CPBL to Boycott Chinese Taipei at the 2017 World Baseball Classic

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With the 2017 World Baseball Classic (WBC) set to take place in March, the Taiwanese national team—referred to as Chinese Taipei—will be without the support of its local professional league, the Chinese Professional Baseball League (CPBL).


The hometown snub stems from a bitter relationship between the CPBL and the Chinese Taipei Baseball Association (CTBA). The CTBA is the organization that is recognized by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC), and, most importantly, by the Taiwanese government’s Sports Administration as the governing body of Taiwan’s baseball program. The Sports Administration helps fund the national team and other amateur programs in the country.


To try and simplify the politics of the situation, the CTBA has the power to make decisions regarding the national baseball program (amateur and professional). The CPBL believes it should be the one making the baseball decisions for the professional tournaments, such as the WBC.

Last month, all three parties were to vote on the manager for the upcoming WBC. The Sports Administration and the CTBA voted for Uni Lions’ current manager, Kuo Tai Yuan, while the CPBL put its confidence behind EDA Rhinos’ skipper, Yeh Chun Chang. Obviously, the rule of two is more than one applies here, but the CPBL felt it was treated unfairly in the managerial selection process and decided to boycott the entire tournament.


“The league will respect the Sports Administration’s decision on the national team head coach for the WBC,” the CPBL officially announced following the latest, and perhaps last meeting between the three parties, via the Taipei Times. “However, because the Sports Administration did not respect the league, the teams, or the coaches when it was inquiring about possible candidates for the head coach position, and because the CPBL does not get to play a leading role in a tournament that is made up of mostly professional players, we have decided not to offer any support when the national team is training for the tournament.”


Here is what the actual boycott entails:


  • The CPBL will not support the national team.  
  • The CPBL will not provide assistance for team member draftee selection, training, holding practice matches, and overall backup support in preparation for next year's WBC tournament.
  • The CPBL clubs will have the right to decide whether to support the national team or not.


Now, this last point is key. Even though the league has withdrawn its support of Chinese Taipei at the WBC, it's still leaving the final decision of whether to send players to each individual team.


  • Both the Chinatrust Brothers and Uni-President 7-Eleven Lions have announced that they will support the national team and allow their players to attend.
  • While the EDA Rhinos (recently purchased by Fubon Financial) haven't officially announced their support for the national team, the team has allowed the CTBA to include Rhinos players on the initial list of 50 players for the WBC. Local media is speculating that they will allow their players to play.
  • The Lamigo Monkeys have announced to boycott the national team and therefore none of their players will be available for the WBC.


So in all likelihood, only players from the Lamigo Monkeys won't be able to represent their country. But this is a big deal for the Chinese Taipei squad because currently there are seven players on the Lamigo Monkeys who were rostered on the national team at the inaugural WBSC Premier12 held in 2015, the most recent international baseball tournament.

Notably, rookie outfielder Wang Po Jung, who is almost finished his first full CPBL season and is hitting .414 and broke the CPBL record for most hits and extra-base hits in a single season. He will surely be named rookie of the year and could even be named league MVP. Monkeys catcher Lin Hung Yu would also be the starter on the national team if he were to play. With one game remaining on the CPBL schedule, Lin sits second with 167 hits and third with a .400 average.

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The China Post
reported that Lamigo Monkeys general manager Justin Liu said that Lamigo would prevent its players from playing with the national team in what was a reiteration of the organization’s stance that the CPBL should be in charge of the national team.



The CPBL feels it should be the ones making the decisions for a multitude of other reasons as well, primarily because it has more access and a better relationship with the CPBL players and its coaches which make up roughly 80 percent of the national team's roster. Interestingly, the CPBL feels that with the KBO (Korean Baseball Organization) and NPB (Japan's professional league) in charge of their national rosters, the CPBL should be given that right as well.


However, the situations in Japan and South Korea aren’t the same as in Taiwan. The NPB is in charge because the JABA (Japan Amateur Baseball Association) voluntarily gives the rights to the league, and in the KBO’s situation, the KBA (Korea Baseball Association) is supported by the Korean league and actually has its offices in the KBO’s buildings. Ultimately, the CPBL feels it is one of the few teams whom their professional league isn't representing their national team.


Sports Administration director-general Ho Jow Fei said that the CPBL’s decision would “simplify the situation” and added the CTBA would be in charge of future practice-match matters.


The CTBA said that the league’s decision was “regrettable.” CTBA secretary-general Richard Lin said, “We thought we had worked with each other well in last year’s WBSC Premier12. The CPBL apparently thought otherwise, and we can only respect that.” Lin also hoped that both agencies could reconcile their differences and find a way to work together for other top international contests.


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CPBL commissioner John Wu said the CTBA showed “no respect” to the league after choosing the national team's manager without the CPBL’s consultation and that the “extremely poor coordination effort” forced the league to its decision.



The feud between the two bodies is nothing new. In 2013, both sides had what were described as “tense” meetings leading up to the WBC before agreeing on a way to work together. And it turned out to be beneficial for the CPBL as the league clearly gained from having its players on the national team.


Following the 2013 WBC, average attendance in the CPBL increased from 2,433 fans a game to 6,079 fans. That new wave of support generated about an additional NTD 218 million (USD 6.9 million) compared to the previous year. Currently, the 2016 CPBL season is averaging 5,951 fans per game through 221 matches.




The 2013 WBC national team was assembled and trained by the CPBL after a 2009 agreement between the same three groups that would allow the league to put together the rosters for the country’s major professional tournaments (i.e. the WBC and the Premier12). An interesting note is that this agreement came after Chinese Taipei suffered two embarrassing international losses to China at the 2008 Olympics and the 2009 World Baseball Classic. Before this, the CTBA was in charge of organizing the rosters and training preparations.


With the CPBL in charge of the players and coaches, the CTBA, as the governing body, was responsible for all international matters and was the direct contact to the WBC and MLB. But due to the league's departure this year, the CTBA will now be responsible for the player selection, training and all other logistics of planning for the world’s biggest international baseball tournament.


As the two sides continue to bicker, it is easy to forget about the actual talent. For the players, safety is the main concern. The players will be covered by a government-approved sports insurance policy. Also, the CTBA will purchase government-approved sports disability insurance which will compensate the player's team if a player is indeed injured.


And last, but certainly not least, is the cost of this project and who is paying the tab. The training costs are about NTD 9 million (USD 285,000). The government will pay 70 percent of this and the CTBA will cover the remaining 30 percent. The government will also pay 80 percent of the NTD 2.5 million (USD 79,000) earmarked for scouting with the CTBA picking up the rest. So, the CTBA will pay NTD 3.2 million (USD 101,000) out of its pockets, roughly 30 percent of the total cost. These figures are based on the 2013 WBC costs, but in that year the CPBL was the organization that paid the extra 30 percent as it was the group who assembled the national roster. It should also be noted that Japan, Korea and the U.S. national teams have no government funding for their operations.






With both sides general disdain for each other, this relationship might get worse before it gets better. Chinese Taipei will be in tough at the WBC as they are grouped with host team South Korea, the Netherlands, and Israel, with only the top two teams moving on. This group stage will be held in Seoul, South Korea, and is scheduled to begin on March 7, 2017.


Brandon DuBreuil contributed to this article

Comments

  1. Wang Po Jung is a player I'm hoping to see play against top international talent. It would be a shame if Chinese Taipei is unable to field its best team for the WBC because of this dispute.

    Thanks for the excellent reporting on this. I enjoy your coverage of baseball in Taiwan.

    ReplyDelete
  2. We really appreciate the support. It's a messy political landscape.

    My best guess would be that Lamigo eventually will allow their players to play. But maybe that is just wishful thinking.

    Cheers

    ReplyDelete
  3. (Sorry for bad English)

    In this case I support CPBL and Lamigo. CTBA has shown its inability and greed for many times in the past, even in this time.

    As an association in charge of forming, training and leading a national baseball team for international games, CTBA was not showing responsibilities at all: Forgetting to bring equipment, ignorance of player insurance, refusing to share profits with CPBL and players, etc.

    They even state that they cannot start collecting information of foreign teams because the head coach was not decided yet. Seriously?

    CPBL players belong to their clubs, if CTBA wants to borrow players from the clubs, they need to show respect to the clubs, provide enough supports, insurance, and share profits related to players with them. Sadly, this is not the case.

    Taiwanese baseball fans have seen too many ridiculous things CTBA had done. If they still want players take the risk of injury for nothing but "honor of the country", go find amateur players instead.

    We have lost too many players with great potential and ability to get into MLB.

    ReplyDelete

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