Allow 10th baseball club
Since its debut in 1981, pro baseball has emerged as one of the nation’s most popular sports. As they say that the good comes with the bad however, the league may be slipping into its worst crisis ever with players set to even boycott the All-Star Game scheduled for July 23.
Even more pitiable is the reason for possible disruption of the 2012 season: the existing club owners’ refusals to add another team to make it a 10-club league.
The players want it, the fans want it and all baseball-related organizations want it. But the owners don’t want it, and, despite what they cite as ostensible reasons, everybody also knows the ``real” one: the vested interests of the existing clubs, almost all of which are run by the nation’s family-controlled conglomerates, or chaebol.
These owners cite ``weak infrastructure,” saying the current small number of high-school teams cannot provide sufficient players to 10 teams, pulling down the quality of games and driving away fans. These are legitimate concerns, as quality is as important as quantity if not more so. But it is also the club owners who failed to replenish infrastructure by making more high school teams and building better ballparks, and are only bent on making short-term benefits by bolstering corporate image from winning annual titles.
Currently, barely 10 percent of amateur baseballers land a spot at a pro team and a number of second stringers are toiling to jump to the Korean version of the major leagues.
The addition of a new team will shrink their revenue in the short run, but that is how most other pro sports and foreign baseball leagues have grown ― suffering temporary income setbacks and garnering bigger slices later by enlarging the pie through joint efforts. Cuba, Mexico and Japan are running 16-club leagues, and even Canada, which has a far smaller population than Korea and performances in international championships are not better than this country’s, has 10 teams.
It is regrettable in this regard that the Korea Baseball Organization is acting more on behalf of owners rather than trying to represent the players and fans. Considering there are two local autonomous bodies wanting to be named the franchise of the 10th team, one can’t help but wonder what should the proper role of the KBO be as the entity that should take final responsibility for the sport’s prosperity and popularity.
Chaebol hold sway over the nation’s economy and many other sectors. Would it be too much to ask for fans to hope the world of sports could remain as one of the few exceptions?