Monday, February 13, 2006

Potpourri: Free agents, Japan stuff, Ichiro the actor, etc

Yeah, so I know people might think I dislike Scott Hatteberg after my Moneyball "revue", but actually, I was being entirely honest when I said that I thought the Hatty chapter was the best chapter in the book. Therefore, I was extremely happy when I loaded up the Free Agent Tracker this morning and saw that the Reds signed Hatteberg to a one-year, $750k contract. I'm glad he found somewhere to go, though I wonder if this'll be his last year playing.

Hmm, I haven't commented on the free agency game in a while, so let's see.

Josh Fogg goes to the Rockies. I can't imagine that'll be any better for him. It reminds me again, though, that I'm excited about the Pirates' starting rotation this year, for once. Well, except for Kip Wells, of course.

The Blue Jays pick up Bengie Molina. Man, the AL East may be almost as crazy this year as the NL East was last year. Have I mentioned how funny it'd be if there was another Toronto-Philly World Series?

The Nationals picked up Matthew LeCroy the other day. My brother, who lives in DC, has been ranting at me a bit these days about how the Nats management sucks and how they're going to undoubtedly lose the team in a year or two and they can't sign anyone good and they trade cool people like Bluegrass Brad for people like Arbitration Alfonso, and there's the whole Sammy Sosa thing. Hopefully Jolly ol' LeCroy will bring some joy to RFK this year. After all, what other player looks so good in a bow tie?

Speaking of catchers who look good, yeah, it's old news now, but the Padres signed Mike Piazza, which is interesting more in the context of looking at their 40-man roster, which now contains 5, count 'em, 5 catchers. Also, when did they pick up Walter Young (the only man in baseball who makes Bucky Jacobsen look small)? Weird. In another one of those irrational-attachments-to-random-players things, I really hope David Ross ends up somewhere that he can actually get some playing time.

Over in Japan, Damian Moss has already been dismissed by the Yokohama Bay Stars. Poor him. In other fun news, the Yakult Swallows signed Shingo Takatsu. I'm telling you, taking on ex-MLB Japanese guys is really a brilliant way to save on foreigner quota roster space and still get vaguely MLB-quality players, and Yakult managed to get Ishii, Takatsu, and Kida this year.

Also, I have to give a major shout-out to Gary Garland over at Japan Baseball Daily, for even though his site aesthetics make my head hurt and he has a few typos in names, his English coverage of Spring Camp news has been absolutely great and entertaining to read. (Without it, I wouldn't have found Bobby Valentine's blog! Heh heh.) An amusing storyline in Gary's spring camp writeups is that the Softbank Hawks apparently have a dummy they've been setting up as a right-handed hitter for pitchers to pitch around to practice location, but its stance looks so much like Johjima that they've named the dummy "Kenji-kun".

Speaking of Japan stuff -- a friend of mine got a copy of the new year's Furuhata Ninzaburo specials, and we started watching them yesterday. We got through the first episode and a half, meaning I only saw half of the Ichiro episode -- I have no idea how much detail people have or haven't seen/heard about it, but I'd be happy to provide a synopsis and maybe some screen shots eventually. It starts with Tamura Masakazu, Furuhata himself, coming out and saying something to the effect of "This episode features a very well-known major league ball player, but in the show, he is not really himself!" Which is obvious as about five minutes in, you find out one of the characters is supposed to be Ichiro's older brother, and well, Ichiro doesn't HAVE an older brother as far as I know. (EDIT: ok, I'm wrong about that, it's been a few years since I read the Whiting book and it just didn't make SENSE for a younger kid to be named Ichiro) Also, he does kill someone, which I'm also pretty sure Ichiro hasn't done in real life. It's really not a "cameo" as we think of them -- Ichiro is actually a main character in a full 2-hour episode. Anyway, I've seen a bunch of Japanese cop shows and from what I've seen of the episode so far, Ichiro is actually a pretty good actor!

(oh -- duh, the official Furuhata site has a page about the episode and even an interview with Ichiro about it, with some pictures.)

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