The Creation of an Asian Major League (baseball)

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We all know that the best baseball is played in the United States in the MLB.  There are many reasons for this, but largely it is because of money.  The baseball teams in America have so much money that they are able to attract the world’s best players to play there.  The best baseball in the world will probably always be played in the United States.  Soccer isn’t popular in the U.S., so the best soccer players in the world always end up in Europe.  Some might say that the same can be applied to baseball, as it is only popular in North America, but this really isn’t true.  Japan and Korea both have a long tradition of baseball and in both countries it is the best attended professional sport.  Japan is the world’s 2nd largest economy, and Korea’s not too far off.  A league rivaling Major League baseball could take shape here if set up properly.

This is just an idea that I made up a few years ago when I lived in Japan, but I thought it might be in the best interests of Japan and Korea’s leagues to join together to form an Asian Major League.

While it’s probably true that the best players would still be headed for the U.S., this merger of leagues would make loads of money for both leagues, and would improve the level of play in both Korea and Japan.

So, before I discuss how my merger would work, I’ll give an overview of the Japanese and Korean baseball leagues.

Japan: Nippon Professional Baseball

In Japan there is the Central League and the Pacific League.  The Pacific League uses the designated hitter, while the Central League doesn’t.  There are 6 teams in each league for a total of 12 Japanese teams.  The teams get their names from their corporate sponsor.  Some Americans might be horrified if their team were to be named the same way (example:  Citgo Red Sox, MetLife Yankees, Coca-Cola Dodgers) The Central League contains Japan’s biggest baseball rivalry, the (Tokyo) Yomiuri Giants and the (Osaka) Hanshin Tigers.  It is for this reason that the Central League is more popular than the Pacific League.  They also have an all star game featuring the best players in both leagues, as well as the Japan series, featuring the league champions of both leagues.

Korea: Korea Baseball Organization

Even though Korea developed very rapidly after the Korean War, it wasn’t quite financially stable enough until the 1980’s to have a professional baseball league.  The Korea Baseball Organization started play in 1982 and at its peak, had 10 teams.  Currently there are 8 teams.  Korean teams all use the designated hitter rule.  There is an all star game featuring the best players in the league.  Since there is only one league the teams are usually divided geographically.  This is usually divided as an East team and a West team, though sometimes they divide the teams into South and Central teams.  (They don’t use the term North, because people like to think of North and South Korea together as one nation.  Therefore, the teams at the northern end of South Korea are actually located close to the center of the peninsula.  The Korea series is.. well interesting.  It features the 1st place team against the winner of a series between the 2nd place team and the winner of a series between the 3rd and 4th place teams.  (Confused?  A= 4th vs 3rd.  B= 2nd vs winner of A.  C=1st vs. winner of B)  There are a few rivalries, but none of them are comparable to the Yomiuri Giants – Hanshin Tigers rivalry in Japan.  The biggest one would probably be Korea’s own Giants and Tigers rivalry that lends itself to the regional rivalry. (Gwangju, is in the southwest, Busan in the southeast, and these areas traditionally have a rivalry dating back thousands of years.)

How will you merge these  into one league?

Well, it would be fairly easy.  Korea and Japan are right next to each other.  The longest trip by plane is probably Gwangju to Sapporo, which pales in comparison to the flight from San Diego to Boston, or Seattle to Tampa.  They might need to change the names of the leagues as Korea doesn’t touch the Pacific Ocean, nor are any of Korea’s teams in Central Japan, but that’s probably not a huge issue.  I’d break the teams down like this:

Central League                         Pacific League

(Tokyo) Yomiuri Giants             (Osaka, Kobe) Orix Buffaloes

(Osaka) Hanshin Tigers               (Sapporo) Nippon Ham Fighters

(Tokyo) Yakult Swallows            (Chiba) Lotte Marines

(Hiroshima) Toyo Carp                (Fukuoka) Softbank Hawks

(Nagoya) Chunichi Dragons       (Sendai) Rakuten Eagles

Yokohama Baystars                       (Saitama)Seibu Lions

(Daejeon) Hanwha Eagles            (Seoul) LG Twins

(Seoul) Doosan Bears                    (Busan) Lotte Giants

(Daegu) Samsung Lions                (Gwangju) Kia Tigers

(Seoul) Nexen Heroes                   (Incheon) SK Wyverns

Giants vs Giants, Eagles vs. Eagles, Tigers vs. Tigers  and Lions vs. Lions?  Lotte vs. Lotte?

Herein lies the biggest problem.  Teams all probably have a lot wrapped into their mascot names.  For this reason, I put Korea’s Giants and Tigers in the Pacific League, to seperate them from Japan’s Tigers and Giants.  In addition I put Korea’s Lions and Eagles in the Central League, to seperate them from the Pacific Leauge’s Lions and Eagles.  I realize that I’ve got both Lotte teams in the Pacific League, but they can use the place names, Chiba Lotte Marines, Busan Lotte Giants.  The only times we’ll have teams with the same mascot playing against each other are in the Asian Series, if both teams with the same mascot make it.  Most people when they refer to the team though, they don’t use the mascot name, they use the company name, so it wouldn’t be much of a stretch to ask some of the teams to change their names.  It also works out this way that we haven’t broken up the rivalry between the Lotte Giants and Kia Tigers.

What problems do you forsee?

Well, unlike the Major Leagues, Korean and Japanese teams limit the number of foreign players on each team.  I guess the idea is that nobody in Japan or Korea will watch the league if most of the team isn’t Japanese or Korean.  Furthermore it doesn’t help to increase the level of play of Japanese and Korean players if most of the players are foreign, but again, this is assuming that foreign players are better than Korean and Japanese players.  If the World Baseball Classic is any indication, both Korean and Japanese baseball are at a level where they don’t need to keep this rule to continue to produce talented Korean and Japanese players.  But, as baseball is a business, I’m not so sure that Korea and Japan can do without that rule.

In a league, the teams have to be able to trade with each other.  If, for example, the Doosan Bears have an extra Korean pitcher and need a catcher, and the Orix Buffaloes have  a spare Japanese catcher, then they should be able to trade, but both would have the burden of having to drop someone else off their roster, as the Korean team would be taking a Japanese (and thus foreign) player, and the Japanese team would be taking a Korean (and thus foreign) player.

They would have to abolish the foreign rule at least for each other.  This would then create new problems.  Japan has a much larger population than Korea.  Japan also has a more rich baseball tradition, with annual nationwide middle school and high school tournaments.  Every high school in the country with male students participates in this tournament.  I hate to say it, but there are probably many more Japanese people who are good at baseball than there are Koreans who are good at baseball.  If they decide to abolish the foreigner rule for Japanese and Koreans in this new league, It’s likely that 2/3 of the league (and concievably 2/3 of each team) will be Japanese.  That probably wouldn’t be a problem for Japanese fans.  It probably would be a problem for Korean ones.

Why would this merger be beneficial?

Increased sources of revenue!  Korean teams would get money from Japanese media outlets and vice versa.

More fans would show up at Korean games to see Elite teams like the Yomiuri Giants and Hanshin Tigers, meaning more money for Korean teams.

The new league would also have an effect of bringing Japanese and Koreans closer together.  They will know more about each other as a direct result of having a common baseball league.  Sure this won’t solve all the historical problems between them, but it will give both countries more favorable exposure in their neighboring country.

The Japanese leagues are already the best in Asia, and they are already well supported by Japanese fans.  They don’t need the KBO.  The Korean league seems to gain more from this idea.

Yes, that’s true.  But I guess what I am trying to eventually lead to is a future merger with the MLB itself.  Think about it. MLB has 30 teams on the North American continent.  After this merger, the new Asian League will have 20 teams.  It wouldn’t be that much of a stretch to get 10 more teams in Taiwan and China to join the new league.  After that, abolish all foreigner rules in the Asian league, and you’d have 4 major leagues in the world, in the hotbeds of baseball.  The National League, American League, Pacific League, and Central League would each make way for a huge world series tournament, and the champions will have actually earned the right to call themselves World Champions.

23 Responses to “The Creation of an Asian Major League (baseball)”

  1. Patent your idea.

    • The Seoul Searcher Says:

      It’d be nice, but what can we do about the problems with my idea?

      • I think the benefits out weighs the problems. How about a merger between J and K-league? What do you think and solutions?

        • The Seoul Searcher Says:

          A soccer merger? I don’t really think that’s a great idea. The biggest problem is that there’s a national tournament called the emperor’s cup in Japan. I doubt any Korean teams would take part of that with a good conscience.

  2. I really don’t know anything about baseball o.o
    But I saw a show called No reservations W/Anthony Aourdain (http://www.travelchannel.com/TV_Shows/Anthony_Bourdain) and he was traveling trough Asia and went to a baseball game and also went to a bar to see a game, it reminded me to Mexico when a BIG soccer game is on TV because people was so passionate and everytime a team score they’d put the drinks 2×1 lol… kinda made me want to go to a game….

    • The Seoul Searcher Says:

      Beisbol is pretty popular in Mexico too isn’t it?

      • I think it’s more popular on the north part of Mexico… here in Mexico City Soccer is what most people watch… althou I remember one time when my mom was working in a Hotel and a baseball team stayed there, they gave her a jacket and a signed ball so we watched all the games that season o.O

        • The Seoul Searcher Says:

          Hmm.. I remember there was talk of creating a Major League Baseball Team in Monterrey a while back. I guess that makes sense. I can’t imagine a huge crowd there to watch baseball at Azteca stadium.

  3. sihoon0513 Says:

    If this happens, awesome!! By the way I’m for Lions (Samsung Lions). It’s the team that based in my city (Daegu).
    I’m sure the games gonna be so great!

  4. If the Korea and Japan Baseball Leagues are merged into one league, it’d be great. And also it’ll be good for Korea and Japan’s baseball improvement.
    But I guess it’s not possible now. But somedays, I hope it’ll be possible same as the NHL.

  5. Wow this was a great site.. I’m love it.. good blog

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  8. (1) Keep the Korean teams in one league (2 divisions of 4 teams) and the Japan teams in one league (3 divisions of four teams). Will be less conflict when it comes to trades. Trading between the two leagues will be just like it is now. Seperate entities and seperate leagues but now just playing together for an Asian championship. The three leagues have played games with each other before in an Asian games championship tournament; so it can be done. Must allow for inter-league regular season games to better promote the new “super” league. (2) The teams with the same mascot names can keep their current names if they want; but I’m sure the corporations that control these teams will soon realize the benefit of having unique names. Could be as easy as Red Sox/White Sox as Blue Giants/Lil’Giants….. No new expansion teams can have the same name. (3) The foreign player rule is good for Nationalism but not good if they want to eventually compete with MLB. So best to keep it for now, but eventually it will have to go. Maybe go to a 4 players allowed…then up to 3 players allowed from one foreign country (so you could have 3 Americans and 3 Japanese on a Korean team) to finally maybe a 50 or 60% allowed. If a team wants to play with a DH; then all their home games must be played with a DH. The DH will be determined by the home team. Try to Add 4 teams for a third division in the Korean league. These four teams could be in China, Taiwan, Philippines or a combination of them. Now, if they really want to compete with USA; put 4 teams on the west coast of North America. MLB will only take notice once Asia starts eating into their territories. Cities to consider: Vancouver, Sacramento, Portland, Las Vegas, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Honolulu, and Calgary.

    • West coast? Travel time is too long. Not a good idea.

      • Its just a matter of getting used to. The St.Louis Cardinals left the American Association and joined the NL in 1892. They took the train to play away games. I’m sure the home teams had a huge advantage back then. May have taken an all nighter to reach most of the teams on the East coast.. There is a reason (besides tradition) that games are played in series. -Mainly to save on travel expenses but I’m sure travel time was another factor. It can be done. MLB will not take notice of NPL as an equal until it starts competing against them for the American dollar. Right now, MLB, is still in safe mode. They are not thinking of expansion. They are sweating bullets trying to save so many mismanaged teams on the brink of bankruptcy. Its a good time for another league to move in if they can. Right now, there are 51 pro teams in America with no Affiliation to MLB. I believe that is the most ever. Baseball is running strong and growing by the minute. Its only MLB thats running stagnant.

        • Well If someone wants to challenge MLB on its own turf, they need to have financial backing to steal the best players away. It’s almost as if buying into the league would be cheaper.

          • The way NPL does it can challenge the MLB. The teams in NPL are owned by corporations not people. If they continue this business model, the large International conglomerates could franchise expansion teams. Their benefit, besides making money and enjoying owning a world class baseball team, is promoting their companies around the world where the games will be played. MLB does this mainly with their stadiums…. and this so happens to be where the money has been moving. Every MLB team is or has put pressure on the local community to help fund new stadium projects. Only two teams (Oakland and Tampa) have not gotten what they wanted. Even the AAA, AA, and some Independent teams have put pressure on the local municipalities and corporations to help fund “their” team with a new stadium deal and this has all been done during a stagnant economy. -Buying into the “good ol’ boy network” is VERY difficult. It has been done (Mariners, Angels, Braves, Blue Jays, Nationals). But Just realize 3 of the last 4 team sales (Rangers, Dodgers, Cubs) did not go to the highest bidder; but to the ownership group that would best be good for the league, of course, it was the league owners who determined who is best suited to have a team. The fourth guy, bought the Astros and hugely overbid for them. But he also will have to give up all his National league territories and move the team to the American League. No one else has ever been forced to do that. And this was the third MLB team that Jim Crane initially had the highest bid for. Mark Cuban is another obvious billionaire that the league “seems” to block from getting a team. It’s very difficult.

          • Well I agree that the NPB has the resources to field competitive teams, but the sheer distance between JP and the US makes it such that it is nearly impossible to play a game that is played 6 days a week. You would see month long road trips as the Portland Nissin Lancers have to fly to JP and play at least 6 different teams to make it worthwhile. That’s no way to get the locals interested…. We’re gonna be on he road for a whole month and you have to either wake up early or stay up late to watch our games live… Sorry…

            It might be interesting though if the Yomiuri Giants decided to play in the MLB with a home base in a West Coast US city for a year, just to see how things work out…

  9. John Flushing Says:

    Korea does too touch the Pacific Ocean. Look at a map if you don’t believe me.

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