Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Kuwata Economics

I'll admit the first time Masumi Kuwata made his major league debut, I was excited. I've prayed at my bedside day and night, year in and year out, hoping that someday the Pirates would tap the Land of the Rising Sun for some baseball talent.

I kind of hoped for a blooming star, but screw it...I'll take whatever I can get from the Pirates.

An inning into Kuwata's major league debut Alex Rodriguez had taken him deep and immediately I knew, at that historic moment in time, we had found our future batting practice pitcher.

The answer to why he was signed is after the jump.

OK ...OK....so he was doing pretty well for himself ( 2.53 era through nine games) up until a seven-run inning against Milwaukee on July 2nd. If you managed to see his performance against Seattle, where he managed to strike out four (even Ichiro(why didn't we just sign him)) you would understand he has some ability. (Incase you missed it)

Kuwata's performance, however, isn't what I'm concerned about. My curiosity strikes a bit deeper...

Something seemed fishy to me when the Pirates signed Kuwata this off-season.

Had they been competing with the Nationals and Marlins rather than the Yankees and Dodgers I wouldn't be so intrigued, but something just wasn't right here.

What is it about a 39 year-old pitcher, near the end of his career, that is intriguing to the Pirates?

Ok Littlefield, lemme here it again.... "We feel he will be a mentor to our young guys"...

....the man can barely speak English!

It took me until mid-season, when the Japanese advertisement "www.dandy-house.co.jp" had popped up behind home plate, to finally realize that Kuwata's signing was more than a baseball move.

With Kuwata not only came that "mentor" we've been searching for, but international attention to the "small-market" Pirates as described by Yasuko Yanagita of the Hochi Shimbun newspaper.

"If he does well for the Pirates, it's front page every time. All of the Pirates' games are on TV now, too. And it's kind of crazy, really. Nobody thought he would come to the majors with his 86 (mph) fastball and just walk right in. Everybody was interested before just to see if he would make it. Now, it is just ... amazing."

Yeah well even though 86 mph looks like 96 mph to Dave Littlefield, it wasn't the fastball that brought Kuwata into Pittsburgh. Someone in the Pirate's marketing department (probably Bob "Profit" Nutting) had done their homework.

As stated by the International Journal of Sport Management and Marketing:

American baseball's popularity in Japan has reached an all time high and...
"This popularity has resulted in increased MLB TV ratings, sales of MLB licensed merchandise and sponsorships, and event business in Japan. This study identified three primary spectator motives for Japanese interest in MLB: overall interest in baseball; interest in players; quality of games."

First off.... wouldn't it be funny if the Japanese were watching Bucco games due to the "quality of games"......ya ....ya it would.

My real point, however, is that Masumi Kuwata is increasing revenue for the Pirates. While I've yet to see any Kuwata merchandise floating around the U.S., I'm hard pressed to believe it isn't in Japan. And who isn't to say the Pirates profit off of Japanese ratings...We all see that ad behind home plate...I truly believe the Pirates are tapping revenue in a foreign market, unbeknown to the common eye.

There is a very large audience out there wanting to see Masumi Kuwata and I think when the books close on 2007 we should expect international revenue to be higher. Just don't be surprised if every dime silently ends up in a Nutting pocket.

Your next Ronny Paulino. Don't worry...Nutting will profit

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