One has to wonder if former NPB commissioner Ryozo Kato cracked a smile when he opened his newspaper Friday morning and saw that there are more questions surrounding the official NPB ball, knowing that this time, he’s far away from the fray.

Granted, Kato hardly seems like a man who would derive pleasure from the misfortune of others, but there had to be some small sliver of him that relished the fact that this is someone else’s problem.

NPB on Thursday released findings that tests they’d performed at six stadiums on March 29, the second day of the regular season, revealed that balls were livelier than the maximum limit allows. The maximum coefficient of restitution (COR) allowed by NPB is 0.4234. Sports Nippon reported the average from last month’s tests to be 0.426 and noted similar tests in April of 2013 yielded a COR of 0.416 on average.

The league announced the findings itself, in stark contrast to the way the balls were secretly changed last year — an inept bit of subterfuge that cost Kato his job (more for his ignorance of the affair than an active role in it) once all the facts came to light.

NPB executive secretary Atsushi Ihara addressed the media Thursday, saying, “we apologize for not being able to identify the reasons for this, but we hope to find out why with swiftness and adjust it to the standards we’ve all agreed on,” according to Kyodo News.

But the fact NPB released the findings itself only make the story slightly better. Perhaps this time there’s no clandestine plot to sneak in a new ball like last year (and let’s not forget just how half-baked and nonsensical that plan actually was, and that a few league officials actually thought it was doable and went through with it) and is just an error, either accidental or purposeful, by ball manufacturer Mizuno.

Either way, it’s just not a good look. What fans will see is another instance of NPB brass coming up short at the most basic levels — not being able to produce a ball that meets their own standards.

Yes, they came clean about the differences the tests yielded, but that only begs the question of why the league can’t get things right in the first place. After last season’s fiasco, the league owes it to players and fans to stay on top of the issue and be up front about things before further changes are noticed, not left to give apologies and explanations that ring hollow after the fact.

If NPB and Mizuno can’t get on the same page, maybe the league has to think about looking elsewhere (even outside Japan if need be) to get balls made to the specifications it set forth.

Yes, this time NPB is shifting the blame to Mizuno a bit initially, but the league has already shown it’s not above asking for changes in the dark.

Kato was left in the dark with everyone else last time, and then resigned from his post as the ostensible fall guy for the maleficence of others. Even with him gone, it seems NPB still can’t get the ball right.

So you can’t blame Kato if he sat down Friday, read the headlines, and somewhere deep down, let himself smile just a little over the fact that at least he can’t go down for this twice.

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