Last week, two Japanes teams, the Orix BlueWave and Kintetsu Buffaloes, signed a basic agreement to merge, a move that still must be approved at the owners' meeting on September 8. Speculation is swirling that the Japanese Central and Pacific Leagues will merge into one ten-team league. The leagues now have six teams each and the proposed merger would reduce the total to an unmanageable eleven teams.
The players then voted to authorize a strike should the merger go through. The 98% players voted in the affirmative.
Teams contracted? Players threatening to strike? Sound familiar?
When MLB had similar problems two seasons ago, many theorized that the sport would not survive. Those prophesies may hold true for Japan, where the teams are reeling supposedly due to defections to the majors and to economic problems in the country in general.
Whatever the results, it should be a boon for the majors. If the Japanese leagues fold, there should be an influx of major-league and near major-league talent. If the players strike, it may prompt more veterans to immigrate to our friendly shores. If the owners nix the merger fearing a potentially costly strike, they may be permanently damaged, leaving themselves open to a partial or full buyout by MLB. The same thing happened with the Canadian Football League a few years ago when they were helped out by the NFL. I'm sure that MLB would then use their influence to free up more free agents for major-league consumption.
Then again, given the mixed results for the transplanted Japanese players—is Little Matsui considered a success?—the best that adding the Japanese players to the major-league pool may do is to expand Triple-A and bring back the American Association.