title game. You can’t put a cow in a dress and call it Megan Fox. It’s clearly an exhibition, so make it exhibition-y. First of all, you need to get the best players from the Japanese league – anything else would be a mistake. Second, pick your MLB team by popularity. Get guys on the field who people want to watch. You’re not trying to win the game, you’re trying to have people tune in.

        That game would get 5x as many eyes as the Rays vs. the Tokyo Godzirras.

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  2. joker24 says:

    Not really sure how they’re going to convince pitchers to keep their arm in shape and not get a full off-season’s recovery.

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    • Locke says:

      Yea. There is literally 0 chance of getting the WS winning team to play any sort of multiple game series on the heels of the actual season. It’s just kind of silly.

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  3. Luke in MN says:

    Do it right after the WS. I sort of like the idea that to be world champs you have to do this ridiculously long, 185-game marathon ending with transPacific travel. Seriously, I think that’s pretty cool. And yeah, MLB will always be the favorite, but that doesn’t mean it wouldn’t be pretty darn interesting.

    Even better, I could put off watching football longer! Maybe I could skip football entirely if MLB/NPB could bridge the gap to hot-stove league!

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  4. WANT!

    I think this is a great idea and could lead to greater exposure for foreign leagues in general! Can you image a world where baseball is always in season? When the MLB season ends, we just flip over to the winter leagues on Versus or check out the Chinese league on Comedy Central! It would be an unending season and wonderful world!

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  5. pogotheostrich says:

    I’ll play the ugly American and say I doubt this ever happens. MLB has nothing to gain from this and I can’t see the player’s union agreeing to it without some sort of compensation.

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    • MLB played bi-annual All-Star Series for 20 years between 1986-2006, and has opened seasons in Japan more than once. Additionally, Japan is easily MLB’s largest overseas market. The players of the teams going to Japan to open seasons have always been compensated (by MLB) and I’d assume that the players in the All-Stars series have been as well.

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      • pogotheostrich says:

        So what does MLB get from having a championship with NPB? You already pointed out that they are very visible in Japan so it wouldn’t be exposure.

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      • patrick says:

        I watched most of those series and saw time and again how many of the MLB players were out-of-shape after the marathon MLB season. The level of play was generally not up to MLB standards, and many of the players were more concerned with seeing some sights-often with accompanying family members-and less concerned about putting on a good show.

        There is too much baseball played already, especially in the U.S.

        If we want some sort of Global Series, then dispense with the preseason WBC, shorten the MLB and NPB seasons once every 3 or 4 years, allow each country its own teams, and play a few weeks of games in a more reasonable format than the previous incarnations of the WBC to find a real world champ.

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      • “There is too much baseball played already, especially in the U.S.”


        But seriously, I genuinely doubt that professional athletes playing on national television would dog it during this game. People who say such things have too limited a perspective on athletes in general.

        In order to make it to the majors, these guys have to be ultra-competitive. If I, as a college athlete, have been willing to dive for line drives in sandlot games, I highly doubt my effort would outshine that of an elite athlete who is paid to do the same.

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  6. patrick says:

    I’ve never liked this idea.

    Japan wants this to try to show “Japan” is superior to the “U.S.”


    Bud Selig and the rest of his MLB gang are just interested in the almighty dollar.

    MLB with its 25%-30% foreign player contingent-a truly international game-against NPB and its 4 foreign player limit on its top team-players largely recycled from the MLB scrap heap.

    Yay! What thrills and excitement!

    Yeah, let’s add to an already-too-long MLB season which starts in February in Florida and Arizona and doesn’t finish til about the beginning of November now.

    What format would this be? A best of three/five/seven?

    Without ponying up huge amounts of money for the MLB team playing, there is no way they would even consider playing. And even then, the injury risks after a grueling regular season and the climax of the postseason wouldn’t make sense for the MLB owner either.

    Well, let’s imagine a 2010 Global Series with the Hanshin Tigers vs. the New York Yankees. (George Steinbrenner just rolled over in his grave.) Hanshin, with two of its top hitters being Americans in Matt Murton and Craig Brazell, will do their darndest to lead the Tigers to victory. Woweee! And the Yankees are thrilled to go up against reject pitchers like Jason Standridge and Randy Messenger at some point during the competition. Whoopdeedoo!

    This is a stupid idea.

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  7. Dwight S. says:

    It would be a pretty cool idea but I want to know realistically what chance would the Japanese team actually have against an MLB team in a 5 or 7 game series? (assuming of course the MLB team played all it’s regulars and guys treated it like they would a real playoff game) I would think slim to none.

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  8. The Bunk says:

    Yeah I just don’t how this would work, it would be an absolute blow out. Wouldn’t a matchup between the MLB champs and an NPB all star team make way more sense?

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  9. Mike says:

    MLB All Stars vs NPB All Stars. One Game. Kind of like a World All Star Game.

    MLB would win but still…

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  10. simon says:

    American public will be blase about it, just like how the Japanese public was blase about the now defunct Asia Series (and how the North American public is blase about the NHL vs European champion Victoria Cup preseason competition). Unfortunately, but that’s what happens against somewhat inferior competition.

    NPB, to it’s credit, supported the Asia Series, so I can’t blame them entirely on being hypocrites.

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  11. CircleChange11 says:

    I have zero interest in this.

    I love baseball, and spend a lot of time in it … but by November, I’m ready for it to be over.

    Everybody with a monetary interest keeps trying to get players to play more games, while the players, agents, and owners, keep trying ways of getting them out of those games.

    I really don;t feel like reading through the 12 best players of the MLB WS champs coming up with a laundry list of injuries that will keep them from playing in the USvJapan series.

    Also, isn’t this an all risk and no reward game for the US?

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  12. Ray says:

    I feel like I’m walking into it, but why is it assumed that the US representative will blow out their Japanese opponent when Japan is 2-0 at the WBC?

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    • adohaj says:

      The teams in the WBC are a jumbled mess of players from a bunch of different teams, whereas the WS champs have been playing together all year maybe? I can’t think of any other reason.

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  13. rick11p says:

    “Even better, I could put off watching football longer! Maybe I could skip football entirely if MLB/NPB could bridge the gap to hot-stove league!”

    One game a week–unless you are a fan of the whole debacle you arent missing much. The constant media blitz over so little actually happening……dont get it really

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  14. gradygradychase says:

    This is quite awesome, but nothing is gained by Major League players.

    So, I suggest that it should be hold instead, the Minor League All-Star team vs NPB All-Star team championships, or MiLB All-Star vs NPB Champs team match.
    This is because MiLB season has less games than that of MLB, and thus finishs the schedule earlier. Nonetheless, the games continues due to the Arizona Fall League. So in place of AFL, this match should be taken place.

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    • Matt Lentzner says:

      I think I like this idea the best. Have the PCL champs play the NPB champs as a world championship. When Japan shows it can beat the best AAA teams consistently then you talk about a MLB vs. NPB chanpionship.

      I assume that Japan would have to allow full foreign participation before they could ever be competitive at the MLB level.

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      • BagHeadM'sFan says:

        I don’t understand this attitude…have we not watched the Japanese World Team beat our US team like a rented mule? They have already proven they’re able to hang with the big dogs…it seems an obvious insult to me to not put our best up against theirs.

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  15. BagHeadM'sFan says:

    As an M’s fan I would trade the possibly-doesn’t-actually-exist Yamauchi for the “reviled” Yomiuri chairman ANY DAY OF THE YEAR.

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    • He’s reviled for being exerting a disproportionate amount of influence over the league. He isn’t reviled by fans of his team.

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      • gradygradychase says:

        Actually, he is reviled by SOME fans of his team because of the fact that he has taken the even more initiatives than commissioner in some of the critical issues in NPB such as the reorganization cricis in 2004, to the extent that the owners can get the most of the interest, and thus these have tortuned players.

        And in japan, some baseball-fanatic even hope Watanabe “would” be killed.

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  16. leverna says:

    “. In it’s place, a single-game Japan-Korea Club ”


    That is a child-like mistake for someone atempting to sound professional.

    That should be “its”. No apostrophe necessary.

    A lot of fangraphs writers don’t know the difference, smh.

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  17. I really enjoy it! That’s big help for me. Your atical is really surprising.The article is very helpful to me. After read it, I think a lot.You are tops.Great! You’re amazing. I admire you. Great post. I really appreciate the information.

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  18. Will says:

    This is a very interesting concept. It used to be banned for World Series champions to tour after their season. The then Philadelphia As started touring around Pan American with rosters more fitting of a minor league team and the commissioner at that time squashed it. I think if this came to fruition, you could see similar results. While players won’t dog it, I don’t think they will care enough about the competition and you could see some upsets. I don’t think MLB is interested in seeing their crowned champion lose to international competition.

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