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It was kind of a shocker to hear the news on Oct. 28 that the sale of the Yokohama BayStars franchise was not going through. The transfer of ownership had been anticipated for more than a month, and the talks between the potential buyer (JS Inc.) and the seller (TBS) appeared to be in the final stages.

Sports newspapers reported the negotiations broke down because the proposed new owner could not agree to the three conditions imposed by the current owner for the deal to be completed, and they had run out of time to prepare for the 2011 season.

The three conditions listed were: 1) The franchise would remain in Yokohama. 2) The team nickname, BayStars, would be retained. 3) Manager Takao Obana, having just concluded the first season of a three-year contract, would be kept on.

While it did not officially come out in the public domain, it appears JS wanted to move the team to Niigata and play in that city’s new Hard-Off Eco Stadium, and to replace Obana with another manager of its own choosing. The nickname may not have been that important, but it is one more suited to Yokohama than Niigata.

If JS had agreed to the three conditions, it would seem they could have wrapped up the sale rather quickly and, since they cut off the talks before the end of October, it makes one believe the explanation they had “run out of time” meant they did not have enough months to complete a move from Yokohama to Niigata and set up shop on the Sea of Japan coast.

I can see TBS insisting the BayStars remain in that city. Beyond that, the new owner should be able to do as it pleases with its new possession.

Suppose I sell you my car. Once you pay me the money, it is yours to do with as you like. I cannot impose conditions such as, you can only put a certain brand of gasoline in the tank, you must drive it for five years, and you may not have it painted another color. It’s your car now; do what you want with it.

The BayStars are in an extremely difficult situation. The team has finished in last place in the Central League the past three seasons, and it does not appear the situation will get any better in 2011. Attendance, bad enough as it was, was down by three percent in 2010, and it is no secret TBS is losing money running the ballclub.

If I were going to buy the team, I would want to make a complete overhaul of the club and its operations. I would stay in Yokohama, but I might want to change the nickname and would certainly think about replacing the manager after he supposedly had a better club than in 2009 but posted fewer wins in 2010 than the previous year.

There would be new personnel in the front office as well, and a change of the team logo, uniforms and colors.

Yomiuri Giants relief pitcher Marc Kroon played for the BayStars his first three seasons (2005-07) in Japan and remarked at how even the Yokohama practice gear appeared tacky. Prior to a late season game at Tokyo Dome, Kroon was telling his former teammates how their workout jerseys and pants did not match. He was right.

The tops and bottoms were similar, but of slightly different colors, giving the appearance the team bought them at a bargain sale somewhere and projecting the image of being cheap.

Kroon, whose pitching coach his first two seasons (2008-09) with the Giants was the current BayStars manager Obana, also noted there was something wrong with the atmosphere surrounding the Yokohama club.

“The aura is bad,” Kroon said, apparently implying the players did not have confidence they can win, and they badly need an injection of pride.

As the 2010 season began, it all looked so promising in the Port City, with hopes the BayStars might even make the Central League Climax Series. They appeared set at every position.

They were going to have perennial .300 hitter Seiichi Uchikawa at first base, Venezuelan Jose Castillo at second, up-and-coming youngster Takehiro Ishikawa at shortstop and slugger Shuichi Murata at third.

The outfield alignment had Terrmel Sledge in left, switch-hitting speedster Daisuke Hayakawa leading off in center and former All-Star Yuuki Yoshimura in right. Tasuku Hashimoto, coming in from the Chiba Lotte Marines with Hayakawa, was to have been the regular catcher.

Yokohama’s pitching staff was going to be OK, with veteran Daisuke Miura ditching free agency to stay with the team, Naoyuki Shimizu also joining from Lotte, and Americans Stephen Randolph and Chris Bootcheck in the starting rotation. Shun Yamaguchi was the capable closer.

When the season ended, Yoshimura was in the minors, having hit .205 with only three home runs in varsity action. Hayakawa played a total of 31 games with one home run and a .170 batting average. Hashimoto caught only 43 games, batting .246 with two homers.

Bootcheck won just one game, Randolph was 2-9, Miura 3-8 with a 7.23 ERA, Shimizu 10-11 with a 5.40 ERA.

A bright spot was seen in first baseman Brett Harper, who joined the club in mid-season and hit 19 homers while batting .316. But now Uchikawa, who hit .315, and Murata, the cleanup hitter who knocked out 26 homers and drove in 88, are free agents and seem about ready to leave the fold.

How could anyone buy this team and not be expected to make any changes?

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Contact Wayne Graczyk at: wayne@JapanBall.com

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