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BayStars for Sale, Again

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Welcome to the Bayside West: Yokohama Blog

Featuring Michael Westbay (a.k.a. westbaystars)

Michael Westbay has been blogging about Pro Yakyu since before the word "blog" entered the vernacular. Here he writes about Pro Yakyu in general, and the Yokohama BayStars in particular.


BayStars for Sale, Again

10 replies. Most recent reply: Nov 5, 2011 11:00 AM by westbaystars

A group of home builders and fixtures tried to buy the Yokohama BayStars at the end of the 2010 season. It was the Giants' head chairman, Watanabe Tsuneo, who alerted the press about the back room dealings going on. That led to an outcry from BayStars fans, and the deal was eventually aborted due to TBS' (Tokyo Broadcasting System) insistence that staying in Yokohama be a condition of the sale.

Once again, September comes around and it's the Giants' head chairman, Watanabe Tsuneo, alerting the press that there are several suitors looking to buy the Yokohama BayStars. But according to quotes in a SanSpo.com article, it's very clear that Nabetsune (as Watanabe-kaicho is "affectionately" called) isn't trying to break up the deal this year. This is the meat of what he says:
"TBS is bad, but it's a loss leader that they have. The conditions for using Yokohama Stadium are the worst. Nippon Ham has succeeded. SoftBank and Rakuten also. Yokohama would be better off moving elsewhere."
While it doesn't appear that Watanabe-kaicho is aware of the bad deal that SoftBank got when it bought the Hawks without Fukuoka Dome included, he does have a point. The team gets very little revenue from playing at Yokohama Stadium, reportedly paying more to use the facilities than they bring in, even when they do have a sell out crowd.

Of course, Nabetsune also has his own stipulations as to what kind of new owner will be accepted into the NPB fold. "変な企業" ("strange enterprises") will not be accepted (I don't think he approves of Internet companies), nor will a company controlled by foreigners. Only industries that make excellent products (that he can understand) will be allowed in. Two potential suitors are HIS (a travel agency) and DeNA (pronounced "D.N.A." - makers of games for phones) have been identified so far. Nojima Denki (an electronics retailer headquartered in Yokohama) has been mentioned a number of times in the past as a potential buyer, but not in this more recent round.

Okay, that was the news part. Now for some commentary.

Watanabe-kaicho clearly wants competition in the Kanto area reduced. He was trying to reduce the number of teams in 2004, reportedly (speculatively?) looking to eliminate Lotte, Seibu, Yakult, and/or Yokohama, merging any two together. Hey, they're all Kanto area teams! Now, why would he want to do that? He's not worried about losing the Giants' fan base is he? Or does he think that it would expand their fan base? No, that wouldn't be very likely, as fans of the other four Kanto team tend to be so as anti-Giants fans. That won't change.

The other major point that he makes is avoiding foreign controlled interests. It was rumored that a foreign group, and close personal friends of Bobby Valentine, expressed interest in the BayStars back in 2008 with the goal of bringing Bobby across Tokyo Bay. Valentine-kantoku supposedly turned down the alleged offer as he couldn't imagine leaving Chiba. (This was clearly before Lotte's front office turned on him.) Watanabe-kaicho would (and probably should) greatly fear a Central League team in the Kanto area led by the charismatic Bobby Valentine. The Giants would have a very hard time competing for headline space against such a team. So it seems that he's making it clear from the start that such an action will not be tolerated in the halls of NPB (not matter how much such a move could energize the sport).

So, will TBS be able to dump the team off on somebody else this time around? I don't know. And I certainly hope that if they do that the new owners have a personal interest in keeping the team in Yokohama. As the drama unfolds in the coming couple of months, now that the cat is out of the bag, those will be my main two concerns. I didn't feel that TBS' went into the purchase with all their heart when they bought the team from Maruha (a fish canery company). I hope that they pass it on to someone who will go in with all their heart.
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Comments

Re: BayStars for Sale, Again

[ Author: Christopher | Posted: Oct 20, 2011 12:53 PM | Posts: 3482 | From: Tokyo | HAN Fan | Registered: Sep, 2004 ]
It seems that DeNA are the latest suitors for BayStars and that the sale will go ahead. What are your thoughts on this Michael?

Re: BayStars for Sale, Again

[ Author: westbaystars | Posted: Oct 20, 2011 10:55 PM | Posts: 35252 | From: Yokohama, Japan | YBS Fan | Registered: Aug, 2001 ]
The whole process this year as opposed to last year has been quite different. While it was Watanabe-kaicho that broke the news both times, Nabetsune went from not caring much for the idea of an Internet company to saying that he wouldn't say "No" to DeNA. Some time in between the two statements, DeNA commercials started showing on G+ (Yomiuri's satellite news and Giants' channel for those unfamiliar). I had never heard of DeNA before this whole thing started, yet they're running commercials on G+ and not NewsBird (TBS' satellite news channel that carries BayStars' games)? Who, exactly, is DeNA courting?

Also, who is behind DeNA? I've read numerous articles about their Mobage (abbreviated sound of "mobile" and "games" combined), the branch of DeNA that is interesting in purchasing the BayStars, but nothing of the people behind either of these companies. Even the talks last year put a person in charge of the suiting home fixture company. There is absolutely no transparency going on with the negotiations this year. And that makes it even stranger that Watanabe-kaicho knows more about what's going on than anybody, BayStars' staff included.

My biggest fear, of course, is that the purchaser will want to move the club elsewhere. When word leaked last year, TBS made a strong showing that they were dedicated to keeping the team in Yokohama. There is no such statement this time around.

There isn't enough information to comment on beyond that, so I'll just wait and see what happens next.

Re: BayStars for Sale, Again

[ Author: ht_fan | Posted: Oct 21, 2011 6:57 AM | Posts: 30 | HAN Fan | Registered: Jul, 2009 ]
I understand that the situation is still unclear, but I also read (in english-translated news, at least) that the team is supposed to remain in Yokohama. If you were to place a bet on it, what do you think the odds would be that they'll stay?

Re: BayStars for Sale, Again

[ Author: westbaystars | Posted: Oct 21, 2011 5:35 PM | Posts: 35252 | From: Yokohama, Japan | YBS Fan | Registered: Aug, 2001 ]
Of course, right after I write that we don't even know who we're dealing with, Nikkan Sports has a picture of DeNA's president Haruda (春田) on the back page saying essentially, "no comment." It has also come to light that Keihin Kyuko (train, bus, and real estate company) and Mitsuuroko (never heard of it before) are also putting in bids for the team. While DeNA is headquartered in Tokyo, Keikyu and Mitsuuroko are both Yokohama companies, and are more likely to stay in Yokohama. DeNA's stance on staying in Yokohama has not yet been stated, although it sounds like Watanabe-CEO is pushing DeNA to take the team elsewhere. (There is just something very strange going on behind the scenes where Nabetsune knows more about what's going on than anyone else.)

As for the odds for staying, sorry, but I'm not a gambler or a bookie. There isn't enough information yet to make an informed determination, so I'm fine with just waiting and seeing.

Re: BayStars for Sale, Again

[ Author: ht_fan | Posted: Oct 22, 2011 12:05 AM | Posts: 30 | HAN Fan | Registered: Jul, 2009 ]
[...]
>
> As for the odds for staying, sorry, but I'm not a
> gambler or a bookie. There isn't enough information
> yet to make an informed determination, so I'm fine
> with just waiting and seeing.

Of course you're right, sorry for asking a silly question...and really thanks a lot for all the infos, let's hope for the best!

Re: BayStars for Sale, Again

[ Author: ht_fan | Posted: Oct 26, 2011 6:57 AM | Posts: 30 | HAN Fan | Registered: Jul, 2009 ]
Hmmm...I just read two articles about Haruta Makoto's (DeNa's chairman) answers to the press (one on yakyubaka, the other on japanball) and either they're quoting two different phrases, or else if it's the same one, then one of the versions doesn't seem to be translated properly.
Here's the quote from japanball:

1) Haruta [...]added that DeNA plans to be in
the baseball business for the long haul.
''It's a big market and unless there's a sound reason, I don't
feel like we should move out,'' he said. ''If we're doing this, we're doing this for a long period of time.''

And here's the one from yakyubaka:

2) Haruta [said]:
[Yokohama is a] major business and economic center. I don't think it's a place we want to move out of. ... The company is thinking about expanding overseas, we're in the midst of growing. The way we see it, Yokohama is a great place to start from.


So now I wonder whether he said they don't want to move out of the baseball business once they're in, or if he said that they don't want to move out of Yokohama (thus putting an end to our fears of a relocation)...or maybe he did say both?

Re: BayStars for Sale, Again

[ Author: westbaystars | Posted: Oct 26, 2011 9:49 AM | Posts: 35252 | From: Yokohama, Japan | YBS Fan | Registered: Aug, 2001 ]
The first quote, being in it for the long haul, matches what I read in Japanese in Nikkan Sports this morning. The second quote, about launching an expansion from Yokohama, is part of an adjacent article in Nikkan Sports, so he said that, too. The first article was a question and answer session. The second article was a reporter's account of what Haruta-kaicho said and how that will impact a number of different things, like the current team staff (doesn't know yet), whether or not the team will stay in Yokohama (he likes Yokohama and foresees staying there), and his company (the quote you mentioned above).

The second article also has clarifications on what were initial criticisms against the potential sale to DeNA from a couple of Pacific League teams who now say that they would like to hear from the potential new owner before making up their minds.

I now have enough information to feel that I can make an informed opinion of the sale to DeNA, and I don't see any issues that I would object to. Haruta-kaicho would like to remain in Yokohama, which alleviates my biggest fear. He strikes me as a forward thinking executive, which is very nice to see. The only issues remaining are the potential renaming of the team (please, nothing with "Mobage" in it!) and next year's staff (which I'm not even sure of what to do).

Oh, there was one rumor about Lotte's former club president Setoyama joining Yokohama, but I don't recall seeing which group he was associated with. Please, don't do that. We've got enough troubles in the front office without adding his mis-management.

Re: BayStars for Sale, Again

[ Author: ht_fan | Posted: Oct 26, 2011 8:10 PM | Posts: 30 | HAN Fan | Registered: Jul, 2009 ]
Thanks for the clarification, man! ^___^

Re: BayStars for Sale, Again

[ Author: Switch Pitcher | Posted: Nov 5, 2011 9:41 AM | Posts: 28 | From: Edogawa-ku | LOT Fan | Registered: May, 2011 ]
Well it seems you were right on this sale as it has now come into the open. If it is accepted by the League then its official. If it is to be moved look for a public display of the stadium difficulties followed by one year of remaining in Yokohama to calm fears, only to be followed by them moving the next year or year after. A new stadium, or a new agreement, is key to them staying one would think. I hope they stay as what you said about the Giants cleaning out Tokyo for themselves is not what baseball is about. Yokohama is big enough for its own team, it just needs to take a "Money Ball" attitude to its underdog status and not leave any weaknesses in its management. They need to think out side the box, and they will be fine.

Re: BayStars for Sale, Again

[ Author: westbaystars | Posted: Nov 5, 2011 11:00 AM | Posts: 35252 | From: Yokohama, Japan | YBS Fan | Registered: Aug, 2001 ]
Thanks for the comments, Switch Pitcher. It looks like it's now time for a new post stating that the 'Stars have been sold. As DeNA has aborted plans for including "Mobage" in the team name, I don't foresee any problems from the other owners.

From what's been said (in print), DeNA does not plan on moving the team. They are based in Tokyo and would prefer their team be nearby. Yokohama's mayor has also stated that she's going to get involved in getting a better deal with Yokohama Stadium. A previous mayor had tried to get a tax-funded stadium built near Yokohama Station (which would be even better situated than Kannai, which isn't a bad spot by any means), but that referendum didn't make it very far.

With a technology company taking over, I think that there is a good chance that "Money Ball" principals will start to be applied internally. That will be something to watch out for. Do SoftBank and Rakuten show any signs of using such data analysis? I'd heard that SoftBank had looked into creating a sabermetrics division, but I hadn't heard anything regarding a follow up on that initiative. Yes, that could be very interesting.
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