Saturday, September 16, 2006

Conflicts of Interest.....

The recent signing of Yi-Hao Lin by the Yomiuri Giants leaves me scratching my head. Lin, a once in a decade type talent, recently officialized his agreement to sign with the Japanese NPB team. At 15 years old, Lin is the youngest Taiwanese kid to ever sign with a pro baseball team. He breaks Ching-Lung Lo's record - who was 16 when he signed with the Colorado Rockies.

The NPB recently passed a new rule which allows them to actively pursue and sign foreign players, at any time and regardless of age. The foreign players would receive a small preliminary signing bonus and get free room and board. For younger players like Lin, they would be enrolled in Japanese high schools to receive their education, but train with the minor league ni-gun teams. Upon graduation from HS, the kids would then circumvent the amateur NPB draft by being offered a "formal signing bonus" from their respective team. This would eliminate competition from other NPB teams and MLB clubs.

What this new rule does is effectively give the NPB an unfair advantage over MLB clubs for not only Taiwanese prospects, but for kids all over the world. The MLB has an age limit, where kids must be 16 in order to sign with a team. I have no problems with the NPB or MLB policies and rules regarding signing young foreign talent. What I do have a problem with is the fact that the upper governing bodies in Taiwan baseball have exhibited a schizophrenic personality when it comes to young talent leaving Taiwan for the US or Japan. Well respected NT coach Hua-Wei Lin encouraged and facilitated Lin's signing with the Yomiuri Giants. However, he along with other top baseball officials pushed for Taiwanese HS kids to graduate from HS before they could be eligible to sign with US ML teams. In fact Chih-Hsien Chiang's signing with the Red Sox caused controversy when his HS baseball team faced sanctions for the 2006-2007 season when they (not Chiang) were punished because of the fact that Chiang signed with the Red Sox before he finished HS.

If things continue on their current path, then we will continue to see a talent drain as top young Taiwanese talent flow towards Japan, ala Lin and C.S. Yang. Unless a player really wants to go the US, MLB will be stuck with sloppy seconds or late bloomers like C.M. Wang.

My thanks to my buddy for contributing info to this rant.

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