Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Diversity, and other stripes

Well, uh, I guess I won't be writing any more holiday songs this year. Was it just too long or something?

Yesterday was Ty Cobb's 120th birthday. If you play around with the new "Normalize stats" feature on baseball-reference, it indicates that the old coot would have hit a lifetime .436/.505/.609 if he'd played his entire career under the conditions of the 2000 Colorado Rockies for a total of 5944 hits. There are some other ridiculous numbers you can come with if you play around enough. Imagine Cy Young winning 757 games playing his entire career on the 1960's Dodgers?

The Japanese and American press are playing tag today, apparently, as a story popped up in the Japanese press that Kei "Dappe" Igawa had agreed to a 5-year, $20 million deal with the Yankees -- and then the same story showed up on mlb.com, referring to the original story. If so, with the posting fee, Igawa ends up averaging out to cost around $9 million a year, though the bookkeeping will work out more favorably than that, and if he does even adequately as a starter, he will be a bargain in the long run.

(I am amused by the Yankees' mailbag article title "All Pettitte, All The Time", though)

And while a Hanshin Tiger might be moving to the Yankees, a Detroit Tiger just committed to staying with his team -- Jeremy Bonderman signed a four-year extension for a back-loaded total of $38 million. I've had a vague fascination with Bonderman for quite a while, and I think this is great for Detroit. The Tigers just have some wonderful pitching.

The Pittsburgh Pirates are supposedly signing Masumi Kuwata to a minor-league deal, or at least, that's what the Pittsburgh press says, and what the Japanese press says, so it must be true.

I lived in Pittsburgh for eight years, though, and there wasn't much of a Japanese population there beyond the universities, though maybe things have changed. I remember being amazed that when I left Pittsburgh four years ago, there were three (sucky) Japanese restaurants in the entire city. I moved to Seattle, and there were three (decent) Japanese restaurants around the corner. Unlike Seattle's wonderful huge Uwajimaya shopping mall and the International district, Pittsburgh had a tiny Japanese grocery store in a sketchy neighborhood, and their Chinatown disappeared decades ago when a highway was built through it. Either way, I could imagine the Pirates would have a lot of trouble luring a big Japanese star to the city. Of course, at this point Kuwata isn't exactly a big star.

If you read the book "You Gotta Have Wa" by Robert Whiting, written in 1987-1988, almost any name mentioned that's still around in Japanese baseball is a manager or coach, except a select few; the PL Gakuen K-K Kombo of Kuwata and slugger Kazuhiro Kiyohara are relatively rare in their longevity. After being drafted and lotteried to the Giants and Lions respectively, they faced off against each other in the 1987 Japan Series. Kuwata became the youngest pitcher to start a Japan Series game at 19 and a half years old (which was mentioned a bunch this year when the 20-year-old Yu Darvish of the Fighters started two Japan Series games). As such, neither one is 40 years old yet, though they were both pro league stars before several current players were born.

I kind of hope Kuwata manages to get a shot in the bigs, even if it's only for one game. He always wanted to come to the MLB, and probably would have if he didn't owe his soul to the Yomiuri Giants for bailing him out of a billion-yen debt he got himself into in a shady real estate deal many years ago. Now that he's old and no longer effective, they're fine with letting him go, apparently.

It's sort of like hoping Jamie Moyer gets a chance to pitch in a World Series, just once, after all these years.

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