The first strike in the history of Japanese baseball looked increasingly likely Thursday after representatives of the country’s professional baseball teams ruled out a key player demand.
Japan’s professional players had threatened to strike this weekend unless a one-year freeze was placed on the merger of the Pacific League’s Kintetsu Buffaloes and the Orix BlueWave.
But team officials told the Japanese baseball players’ association Thursday that a freeze on the merger was impossible.
“Now it’s just a question of whether the players can accept that,” said Atsuya Furuta, the head of the players’ association.
Talks are expected to continue until 5 p.m. Friday, the deadline set by the players to avoid a strike.
In Thursday’s meeting, the team representatives also briefed players on plans for interleague games that would be introduced next season.
With the merger of the Buffaloes and the BlueWave, the Pacific League was reduced from six teams to five, which could result in at least 100 players and team personnel losing their jobs.
There are six teams in the Central League.
Also on Thursday, the president of Tokyo-based Internet services company Livedoor announced he applied to Nippon Professional Baseball to set up a new team in Sendai in northeastern Japan.
The Buffaloes reportedly have taken losses of $36 million a year due to a drop in attendance and rising player salaries. The team’s owners have said previously they can’t put the merger off for another year.
Swallows pound ‘Stars
Kyodo News Shinya Miyamoto and Atsuya Furuta hit two-run homers to contribute to a 16-hit attack as the Yakult Swallows pounded the Yokohama BayStars 8-3 in only game of the Central League on Thursday.
Miyamoto connected off Daisuke Miura (6-7) in the first inning before Furuta highlighted a three-run fifth with his 23rd homer of the season as the home team took a 7-2 lead at Jingu Stadium.
Masanori Ishikawa (10-9) allowed three runs on six hits in seven innings of work to record his first double-digit victory in his third year in pro baseball.
Tyrone Woods homered — his 42nd of the season — in the fifth but Yokohama lost its fifth in a row.
Giants at Carp — ppd.
Yamashita to resign
YOKOHAMA (Kyodo) Yokohama BayStars manager Daisuke Yamashita will step down at the end of the season after failing to lift the club away from the wrong end of the Central League standings since taking over the helm almost two years ago, baseball sources said Thursday.
Yamashita was appointed in October 2002 after Masaaki Mori resigned but was unable to turn the fortunes of the club around in his first season in charge as the BayStars finished last in the six-team league, 42 1/2 games behind the Hanshin Tigers last year.
Yokohama kept faith in the 52-year-old but the BayStars have continued to struggle and after Wednesday’s games were languishing in fifth in the standings with 50 wins, 65 losses and three ties.