Nippon Professional Baseball turned a page on Monday, when new commissioner Katsuhiko Kumazaki had his first official day at the office.
Kumazaki spoke about reforming a system that allowed subordinates to make significant changes to NPB’s official ball a year ago and cover it up. A lawyer and renowned former prosecutor, who had been an advisor to NPB, Kumazaki used traditionally humble language in his remarks.
“We must be an organization that maintains open lines of communication,” said Kumazaki. “It might not be much, but I will grapple with issues using all my strength.
“How can we make the organization strong and energetic? The first task is overhauling and strengthening the secretariat.”
His predecessor, Ryozo Kato, stepped down in October after his subordinates had NPB’s official ball modified to bring it in line with the organization’s rules but kept the change a secret — even from the commissioner.
Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles president Yozo Tachibana revealed Monday that his team has responded to a warning letter issued by Major League Baseball over perceived irregularities regarding the posting of pitcher Masahiro Tanaka.
An issue arose when the pitcher commented last month that he would like to help out the club in ways such as donating to the overhaul of its ballpark. MLB issued a warning to the Eagles, demanding they observe the regulation that prevents Japanese clubs from receiving any value other than the fee they can charge big league clubs in the posting system. New regulations limit that fee to $20 million.
“All we wrote is that we will observe the letter of the terms in the agreement,” Tachibana said of the response his team sent to Nippon Professional Baseball for delivery to MLB.
The new agreement, which went into effect in December and will run for three years, was concluded despite the objections of the Eagles. Had the previous posting agreement remained in force, the Eagles would have stood to reap a vastly larger windfall than $20 million for Tanaka’s release.
Tanaka’s comments provoked an angry response from MLB over the possibility that the Eagles may be trying to circumvent the new rules.