The sponsor of the Sinon Bulls announced its plan to pull out of professional baseball on Monday afternoon with a press release expressing its intention to end a 17-year-long presence in the sport.
“Mounting losses that total near NT$90 million [US$3.076 million] this season, coupled with a steady drop in attendances and fan interest were the main reasons for our senior management’s decision,” Sinon Bulls deputy team leader Chao Hong-wen (趙宏文) said in the press release on Monday, following approval by the board of Sinon Corp (興農集團).
The Taichung-based pesticide producer, now an international chemical conglomerate, has chosen to pull the plug after several years of rumors it would do so. The Bulls assured the league and their fans that baseball operations would carry on as usual until the team can find a new owner to take over their day-to-day affairs.
“We’d be down to three teams if no one takes over the Bulls. How could a league function with only three clubs?” Brother Elephants owner Hung Rei-ho (洪瑞河) was quoted as saying on Monday evening after hearing the news.
“The government must take some kind of action to ensure that we have a viable stage on which to operate,” Hung added.
He said that while he promised the team would stay in the league next year, he could not promise he would stay the following year if there were only three teams left.
His voice was heard by Sports Affairs Council Minister Tai Hsia-ling (戴遐齡), who said in a statement on Monday that the decision by Sinon Corp would not affect the league’s operation because “appropriate measures will be taken if necessary.”
Despite the problems that Sinon’s decision to withdraw from the league may create, it should not shoulder all the blame as it has tried to keep the team viable over the past several seasons by choosing to go with an all-Taiwanese player roster and instituting teamwide pay cuts as way to reduce their losses. Those decisions led to a vicious cycle, as they have finished last in the standings two years in a row.
“We’ve had some great moments and some not so great moments over the years,” said a source close to the Bulls, who agreed to speak on condition of anonymity, referring to the two league titles that the Bulls won in 2004 and 2005, and their recent decline.
Chao seemed optimistic about his team’s ability to find a buyer for the team as he answered reporters’ questions about the team’s future.
The league is holding an emergency board meeting later this week to discuss the various scenarios, and the options and direction that it will take as the deadline to find a new buyer for the Bulls is set for the end of this year.
“Front office staff are contacting up to five interested parties for our team and we are quite optimistic that there will be a positive ending,” Chao said on Monday.
Commenting on the matter yesterday, Tai said the league would not fold because of the Sinon Bulls’ plans, adding that the council would actively assist any new corporate owners seeking to take over the team.
“From what I know, there are already corporations that are inquiring about the team and the team’s management is scheduled to talk with some of them today [Tuesday],” Tai said. “We are confidant we can turn the crisis into a turning point.”
Tai said financial losses were the main reason that Sinon decided to bow out of CPBL, but the group is aware of its social responsibility and will make sure its players are properly looked after in the deal.
CPBL President Huang Cheng-tai (黃鎮台) was equally optimistic, saying there would still be four teams next year.
“We will see if Sinon can find a new buyer by itself,” Huang said. “If the situation does not go well, the league will then step in and help them find suitable buyers.”
Media reported that Huang has been working on getting the fifth baseball team to help boost the languishing ticket sales for professional baseball.
The Sinon Bulls could become the sixth team to leave the league in the past 23 years after the China Times Eagles, the Mercuries Tigers, ther Weichuan Dragons, the Dmedia T-Rex and ther Chinatrust Whales.
The league has been mired in several game-fixing scandals in its operation for more than two decades.