Wed, Sep 29, 1999 - Page 8 News List

Are Taiwan's baseball leagues a liability?

Tai Hsi-Chin

The Asian Baseball Championship and qualifying tournament for the 2000 Sydney Olympics is finally over, and the Chinese Taipei team came home with only a bronze medal, to the great dismay of its fans. But the fans at home, despite their disappointment at Chinese Taipei's showing, did not criticize the hard work of the coaches or the players.

Why did the team only place third in the tournament? Why is it that professional leagues in other countries raise the standards of their national baseball teams, while our professional leagues in Taiwan have failed to improve the quality of the Chinese Taipei team?

Why is it that Taiwan -- which like other countries has produced players with enough talent to take on the US major league -- is still incapable of capturing the championship? The heads of Taiwan's two baseball leagues and the commission that oversees them are primarily responsible for this state of affairs.

Taiwan has produced lots of talented players in the past, including Tu Hong-ching (涂鴻欽), Kuo Chien-cheng (郭建成), and Liao Min-hung (廖敏雄), Tseng Kwei-Chang (曾貴章), Wang Kuang-chieh (王光熙), Chen Chih-hsin (陳執信) and Wu Chun-liang (吳俊良). Some of the more capable players on teams in Taiwan right now are Chen Chin-feng (陳金鋒), Tsai Chung-nan (蔡仲南), Kuo Hung-chih (郭泓治), Hsu Ming-chieh (許銘傑), Tsao Chin-hwei (曹錦輝), Tsao Chun-yang (曹竣楊) and Wu Chao-hwei (吳昭輝).

All of them could be favorably compared to Daisuke Matsuzaka (松土反大輔), Lee Seung-yub (李承火華), or Cheung Min-tae (鄭王民台). Why is it that Taiwan, with lots of genuine talent, is still unable to break out of its low orbit? Obviously, the blame does not lie with the players.

In terms of coaches, look at Lin Hua-wei's performance in the Asia Cup. His carefully planned strategy enabled him to tie games with South Korea and Japan, even without a lot of talented players. His performance put looks of consternation on the faces of the coaches of other teams, making them take back arrogant and belittling comments they had made before the tournament began. The solidarity that the coaches for the Taiwan team exhibited was effective.

There is no doubt that fans from Taiwan are the most endearing and passionate in the world.

While baseball league conflicts have distracted fans to some degree, cable TV ratings for the series still shot up to the No. 1 spot. Fans showed their support on the Internet as well. Fans are the greatest asset to the development of Taiwan's professional leagues.

Okay, we've established that Taiwan has great players, coaches and fans. So what's the problem?

The answer: league officials and team owners. Teams regard players as their exclusive property, as long as they perform as expected. But as soon as problems arise, owners dump players, break off all ties with them and even try to smear their reputations.

While it's true that players should assume responsibility for their involvement in betting scandals, the leagues should not completely escape censure. Why should players shoulder all the blame? In some cases, they are slapped with lifetime bans against playing the sport again.

And while it is true that up-and-coming players in Taiwan play for foreign teams because they pay better, teams here can still provide them with an environment in which they can continue to improve their skills

The Asia Cup has become the center of attention for Taiwan's baseball fans, and baseball is the leading candidate for Taiwan's national sport.

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