I meant to have some more Japan trip pictures up today, but alas, I got sidetracked yesterday by going to a Super Bull party. Right after that crazy kickoff where the Bears returned it for a touchdown, two more people showed up, so we rewound it on the Tivo before they got downstairs and were like, "Okay, let's all pretend we just started watching," except that when the announcer said something like "The Colts have had some problems blocking their kickoff returns this year," we all lost it and started cracking up.
Peyton Manning is kind of cute, but other than that, I don't recall much from the game besides all of the rain and the ninety billion fumbles and turnovers, which were entertaining on their own. I brought my Terrible Towel with me, as did another Pittsburgh ex-pat, and so whenever anyone came in to check on the game and asked who was winning, she and I would yell "GO STEELERS!!!!" and wave our towels around. I also did a cheer of "E-A-G-L-E-S EAGLES!!!!!" at one point.
Yeah, see, everything I know about football I learned from marching band. (Before you ask: baritone/euphonium.)
Anyway, the 2007 Community Projections have been kicked off today, and the first one we're attacking is Kenji Johjima. If you somehow read this blog but not Lookout Landing or USSM, read this post to find out more. It's a joint effort between the two blogs this year, in Google Spreadsheets, which is a somewhat surreal experience, as you can sit there and watch other people play with the numbers.
Let's see, what else is up...
Last week the Japanese newspapers were reporting that the NPB is adopting drug testing measures. The penalties may seem light (first offense is a reprimand, second is a 10-day suspension, third is a year, fourth is indefinite) but when you remember that in Japanese society, nobody ever forgets any dishonor to your name -- think Kazuhito Tadano -- a reprimand and the subsequent media circus could be more punishment than you think.
Thanks to Gary Garland starting up his news translations at Japan Baseball Daily again, I feel myself getting sort of lazy, but we'll see. The one wacky thing to me is that he pointed out two new catchers who are being compared to Kenji Johjima, the new Softbank catcher Hiroaki Takaya, and the Chunichi high school catcher Nagamasa Fukuda. However, from my own observation during the Koshien tournament and the Kokoyakyu movie, the one I would most expect to put up Johjima numbers in the future is the Hanshin Tigers draftee Ryohei Hashimoto, from Chiben Wakayama HS. He has a beautifully powerful swing, and it's just a matter of whether he can get his game up to the top level in time to take over for the aging Akihiro Yano, I think (but I also hope they don't rush him like the Lions did with Ginjiro Sumitani last year).
Bobby Valentine mentioned in his blog that Bobby Buckner is at spring training with Lotte. Yes, he is related to Bill Buckner -- it's his son, a high school senior who plays shortstop. Apparently Valentine was college roomates with Buckner, too. Small world!
Speaking of spring training with Lotte, it is apparently so damn hot in Australia right now -- around 100 degrees -- that their practices were moved to 4pm from 10am. My favorite submarine pitcher Shunsuke Watanabe is blogging about it on his website, although to be fair, he's mostly using the hot weather as an excuse to drink lots of Australian beer and wine. Can you blame him?
Speaking of weird spring training food stories, there were some funny recent Hawks pictures in Miyazaki, including Sadaharu Oh receiving a seafood gift (that katsuo fish is like half his height), and the Hawks rookies are learning to make hot dogs? And this is not about food, but Hiroki Kokubo is in ur trenchcoatz stalking ur rookiez. Okay, not really.
Also, I dislike the new Hanshin uniforms, though I think this picture of Fujikawa saying "You got my old number!" to Esteban Yan is pretty funny. And look, it is Ryan Vogelsong.
The Hiroshima Carp have been covering a different player in camp each day for photos. So far they've done Soyogi, Higashide, Arai, and Kurihara. Kurihara says he's going to hit like 40-50 home runs this season. I have no doubt he could do it if he stayed healthy for the whole year. I want to get excited about the Carp this year, I honestly do, but I worry that doing so will jinx them.
I feel kind of bad for Mike Matheny retiring, but alas, these things happen. If his case study helps to prevent and/or treat head trauma and concussions from catchers in the future, though, at least he'll be able to make some impact on the sport, no pun intended.
You know we're big George Sherrill fans around here, and I never did link to his recent article on mlbplayers.com about perseverance and working your way up out of the indy leagues. It's an interesting read.
And on another lefty bullpen note, happy 22nd birthday to Eric O'Flaherty! I'm betting his birthday wish is to break camp with the Mariners this year...