In ten hours I'm getting out of the boonies and working my way up to Philly, where I will promptly be engulfed in a storm of hoagies, cheesesteaks, and Tastykakes, drowned in birch beer.
Okay, not really. And I am unfortunately one day late to celebrate Cole Hamels's birthday. But since I'm on the net since it still feels too early to sleep, I might as well share some of the stuff I'm reading.
First, WE GOT TSUBOI BACK!!!!!! Yay! Err, by "we" I mean the Nippon Ham Fighters and by "Tsuboi" I mean Tomochika Tsuboi, the often-injured but otherwise-awesome former-Tiger-now-Fighters outfielder, who was released immediately after the Japan Series. The reason the Fighters dismissed him in the first place was that they thought they were paying him too much for such a low contribution to the team, so in re-signing him they gave him a much lower contract (about $150k) and will see how this season goes. Still, this makes me feel a lot better about the outfield situation, and if we're lucky Tsuboi will stay healthy and hit over .300 for a whole year, too!
Of course, Fighters corner outfielder and big bat Atsunori Inaba nearly doubled his salary after his amazing performance this past year and in the postseason. Now, the only question still is... whither Fernando Seguignol?
I mentioned a few weeks ago how Hanshin management had dissed Kentaro Sekimoto during contract talks to the point of tears. Well, good news on the followup to that -- Sekimoto got a raise to 50 million yen after all, a decent compromise. Yay! Also, Tsuboi and Sekimoto will be training together in the offseason. They were teammates and good friends on the Hanshin Tigers, and I'm happy for both of them!
Chunichi has been handing out raises a-plenty to their Japan Series heroes, even though they lost. Ace pitcher Kenshin Kawakami got a raise to 340 million yen, while Masa Yamamoto stayed about the same as 240 million. Funniest part is how in that article they mention Kawakami's salary matching Koji Uehara's and surpassing Hitoki Iwase. So of course a few days later, Koji Uehara got a pay cut and Iwase got a raise. The bizarre part here is that Iwase was the highest-paid Japanese player for Chunichi (who knows if that'll change when Kosuke Fukudome goes in to negotiate his contract), and is right now the highest-paid pitcher in Japan. And he's a closer. Yes, a closer getting paid more than any other starter. Iwase's amazing -- I won't deny that -- but it seems sort of backwards, doesn't it?
As a side note, Koji Uehara basically said "I know I'm stuck here another year because Yomiuri doesn't post players. But I'm going to go to the MLB in 2007 when I'm a free agent."
Old man Yamamoto wants to reach 200 wins next year; he's currently at 191. If he can stay in the rotation, I can't see any reason he shouldn't reach that goal somewhere around mid-August next year. Book it.
Kazuyoshi Tatsunami, who wasn't really a Series "hero" per se, but who has had a long and impressive Hall of Fame career, is losing the battle with Dragonbutt for the Chunichi third base starting position after all, and got his salary cut in half. Poor guy. My guess is if he doesn't get to play enough in 2007 he'll retire.
In the whole "Big Payouts for Big Relievers" trend, Tigers ace reliever/closer Kyuji Fujikawa also got a hefty raise to 180 million yen.
The Chiba Lotte Marines are supposedly after Julio Zuleta since he couldn't come to an agreement with Softbank. Different details are all over the place. With the prospect of Zuleta remaining in the Pacific League, Fighters pitcher Satoru Kanemura is taking up aikido and designing a special armored pitching helmet. (I'm just kidding about that last part. See here if you don't get it.)
The Yomiuri Giants signed Damon Hollins out of the murky depths of Tampa Bay. The Yakult Swallows are using some of their Iwamura money to get Aaron Guiel (or at least, it's in the works).
Daisuke Matsuzaka was asking Chunichi pitcher Denney Tomori for advice. Tomori, who has an interesting history if there ever was one, spent the 2005 season in the Red Sox minor league system. What did Denney say? Basically, "Make sure you talk to those veteran pitchers. Schilling's a monster who can teach you a lot. He's won a ton of games. Timlin's also a good one to talk to. As for training, practices are shorter, just take things at your pace and don't overwork yourself. Just gimme a call if you need any more advice, okay?"
I usually throw a photo in here, so this is Yu Darvish. Really. I thought it was Shinjo at first, then realized he was too young and too thin. He was being interviewed after leaving a sports award ceremony that he was all dressed up for.
Sigh, I have a lot more articles I want to read but I've really got to go. See y'all from Philly in a day or so.