Labor Relations in Japanese Baseball
James B. Dworkinand Gregory S. Jelf
Baseball, like many sports, has an international identity. And professional baseball, like many industries, has an institutional identity. As one moves from locale to locale, or from nation to nation, the nature of the game and how it is played have different characteristics. Likewise, as one moves from nation to nation, or from economy to economy, the institutional arrangements governing labor relations have different characteristics. In this chapter we will examine the institutional characteristics and labor relations practices of professional baseball in Japan, where, next to North America, professional baseball is most fully developed as an industry.
Japanese professional baseball's twelve-team structure, with six teams each in the Pacific and Central Leagues, has existed since 1958. Each team plays a 130-game schedule [ Maitland ( 1991)]. The season lasts from April to October, but player training of various sorts exists for approximately ten and a half months of the year. Tie scores for regular season games are allowed. In the Pacific League, a tie is declared if the score is deadlocked after four hours of play or twelve innings, whichever comes first. The Central League has a fifteen-inning limit before a tie is declared. The Pacific League uses a designated hitter and the Central League does not [ Whiting ( 1990)]. Beyond these technical differences, the rules of the Japanese game are the same as the North American game. The collective professional identity of the baseball industry in Japan, however, is quite different from the North American major leagues.
In addition to a brief overview of Japanese baseball's labor relations system, we discuss two specific labor relations practices. The first of these is salary arbitration. In Japan, professional ball players have contracted away their right to use agents, and thus any player who requests arbitration must argue his own