After initially denying that any changes had been made despite an explosion in the number of home runs this season, Nippon Professional Baseball on June 11 admitted that it had made the standardized ball used this season livelier than before and apologized for making such a change without notifying players. Clearly NPB has betrayed the trust of players and fans. NPB commissioner Mr. Ryozo Kato and other NPB officials should take the matter seriously.
The NPB’s betrayal is serious all the more because despite the suspicions this season, it had continued to deny that a change was made to the ball. NPB also had told ball maker Mizuno to keep silent about the change. It made the admission on June 11 only after the association of players pressed it to tell the truth.
Although Mr. Kato, a former ambassador to the United States, insists that he was not aware of the change, he must accept responsibility for this scandal. Under the leadership of Mr. Kato, NPB introduced a “standardized” ball in 2011 to make balls used in Japan’s pro baseball games less lively than before, putting it on the same level as the baseball used in international competition such as the World Baseball Classic.
This was a reasonable decision designed to prevent Japanese pro baseball players from becoming dismayed over the different ball conditions in international games. Mizuno became the sole manufacturer of the standardized ball.
The average number of home runs per game was 1.78 in 2009 and 1.86 in 2010. But the figure dropped to 1.09 in 2011 and 1.02 in 2012. On June 11, NPB Secretary General Kunio Shimoda said that because it was found by the summer of 2012 that the coefficient of rebound for many balls was found to be smaller than the lower limit of the standard introduced in 2011, NPB ordered Mizuno to make a change and began using new balls from the start of this season.
It is unfathomable why NPB chose not to announce that it decided to make the ball livelier to ensure that its rebound fell within the limits of the 2011 standard. More importantly, why did NBP officials think it was necessary to conceal the change in the first place and then repeatedly lie about it?
The NPB officials’ utter lack of judgement has severely damaged both players’ and fans’ trust of NPB officials and besmirched NPB’s international reputation. Mr. Shimoda’s pathetic explanation has only served to deepen distrust. On June 11, he said that he consulted with Mr. Kato in the summer of 2012 over the change to the ball. But the next day, he said that he did not tell the commissioner about the change. Mr. Kato did no better, saying “NBP had no intention of hiding the fact. But I would like to apologize for causing confusion.” His statement does not make any sense.
NPB’s June 14 decision to set up a third-party investigation committee to investigate the scandal is not enough. NPB’s top officials can begin to repair the damage their actions have caused by tendering their resignations.