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Delay in agreement on new posting system just latest black eye for NPB

by Jack Gallagher

Pretty sad to see the negotiations over the new posting system between NPB and MLB continue to drag on. It’s already December now and MLB teams are trying to set their rotations for next season.

It doesn’t look too good when NPB sends its director of baseball operations (Nobuhisa Ito) to negotiate with a monolith like MLB, then he comes back and blames the other side for a deal not being reached.

Being embarrassed on the international stage is definitely not cool, but is it just me, or are the NPB folks completely oblivious?

Just a shrug of the shoulders like we so often see in this country.

Meanwhile, the clock keeps ticking and Masahiro Tanaka’s future hangs in the balance. It almost makes you wonder if the dithering is not intentional, so it gets to the point where Tanaka says, “OK. I will just stay in Japan for another year.”

NPB really needs to get its house in order. First there was the ball scandal, now no commissioner or new posting system.

When will the comedy routine end?

* * *

Speaking of the NPB, if former Mizuno Corp. chairman Masato Mizuno does not become the head of the organizing committee for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics (TOCOG), how about having him be the new NPB commissioner?

The person in that position needs credibility. I can’t think of a better candidate than Mizuno. Background, experience, gravitas . . . sounds like he would be the perfect fit.

But you just get the vibe that no matter how long they take, they are going to get it wrong.

Why do I have the feeling that the people at the JFA and J. League must look at the way NPB is run and just laugh?

* * *

Last month Hideo Nomo appeared on the Hall of Fame ballot in North America for the first time. Though he is unlikely to be voted in by the writers, he has a good chance of making it in eventually through the Veteran’s Committee.

The 45-year-old Nomo, who won 123 games and threw two no-hitters in the majors would go in as a pioneer, which he truly was.

Meanwhile, the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame announced last week that Nomo is also on its ballot for the first time. The Osaka native won 78 games in five seasons with the Kintetsu Buffaloes before departing for the majors in 1995.

It would seem far more likely that he would make it into the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown than in Japan. But one never knows. He might end up in both.

Say what you want about Nomo, but he did it his way and let the chips fall where they may. You have to respect that.

* * *

It’s worth pointing out that Nomo’s predecessor in the majors — Masanori “Mashi” Murakami — is on the HOF ballot in Japan in the “Expert Division” for the first time. The category comprises managers and coaches who have been retired for at least six months, or players who have been retired for 21 or more years.

Murakami, who pitched for the San Francisco Giants in 1964-65, won 103 games and had 30 saves during an 18-season career with the Nankai Hawks, Hanshin Tigers and Nippon Ham Fighters. But he was generally seen as a disappointment back home following the splash he made in the majors at just 20.

The irony here can’t be understated. Murakami only played two seasons in the majors because the Hawks and NPB forced the Giants and MLB to let him “decide” where he wanted to play the 1966 season.

Murakami’s delayed return to San Francisco for the 1965 campaign caused him to miss all of training camp and the first three weeks of the season.

So infuriated was MLB commissioner Ford Frick by the behavior of the Hawks and NPB, who were violating the terms of Murakami’s contract, that he suspended all baseball relations between the two countries until the matter was resolved.

Here we are, nearly 50 years later, and you have to wonder if much has really changed.

* * *

The men’s volleyball team from Iran showed great poise and talent in scoring a five-set victory over the United States during the recent Grand Champions Cup in Tokyo.

Just two points from defeat in the fourth set, the Iranians battled back to force a decisive fifth set and prevailed in a match that was televised live in their country.

The Iranian fans in attendance at Tokyo Metropolitan Gym were euphoric after the victory. Perhaps most impressive was the way they recognized Argentine coach Julio Velasco following the win. They chanted “Vel-as-co, Vel-as-co, Vel-as-co” as the teams left the court.

It was Velasco’s decision to bring in a couple of players off the bench in the crucial moments against the U.S. that led to the triumph.

The 61-year-old Velasco, considered one of the top coaches in the world, has done a fabulous job with the Iran players. In three years he has turned them into Asian champions and one of the top 10 teams in the world.

Velasco, who has also been the coach of Italy, the Czech Republic and Spain, shared some interesting observations following Iran’s victory over Japan in the final match of the tournament.

“The stereotypes in volleyball have changed,” noted Velasco. “There was a time when the small players could pass, receive and serve, and the big players could block and attack. Now all of the players can do everything. It’s a different game.”

Velasco is the kind of coach that sports writers love. Articulate, intelligent, and a true student of the game. He is a great communicator.

* * *

It was fairly predictable to see what has happened to the Chiba Jets during their inaugural season in the National Basketball League. The team began the campaign with a surprising 4-0 start, but since has lost 16 games in a row.

Head coach Reggie Geary, who led the Yokohama B-Corsairs to the bj-league title last season, is finding the going a bit tougher in the NBL, where there are fewer foreign players and the caliber of Japanese players is better.

The bottom line is that a team like Chiba does not have the level of Japanese players or the bankroll to compete against the likes of powers like Aisin, Toyota and Toshiba.

The Jets should have looked before they leapt. It won’t be easy to draw fans or foreign players if this keeps up much longer.

* * *

I see where one of the four gold medals that Jesse Owens won at the 1936 Berlin Olympics is up for auction. This is the kind of thing that makes your stomach churn.

The medal is not being sold by the Owens family, but by the estate of the widow of former actor Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, whom Owens gave the medal to for helping him find work after his athletic career was over.

While the sale is certainly understandable during the times we are presently living in, let’s hope some individual or organization with the resources does the right thing and buys this treasure and puts it in a museum where it belongs.

Owens was a giant at an important moment in history. His legacy deserves to be passed on to future generations. Making this medal available to the public is one way this can be done.