Our contributor Anthony has returned for a slightly different take on an old idea regarding Asian foreign players within the Asian leagues. You can follow Anthony on Twitter.
Remove Foreign Player Limit for Asian Players
Sometimes good ideas need to be mulled over and left for new minds to look at it differently than it had been before. One such idea for Asian baseball leagues is to not include Asian players to the foreign player limit.
This effort would help improve the KBO and CPBL in the short term and the NPB in the long run. Initially, this was intended by the NPB back in the early ‘2000s, but the CPBL and KBO rejected this notion. [See additional notes at the end of the blog post]
Should Taiwan Do It First?
The main problem with these intentions are not the idea, but where it was to be implemented. After all, if Red Sun Rising can rip off ’90s bands then why can’t this idea work if the CPBL revisit the idea and fire the first shot and spread to the KBO and NPB?
Why should the CPBL implement this idea? It could help them get talent from the NPB and KBO without sacrifice a valuable foreign player spot. If this occurs, the CPBL will get an immediate boost in the overall pitching department. Sure, it will likely cost the teams a bit more, but overall quality will get closer to the KBO and in turn attract better foreign pitchers.
Over time, if those players do well in the CPBL, they might head back to their previous leagues for more money, and then, the KBO might implement this strategy as well which could be very interesting to see how much closer KBO teams get to NPB quality.
Eventually, the NPB might implement this once they see the success of this and head towards MLB quality with players coming back from the other leagues as well.
Additional Notes by Rob
The idea for the NPB not to include Asian players to the foreign player limit was bought up by the Yomiuri Giants and Seibu Lions back in 2006.
On December 20, 2006, a discussion was held in Taiwan between the KBO and the CPBL. Shortly after the meeting, both the CPBL and KBO strongly rejected the proposal, stating it will cause too much damage to the leagues after losing all the top tier players to the NPB.
“It is an invasive baseball gesture by the NPB,” said the KBO representative on the topic of removing Asian players limit in the NPB.
On December 22, 2006, the NPB representatives visited the CPBL head office where both parties met for almost four hours. However, despite the attempt, the NPB was unable to persuade the CPBL.
“The CPBL is a young league which yet to have a solid foundation, this policy would severely damage our league, should the NPB decide to go ahead despite our protest, this would end all future collaboration between the CPBL and the NPB,” said the CPBL secretary general.
Under the current NPB structure, should a foreign player went through the Japanese education system. They will be treated as a domestic player and will not count as a foreign player. Many Taiwanese NPB players like Yang Dai-Kang (Yoh Daikan) and Chen Tai-Feng (Yasuaki Taiho) benefited from such system over the years.
There are a couple of reasons why Asian leagues limit foreign players. First, there is a fear that local fans will want to watch mainly domestic players, such that too many foreign players on each roster will hurt attendance. Asian leagues want to be seen as trying to develop their own domestic talent to play baseball at a high level.
Second, and nowadays probably the much more important, is that foreign players are relatively expensive. Foreign players in each of NPB, KBO and CPBL are on average much better compensated than younger, less experienced domestic players. Importing more top foreign players would make teams better, but the wealthier teams in each league would be able to import the most and the best, damaging competitive balance, which would hurt the league as a whole. The new cap on foreign players’ first contracts in the KBO this off-season was obviously an attempt to reign in spending on foreign players and to prevent the wealthiest KBO teams like the Doosan Bears from signing a better caliber of foreign player than the less wealthy KBO teams can afford.
By limiting the number of foreign players per team, each league can afford to pay the most money for the best available foreign players within each league’s salary structure without either overspending their teams’ revenue streams or taking jobs away from good, but not great, domestic players who might be replaced by slightly better but more expensive foreign imports. In short, one could argue that Asian teams get the most bang for their bucks per foreign player by limiting foreigners to those who enjoy the highest probability of being stars for their Asian teams.
Increasing league-wide revenues and more evenly distributing revenues between all of the league’s teams is probably a better basis on which to justify increasing the number of roster spots made available to foreign players. Also, if a league is looking to expand, like the KBO did about five years ago, then allowing additional foreign players is an effective way to provide sufficient talent to balance out the the dilution of domestic talent new expansion teams create. However, NPB has no current interest in expanding beyond its current 12 teams, and there are apparently no plans for the CPBL to expand beyond its current four teams in the immediate future.
It will be a hard push. As the players’ union will probably not going to allow this to happen. There is also the factor of the Asian Leagues mentality. They see professional baseball as a way of providing job opportunities to their domestic players. It’s almost like social responsibility in a way.
I had a suggestion a few years back about a way for NPB to allow for more than the current four major league roster spots allowed for foreign players while still maintaining competitive balance:
Thanks for the insightful comments, I can see your points very clearly. I’d think a small increase in foreign player limits in general might also be help while not being too cost prohibitive.