It occurs to me that I'm going to get even lazier about actually reading Japanese articles once Gary Garland starts up his news translations again in a week (my gosh! One week until spring training!), but we'll see. Maybe I'll just go nuts on Fighters stuff to compensate. Hmm, I've got a book review in my mental queue to write, and I'm planning to go to Mariners Fan Fest on Saturday to try to glimpse the newer, thinner Felix, so I'll have photos from that. But anyway.
Jim Allen's written a pretty good three-article set on how the NPB owners really need to get their acts together and unite to ensure that their teams and leagues survive the advancement of the MLB into Asia.
Part 1: The race to China
Part 2: The need for more minor leagues and TV rights
Part 3: A real World Series
Not to be completely outdone, Wayne Graczyk at the Japan Times wrote an awesome article about Marty Brown and the Hiroshima Carp, which actually pretty much covers the same thinking I had for why the Carp could be a pretty fun team to follow this year.
Also, Kosuke Fukudome is still holding out for more money. Funny how different things are in Japan -- essentially, he just rejected a raise from $2 million to $3 million. I guess that's a pretty good sign he's going to try to jump to the MLB for the money as soon as possible. Laaaaaame.
Shinji Mizushima, author of Dokaben, has been pulling together more stuff for the Hokushinetsu BCL "Baseball Challenge League", which is awesome. The four teams in this new independent league will consist of the Ishikawa Million Stars, the Toyama Thunderbirds, the Niigata Albirex, and the Shinano Grandserows. If you know the geography of Japan, this is basically sort of the north coast of central Honshu. Most of these places already have reasonable stadiums that are already used for annual NPB "regional barnstorming" games.
Last year two guys were drafted out of the Shikoku League during the college/industrial draft, and perhaps the same will happen with the Hokushinetsu league. It will be great for players to have another place to get playing experience besides the industrial leagues, and if the NPB teams were smart, some of them would come up with working agreements with the independent leagues along the lines of the way minor league teams used to work in the US in the old days.
Anyway, on one final silly note, Trey Hillman and Dave Owen arrived in Japan safely. We can tell, because otherwise they wouldn't be posing for goofy pictures in the Narita airport.