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Clarifying Baseball Levels, Terms & League Needs

On the left are the levels for Canadian Baseball, which are likely to be very close to the US level system. On the right we have the level system in Japan.

T-Ball (8 & under)————————Mini-Minor (9 & Under)
Junior Rookie Ball (8 & under)
Senior Rookie Ball (9 & under)
Minor Mosquito (10 & under)———Minor (10-11)
Mosquito (11 & under)
Minor Peewee (12 & under)———–Mini-Junior (12-13)
Peewee (13 & under)——————-Junior (12-13)
Minor Bantam (14 & under)———–Mini-Senior (14-15)
Bantam (15 & under)——————-Senior (14-15) or Junior High School (13, 14 & 15)
Minor Midget (16 & under)————High School (16 yrs.)
Midget (18 & under)——————–High School (17 & 18 yrs.)
Junior (21 & under)———————City Teams
US University Teams——————-University
MLB Farm Teams———————–NPB Farm

I believe the MLB is stronger than the NPB (Nippon Professional Baseball) because of the level and numbers of foreign players playing in the MLB from all over the world. I would place the NPB above all US triple A teams though, as the NPB is a much higher level of play. When the MLB and the NPB leagues play each other the games are all played in Japan, and not all the MLB players come overseas, and then many players (and their team management) are not keen to go all out for the games.

In the Baseball Classic the USA loses out because the Japanese team is just better and or plays better together, as all the very talented Latin American players play for their national teams and make it plain for all to see why the Japanese rightly deserve to be the best team in the world.

The Need for an Big Asian Baseball League

I think that the NPB must lead in forming an Asian League that must have at least 2- teams from South Korea, 2- teams from Taiwan, 3- teams China and of course 3-teams from Japan.  Having two teams in each nation will develop the local rivalry needed, and allow citizens with less money to pick up games at two venues closer to home.

At first glance these teams from Japan should be the Giants, Tigers & a third team to be decided by wins.  The history and rivalry between these two teams would no doubt fit the bill.

Each national league would need to have a stake in the Asian League or they wouldn’t cooperate, so funds would have to go to the national league systems and they must not be left on the outside looking in. Government involvement in the teams would be made clear and penalties given for violations. The national leagues from each country should do as the English Premier Football League does and level up the best team from their leagues when one of their Asian League teams hits the bottom of the rankings table in this proposed Asian League. The worst Asian League team would be relegated to playing back in the national league system, unless from a country with only one team and no national league system to fall back on to replace the lowest falling Asian League team.  In this way any financial problems will be dealt with, as transportation costs would go down for the relegated club, upon being brought down to the national level, along with the need for expensive players. The Asia League would be less in need of propping up weak teams that overspent or mismanage in other ways, and avoid the risk of supporting some teams more than other teams with stretched rationalizations.

Efforts to expand this league should be centered at first with a lesser division (Southern Division) that should include 2-teams in Australia, 1-team in Singapore, 2- teams in India, 1-team in New Zealand, 1- team in Indonesia, and 1-team in Malaysia. The Asia First Division Teams should be encouraged to have Triple A teams in other countries so that national differences are not made to boil over.  As the, say Southern Division, will likely be a Triple A team for a bigger First Division team, the expenses will be more manageable and allow for the sport to grow in the more troubling expansion markets like India & New Zealand.

Umpiring would be very tricky, but a use of a video booth back up umpire, who would have a video with a box of the strike zone to review, would help to ease any risk of corruption, along with voting on of umpires by each team for those to take part in the playoffs.

What is needed for this to come to be is a real headliner that has an Asian outlook to meet the demands of the shrinking world. If this comes into being I have no doubt that the Asian League would surpass the MLB, as the inflow of talent from around the region would level out this advantage of the MLB, as would the revenues generated. The alternative is to slowly have the best talent whisked away to the MLB.

I will watch and support any efforts to bring this about, yet the most important mindset that must take place is looking clearly at the strengths and weakness in structures, not cover over problems with Disney happy talk, politeness taken to extremes, and stubborn control of teams and leagues by leaders who can’t see that the MLB will overtake such stubborn mindsets if the Asian Leagues keep to their private leagues and try to ignore the growth of the International flavor of the MLB.

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Call in the Marines (a Marines’ fan lands on shore)

When I first starting watching and choosing a team to follow in the  N.P.B. (Japanese Professional Baseball League) I was very impressed with the Tigers’ and Marines’ fans sometimes fanatical support. Giant fans are solid too, but they are the NY Yankees of the N.P.B. and thus have huge advantages in market share and more.

I’m not too keen with Johnny-come-latelies, as armchair supporters that change their support with the winds of fashion, and who are for the latest “in” or “it” team.

The Chiba Marines are the closest team to my home, yet there are so many teams in the region that one doesn’t have to go local or be starved of coverage or getting seats. The colors (black, gray, white and a dash of red) are good and the team’s name is solid too.  I’m not into making everything cute (kawai) so a team called “The Marines” is interesting too.  I later learned they use the name to mean like that of the Mariners, as opposed to the “soldiers on ship” or military reference, but either way the name is sharp.

In our time of endless fashion a historical respect is nice to be found in baseball,  yet teams named after buffaloes and whales just don’t fit a gracefully sport like baseball. So I’m glad Yokohama changed its name from the Whales. The exception to this, to date, is that of the the Hiroshima Carp, as the carp has a very in-depth meaning in Japan. That being in the times of much more social control the place for fun and entertainment was found in special walled cities or separate parts of town. There people were allowed to let off steam and find fun & relaxation, and this life was represented by “the carp” (often seen as a kind of kite on a pole). This fits very much with what baseball is about. So the Carp gets a big thumb’s up from me.

My first baseball team was the Toronto Blue Jays and from the beginning of watching them play at CNE stadium in a snowfall many years ago I liked to watch the sport, not just play. Then they won 2 World Series and all was worth the long support, this is exactly how I feel about the Marines; as they don’t disappoint.

Recently I have seen the Jays give up great pitchers every year, and seen the state of the turf in the stadium in Toronto with a bit of shame. From the Jays I became a great admirer of Pat Gillick, as what he did with the Jays and Phillies begs one to take note of what a good GM should do.  I have moved over to another MLB team to support, as I wait for Toronto to be reborn under truly competitive GM.  My parents are snowbirds and live down south half the year, so I have picked up supporting the Arizona Diamondback. Another team that  doesn’t disappoint.

So when the Chiba Lotte Marines hired Bobby Valentine many years ago I very was impressed with the GM going foreign.  Gutsy decisions by a GM needs support, and so I gave my support to the Marines all the more. I was eager to see a blend of styles to gauge how a balance could be found.

I had played the gridiron game in Japan and my years of experience in Canada were negated because I was “not Japanese.” My talents were claimed to be due to my size, not so much because I could possibly know more.  One of the biased issues here in Japan for foreigners was and is the idea that “ Japanese are just smarter.” So when Bobby came to manage I very much eager to see how he handled it.  I had hoped that when Bobby helped take the Marines from the bottom to mid-table, that he might escape some of my experiences being he was more well known, and thus would allow the blending with the “Japanese Way” with other ways to take place.  Then the shoe dropped and they fired him as I’d feared and I was pissed as they then dropped down the league table again.

Happily Bobby’s return and the teams great success proved a great step to bringing a mixing of ideas in the sport. From Bobby’s  getting  rid of the cherry blossom pink uniforms to his raising pressure in practice. That being by giving  money for hits, and a lose of money for strike outs, while at the same time lessening the pressure during games on his players he was able to loosen his players up as he increased their focus. Overly hard work outs before the games was stopped, and likely other well thought out ideas came to be seen as successful. They have continued to do well after his leaving, and as many have seen in 2010 they peaked at the right time to come from a very low playoff position to win it all.

The Korean ownership brings a Asian fell to the league as well. Cross your fingers and keep your powder dry Marines (and your bats clean), as you can never count out the Chiba Marines!