Playoff schedule denies NPB center stage


Major League Baseball, as it has done throughout its playoffs, showcased the best of the best over the weekend.

On Saturday in the U.S., the Texas Rangers and New York Yankees played a day game in Game 2 of the American League Championship Series while the prime-time stage went to the Philadelphia Phillies and San Francisco Giants in Game 1 of the National League Championship Series.

During the time of the year when fans care about baseball the most and interest rises among casual observers, MLB raised its profile by putting its best product on the field at times when people could actually see it.

Seeing the MLB system in action made it all the more amazing to watch Japanese baseball continue to cannibalize itself.

Saturday and Sunday in Japan saw the Chiba Lotte Marines and Fukuoka Softbank Hawks compete in the final stage of the Pacific League playoffs. In the Central League, the Climax Series first stage began with the nation’s most popular teams, the Hanshin Tigers and the defending Japan Series champion Yomiuri Giants, playing in Japan’s most revered venue, Koshien Stadium.

All four NPB games over the weekend turned out to be tightly contested, and were just the thing NPB could use to keep current fans captivated and attract new supporters.

Except that the games began within an hour of each other. Which made it hard for fans at home to view both and nearly impossible for those attending one game to watch any of the other.

Japanese baseball is already fighting with MLB for fan interest. So NPB needs to do everything it can to get as many eyeballs on the diamond as it possibly can.

With only two games on the slate on Saturday and Sunday, simply playing one during the day and one at night would’ve maximized viewership.

Fans in cities without a playoff team could have watched both at home and bars and restaurants would have been able to show them in their establishments.

Fans who attended a game could have made it home to catch at least some of the second game, or spill out into the area surrounding the stadium to find somewhere to watch.

It would’ve meant more viewers for the Japanese game which is just as exciting and compelling as its U.S. counterpart in the postseason.

With more viewers watching each game, NPB could’ve potentially generated a bit more advertising revenue as well.

As it stands, on-air advertisers aren’t having their ads seen by as many people as possible. Because a lot of baseball fans who may have watched the PL game were busy watching the CL contest, and vice versa, because it was on at the same time.

Even those advertisers who paid to have ads shown during both games likely would’ve been open to paying a bit more to potentially double the number of people seeing their products during each contest.

The schedule isn’t just thrown together after the regular season, so it’s a wonder enough people didn’t consider the benefits of not having two games going on at the same time.

Japanese baseball already has a lot of competition from other interests for the hearts and minds of the populace this time of year, from the ever-expanding reach of the already immensely popular J. League, to the late-season tennis, golf and racing events that descend upon Japan in October, as well as MLB itself.

So NPB officials need to be doing everything they can to increase viewership, instead of cutting their own audience in half.

The teams playing now are the cream of the crop. In the future, Japanese baseball needs to find a way to avoid having them all basically playing at the same time.

After all, no one really wins if all you’re doing is competing against yourself.