Asahi Shimbun broke a story early on Thursday morning about the Yomiuri Giants paying six players a total 3.6B yen in bonuses.
The six players Asahi Shimbun approached: Shinnosuke Abe received 1B yen in 2000, Takahiko Nomaguchi 700M yen in 2004, Yoshinobu Takahashi 650M yen in 2004, Koji Uehara 500M yen yen in 1998, Tomohiro Nioka 500M yen in 1998, and Tetsuya Utsumi 250M yen in 2003. In addition, Uehara received an additional 120M yen when he left the team; Nioka received 70M yen plus an additional 30M yen when he left the team.
The amounts were paid off over a number of years based on player performances. The appropriate tax reports were also reportedly filed.
An investigation into high bonuses in 2007 revealed that the Bay Stars paid Takumi Nasuno 530M in bonuses when he was taken in the free bracket in 2004. In the same year, the Lions were found to have paid 1.19M yen in bonuses to fifteen players. Both teams were punished accordingly.
There were technically no hard-set caps before the league agreed to punish teams for breaking them in October 2007 (max 100M yen in bonuses and max 50M yen in incentives), but there was a suggested cap of 100M yen in bonuses in 1993 and a max 100M yen in bonuses and max 50M yen in incentives beginning in 1994. (There is actually more to it than this, like the suggested cap being only for players that joined teams through the reverse selection rules that were in place between 1993 and 2006, but I will stop here to keep it simple.)
The team also admitted on Thursday evening that they gave Nomaguchi pocket money that totaled around 2M yen before he joined the team.
As of this time, the NPB Commissioner's office does not plan on doing anything about the incident.
The media approached the six players on Thursday: Takahashi said nothing; Abe said "no comment"; Nomaguchi suggested the reporters speak to the team for more information; Nioka (now with Nippon Ham) had the day off and was not available for comment; and Uehara (now with the Texas Rangers) said he had nothing to say.
The media also approached Tatsunori Hara, who responded by saying, "As a manager, it is not my place to any comments on a player's contract. There are also many details I do not know. The only thing a manager can talk about [right now] is how to get the team prepared for the start of the regular season. That is the only thing in my head right now."
The Giants filed a protest against Asahi Shimbun on Thursday (Nikkan Sports has posted a copy of it) for publicly outing the six players and damaging the Yomiuri name by focusing on how the team paid out bonuses that were over 150M yen and not about how those caps were simply suggestions at the time because the league was concerned about breaking antitrust laws. It should also be noted that the Giants cooperated with the Asahi Shimbun reporter that filed the story.
Asahi Shimbun responded by saying that they were only reporting facts they obtained through internal team documents and conversations they had with a number of different people that were involved in the events.
Sanspo has posted comments from the following people:
Baseball commentator Takenori Emoto: "This is a problem since the twelve teams first agreed to set a suggested cap for rookie players. This is not just something the Giants did. A part of me feels, "What, now?" but the amount is enormous. If the amount is too large, it becomes difficult to respond accordingly. There were also players that took the money without doing anything, without even trying. The system should obviously be about paying players that do well and work hard 500M, 1B yen, and not to pay players before they have had a chance to work. That should also stop players from going to the Majors. This is not just a Yomiuri problem. This is something the entire league needs to think about."
Sports writer Masayuki Tamaki: "Pro yakyu breaking another rule they created for themselves. This is an awful pattern that recurs and makes me think, "What, again?" I am stunned. The Giants and every team agreed to the suggested cap. To say now that the rule was not really binding is not a good argument. Good players can raise their salaries once they join the team, but the Giants probably paid players, even players that may not have done well, just so that they would not join other teams. The virtuous fans will move away from baseball because they will think that the Giants only think about themselves."
Non-fiction writer Nagisa Osada: "I find it strange that something from so long ago makes it out now, right before the start of the regular season. Even if there are no wrongs or punishments, I feel like saying, "Hey, let us agree to abide by arrangements we make." The Giants have this image that they do not abide by the rules. Even if it is something that just makes you want to tilt your head to the side, it is strange why this came out now, at this time of the year."
Sanspo has also posted the following Q&A with team president Tsunekazu Momoi:
What is the Giants' side of the story?
That the agreement made in 2001 was just a suggestion. The team believes that it did not break any rules. It is strange that something from ten years ago becomes news now. Almost feels like it was done intentionally.
The report was reportedly based on internal documents.
Players contacts are locked away in a secure location. Other than the accounting department head, the only other people with access are the team president and team rep.
Were the bonuses above 150M yen?
I am not at liberty to say. It pains me that I can not talk about the contract portion of things.
What are your thoughts on the suggested cap?
There are some that think it is ok to go over the cap depending on the person. There are also other things to consider.
Does it not help to keep salaries from getting too high?
There might be that, but there is also a sense that it is a suggestion of how much a rookie should make.
What do you want from Asahi Shimbun?
I would like a written apology in their paper. We did not break any rules and this is something from ten years ago. I can not fathom what the point of this news is.
And Asahi Shimbun has posted a Q&A with Momoi regarding the pocket money the team gave Nomaguchi before he joined the team:
Did you inform the NPB about the money you gave Nomaguchi?
I can not go into exact details, but we did provide them with an outline.
When did you inform them?
When you did your report on us, you mentioned internal documents. These are documents we do not have to make public, but we also have nothing to hide. There is the Industrial League to consider as well, so we felt it best to report it.
What was the NPB's response?
I have not heard yet.
Since 2005, is it wrong to give Industrial League players money?
Yes, it is wrong.