In an effort to dissuade top amateurs from skipping out to play professionally abroad–as corporate league righty Junichi Tazawa has done–Nippon Professional Baseball is studying a plan to ban them from playing on their return to Japan.
One version under consideration would prevent NPB teams from signing players for two or three years after they returned to Japan, depending on their status when they left.
In that scheme, players who left after high school ball, such as Yamaguchi did when he signed a minor league deal with the Arizona Diamondbacks, would be barred from joining an NPB team for three years upon returning to Japan.
I appreciate that NPB wants to stop the talent drain to the U.S., but this rule is idiotic. If a Japanese player is good enough to stick in Major League Baseball, he’s probably not going to be interested in coming back anyway. If a Japanese player is good enough to get a contract with an MLB team but not good enough to stick, NPB should welcome him back if he wants to come home because he’s probably a really damn good player for the NPB and would thus elevate the quality of play. If those players are not allowed back in, they’re going to go to Korea or Mexico or someplace that is not Japan, thereby exacerbating the problem they’re trying to solve.
Jim Allen from the Daily Yomiuri hits it right on the nose:
Hopefully, cooler heads will prevail and NPB will elect not to throw the babies out with the bath water.
The only way to curb the talent drain is to raise the game. This, however, is a vast, complex undertaking. It’s much, much easier to make rules, even if they lead nowhere and turn out to be counterproductive . . . It’s not enough that NPB uses a draft to deny amateurs the right to sell their services to the highest bidder. Some now want to punish those who aim for a higher goal . . . For now, however, the overriding concern seems to be about plugging leaks in an obsolete system rather than building something seaworthy.
(link via WSJ)