International Pastime: Japan Imposes Ban on Players Returning From U.S.

International Pastime looks at baseball's influence outside the U.S.

You've probably noticed over the last few years there have been a lot more players in MLB with names that are hard to pronounce, or just sound dirty. Yes, Japan is quickly becoming the new Latin America as just about every team these days is adding a Japanese player to their roster.

It's hard to blame them for it, as guys like Ichiro Suzuki, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Hideki Matsui, and Akinori Iwamura are proving themselves to be pretty good players. It's also nice to have a Kosuke Fukudome around for a fan base to blame for everything.

Of course, on the flip side of this equation is Japan. Due to the amount of Japanese players crossing the Pacific for the honor of facing off against John Lannan and the Washington Nationals, it's leaving the Japanese league a little thin. Which is why they've decided to implement a new policy in hopes of keeping players from leaving the island.

An executive committee representing Japan's 12 professional baseball teams have agreed to introduce a ban on players returning to Japanese baseball after turning down rookie draft nominations in Japan and signing with overseas pro teams.

The committee decided to ban players who had graduated from high school from entering professional Japanese teams for three years after returning to Japan from overseas stints, and introduce a two-year ban for such players who had been in university or company teams.

The move is no doubt a reaction to the news that Japan's newest pitching phenom, Junichi Tazawa, has already said he has no plans on playing in Japan and will go straight to the Major Leagues, where there will no doubt be a bidding war for his services.

I'm not sure what kind of impact this will have, really, because generally the players that come to the States stay in the States. It's only mediocre American players (hello, Tuffy Rhodes) who go to Japan, and washed up movie stars like Tom Selleck.

It's also important to note that this does have quite a bit to do with money as well. You see, the real reason Japan doesn't want it's players coming to the U.S. straight out of high school before playing professionally there is there's no posting fee for these players. For instance, when Daisuke Matsuzaka was coming over the Pacific, the Red Sox had to pay his team $51 million just for the right to talk to him.

Where as for a player like Tazawa, it will cost a team nothing more than your typical rookie signing bonus to get him here. Well, until the Yankees come in and offer him $100 million as a panic move after not making the playoffs this season.

(Traditional Japanese bow to SPORTSbyBROOKS)

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