Major League Baseball Seeks `Real World Series' With Japan's Champions

Major League Baseball wants a “Real World Series” against Japan’s champion, and will continue talks next month on a competition with Nippon Professional Baseball, said its top official in Asia.

Officials of both leagues will meet in January for a fourth round of discussions, Jim Small, MLB’s vice president for Asia, said at a media conference in Tokyo yesterday. Complicating any title series schedule would be cold weather, free-agency for MLB players and competition from other sports for airtime, he said.

“When you really get into the details of it, it’s a difficult thing to see happening, but we continue to do it,” Small said. “Not all those things are insurmountable but they do create some issues.” An NPB spokesman in Tokyo, who didn’t want to be identified, declined to comment on the talks.

A matchup this year would have pitted teams from the relatively milder climates of San Francisco and Chiba, east of Tokyo. Playing late-November games outdoors in cities such as Boston, Minneapolis or Sendai -- 200 miles (300 kilometers) north of Japan’s capital -- might be a tough sell to players.

“No!,” replied Prince Fielder when Small asked the two- time All-Star if he’d like to play a series in 32 degrees Fahrenheit (0 degrees Celsius). Fielder, who was at the media conference yesterday, is visiting China and Japan as part of MLB’s efforts to promote baseball overseas.

A competition with last year’s World Series winners the New York Yankees or 2008 champions Philadelphia Phillies would have meant playing in colder temperatures.

“We’ve literally gone back to look at 10 years of weather in New York and Philadelphia and other cold weather cities to see the first snowfall,” Small said.

Missing Players

MLB’s free-agency period was moved forward this year to Nov. 7, its earliest start, Small said. For the San Francisco Giants, who beat the Texas Rangers in this year’s World Series, that may have meant playing without first baseman Aubrey Huff and shortstop Juan Uribe, Small said.

Uribe signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers, while Huff took a two-year, $22 million contract with the Giants on Nov. 23.

The Chiba Lotte Marines, who won the Japan Series last month for the first time since taking the title under then manager Bobby Valentine in 2005, might have been without shortstop Tsuyoshi Nishioka. The 2010 Japan batting champion was offered to Major League teams under NPB’s so-called posting system at the end of the season and is in negotiations with the Minnesota Twins.

The largest challenge is convincing the broadcasters, Small said. Competition from the National Football League, National Basketball Association and golf pushed the World Baseball Classic, a tournament including national teams to March. The next staging will be in March 2013. Japan won the competition in 2006 and 2009.

“We heard that loud and clear from our broadcasters when we talked about WBC being a November event,” he said. “It’s a very, very difficult exercise.”

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