Why Japanese fans love baseball strikes.

The stadium scene.
Sept. 29 2004 8:16 AM

The Fans in Japan

Why they're happy when baseball players go on strike.

(Continued from Page 1)

By this weekend it was all over. Management, in the face of overwhelming opposition, agreed to the addition of a new team for the 2005 season. Owners and players also agreed to establish a panel to discuss additional reforms like revenue sharing. And there were even more apologies. "We apologize for causing concerns among the fans. I am happy that we were able to greatly recover trust in each other," said one NPB official.

Furuta was visibly relieved, the strain on his face replaced by a beaming smile. While the players' union will no longer be a marginal presence in Japanese baseball, it doesn't seem like the game is ready for a sea change. The leading candidate to head up next year's expansion team isn't the brash, young entrepreneur Horie. It's Rakuten, Japan's top Internet retailer. The company's CEO told reporters that his primary reason for starting a new team was to promote his company—the same tired rationale every NPB franchise owner has used since the dawn of pro ball in Japan. Investors were so unimpressed that Rakuten stock immediately plunged an estimated 10 percent. It was an inauspicious way to start a revolution.

Robert Whiting is the author ofThe Meaning of Ichiro.

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