The Japanese players' association is threatening a boycott of the 2013 World Baseball Classic, citing a disagreement over its share of revenue from the international tournament.
"We made our demands to the organizers a year and a half ago. But we have yet to get a response, and since it appears one is not coming we are forced to take this stance," Takahiro Arai, chairman of the players' union, said to The Associated Press, which reported Friday the union isn't satisfied with the division of sponsorship and merchandising revenue.
World Baseball Classic, Inc., issued a statement Friday responding to the union's position.
"The participation of Japanese players in the 2013 World Baseball Classic is a matter between Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) and the Japan Professional Baseball Players Association (JPBPA)," the statement read. "WBCI extends invitations to federations and leagues and, accordingly, has an agreement with the NPB, which has committed to field a team in the World Baseball Classic."
Japan won each of the first two editions of the World Baseball Classic, in 2006 and '09. The third tournament will include 28 teams, beginning with a qualifying round later this year, with 16 teams vying for four spots in the Classic field. The 16-team tournament, made up of four qualifiers and the 12 countries that received automatic bids based on their performance in the 2009 tournament, will be played in March 2013.
Japan's team includes members of the JPBPA, but also has included current Major League players such as Ichiro Suzuki, Yu Darvish, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Norichika Aoki, Kosuke Fukudome and Hisashi Iwakuma. The Japanese union took a similar stance before the 2009 Classic, but its players eventually played in the tournament.
"We will continue working with the NPB and the JPBPA and maintaining communications with the appropriate parties," the WBCI statement concluded. "We fully expect that Japan, the winners of the first two World Baseball Classics, will field another championship-caliber team of which its fans will be proud."
John Schlegel is a national reporter for MLB.com.