Owners want to combine two teams


TOKYO -- A Japanese high court said Monday that a proposed merger between two pro baseball teams could proceed, rejecting an appeal by players for an injunction against the plan.

The decision dealt another blow to players who fear that a deal
between the Orix BlueWave and Kintetsu Buffaloes could cost
hundreds of jobs and lead to more mergers reducing the sport from
two leagues to one.

Presiding judge Kazuyoshi Harada upheld a district court ruling
allowing the merger to proceed, rejecting an appeal by members of
the Japanese baseball players' association, Tokyo High Court
spokeswoman Chieko Kamiyama said.

The ruling came as the players' association convened at a hotel
in western Kobe city to decide whether they should strike if the
teams' owners approve the merger later this week.

It would be the first strike in Japanese baseball, and would
come 10 years after the U.S. major league players went on
strike in 1994.

The baseball owners are expected to approve the merger at their
meeting Wednesday.

Japanese professional baseball's Pacific and Central Leagues
currently have six teams each. But many owners in the less
profitable Pacific League are said to favor a single league of 10
teams in order to cash in on the higher revenues of the Central
League's Yomiuri Giants.