Thursday, February 25, 2010

Going Dutch

Sadly, the Dutch baseball league, or Honkbal, as they call it, has decided to change it's rules on allowing foreigners to play. I write constantly and consistently about the need for leagues to be international, and not restrict foreigners. At least in the case of MLB and the Japanese leagues.

A lot of the national leagues in different countries do have rules about the number of foreigners allowed to play. Some of this is due to visa requirements. Since a lot of the leagues are not self-sustaining, most of the players have to work to survive. The foreign players get paid for the season, but have to go home for the winter. They are often given housing and food allowances to help out with expenses.

Some of it is due to the fact that the leagues want to give a chance to their local players and make their national programs stronger. That's understandable. If the European leagues could import a lot of Americans, Japanese or Dominicans (among others) to play, it would crowd out the local players. We don't want that to happen either.

Some of the changes for this year:
Starting with the 2010 season, only three foreign players without Dutch passport are allowed to be on the roster, regardless if they are players from the European Union.

Only one of the three foreign players is allowed to be used as starting pitcher during a three-game series against the same team. A second player still can be used as a reliever.

Additionally foreign catchers are limited to start in two of the three games. There are no further restrictions for the other positions.
This further backs up my opinion that catcher is the skill position of baseball, and European catchers playing in the minors have to be good.

For those of you in the know, this is allowed, as baseball is considered an amateur sport in the Netherlands. Therefore, it doesn't fall under those pesky EU employment laws. There is an exception, and a good one:
However foreign players, which have played five years in the Netherlands no longer will be considered as foreigners
The rules make sense, as they are trying to protect the Dutch players and Dutch league. That's a good thing, because the Dutch players need to develop.

However, I'm still in hope of a European league, at AA level, for European prospects or as developmental league. For that to happen, the rules against foreigners will have to change.

That will be good for European baseball. Hopefully it will also be good for Dutch baseball.

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