Sunday, December 31, 2006

Song Parody: Ladies and Gentlemen, your 2006 Seattle Mariners

Same routine as last year and the year before, my dear readers -- I'm no good at these "serious year-end summary" things, so I write a silly song about the team instead.

Ladies and Gentlemen, your 2006 Seattle Mariners
To the tune of "Wild Wild West" by the Escape Club
New lyrics by Deanna "Marinerd" Rubin

Forty men with big dreams playing on the same team
Morse, Reed, Meche, Dobbs, all with the same jobs
Kenji's in the dugout waiting for the third out
Carl's up at home plate, driving people crazy

Diss my team, but I don't care
I love the teal in the shirts they wear
Down at the field that we love best,
Starting with the Angels
Playing in the AL West
The AL West

Richie is a big chump, Beltre's in the same slump,
Sherrill's got the left waves, Putz's getting big saves
Ninety-seven strikeouts Felix has so far
Got to vote 'em in, vote 'em in,
Jose's on the All-Star

Diss my team, but I don't care
I love these guys when they're on a tear
Games with the league that we love best
Sweeping out the Giants,
Beating up the NL West
The NL West

Now put your trades on the line and send your players down
You can call 'em up, call 'em up, waive 'em out of town
Ed to the Red, Choo to the Tribe
I don't care since we get to see Doyle tonight

Diss my team, but I don't care
Of how they suck, I am quite aware
Watching this streak has me depressed
Heading back to Oakland
Losing to the AL West
The AL West

Heading out to center, Ichiro's the mentor
Watching Willie Boom-Boom, striking out like Bret Boone
Give me give me Mark Lowe
Give me give me Fruto
Give me Jones, give me Green
Give me time to vent my spleen

This team sucks, and I don't care
I've lost all hope from this bad, bad year
They traded the guys that we liked best
I'm moving back to Philly,
Fed up with the AL West
The AL West

Friday, December 29, 2006

Friday Foto: Hard Hats Required

I'm in Philly now. Yay.

I hear Barry Zito signed with the San Francisco Giants for a metric bucket of money, with an option for an additional bucket of money. Hmm, maybe this gives me more of an excuse to try to go down for this year's Giants-Phillies games.

On the way up to Philly, I stopped in DC to hang out with a good friend of mine. We were debating what to do for a few hours before my train, and since he's also a baseball geek and has become a bit of a Nats fan, we thought we'd go wander down to the area near the Navy Yard metro stop and look at the new stadium construction:

new nats stadium construction
This is probably my oddest "Look, I'm at a stadium" picture ever.

(Bonus points if you can identify the shirt I'm wearing.)

The area around the New Ballpark, as it's currently called, is really a dump. We're under the impression they'll be trying to gentrify it a bit, as the area across the street from the construction site is basically all deserted and abandoned buildings. We walked around the area a bit and took a bunch of pictures (I'll post more some other time if people want to see them, but right now I don't really have good photo editing stuff so I just resized that one with Paint), which seemed to amuse the construction workers who were leaving the site -- I get the impression they don't get all that many tourists there.

As an aside, my mom and I drove past the Richmond Braves stadium the other day when we were near there, and I was impressed by how big it seemed compared to Cheney! I haven't really been to all that many AAA stadiums, so maybe I'm just easily impressed.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

NPB Roundup: The Wrath of Contracts

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.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Movie Review: Rookie of the Year (1993)

Rookie of the Year (1993, Thomas Ian Nicholas, Gary Busey)

This was on TV last night completely randomly and I watched it with my mom. I'd never seen it before. I'm not great at reviewing movies, but I've mostly been off the net the last few days so this is what I've got to work with :)

In short, this is a fun little movie to watch if you see it playing on TV late at night, but otherwise it's not really worth your time unless you're either a 12-year-old kid wishing you could play for the Cubs, or if you like kid movies with Disney endings.

Thomas Ian Nicholas, who six years later would play Kevin in American Pie (which I realized about halfway through this movie), plays Henry, a 12-year-old kid who breaks his arm in a bizarre baseball accident and it heals in a bizarre way that allows him to snap some tendons and suddenly throw a baseball 100 miles per hour. Gary Busey plays a veteran pitcher who's all but done for in his career. Bruce Altman plays Jack, a guy who is dating Henry's single mom (Amy Morton). Jack becomes Henry's "manager", and you basically spend the rest of the movie learning to hate him and to love Busey's pitcher character, essentially.

In addition to having to figure out how to throw 100mph and actually throw strikes, Henry also has to figure out how to talk to 12-year-old girls at the school cafeteria, and how to not piss off his two best friends, who follow him around just about everywhere.

Pretty much everything about this movie is predictable, and in the end everyone lives happily ever after, but there are a few good laughs along the way; John Candy plays the role of the announcer in the style of Bob Uecker in Major League, and has a couple of good one-liners. Daniel Stern, just a few years removed from his role as one of the burglars in Home Alone, plays the insane Cubs pitching coach who's constantly getting himself locked away various places, to the benefit of everyone else involved; and he bears a scary resemblance to Nate Robertson, the current Tigers pitcher.

Watch it with a little kid and you won't be too unhappy about it.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Happy Kevin Millwood's Birthday

I'm off to the east coast for a week and a half, assuming nothing goes wrong when I arrive at the airport in a few hours.

Will be in the middle of the woods in southern Virginia for a few days, then in the middle of Philly for a week.

I'm sure I'll write a few entries here while gone, but don't expect a daily dose of Deanna.

Hope you are all having a happy holiday season!

Friday, December 22, 2006

NPB Roundup: It's not easy being Glynn

Oh man, I meant to have another set of Japan pictures up tonight for Friday Foto, but I got pretty sidetracked, so instead, you get a roundup, and some pictures tomorrow, hopefully! Funny thing is, a few of the pictures are actually relevant to this roundup.

Why? Because the Fighters signed Ryan Glynn!! And the set I'm going through was of a game with Lotte rookie Naruse pitching against Rakuten pitcher Glynn at Chiba Marine Stadium. Whee!

Yeah, I'm psyched about the Fighters picking up a Rakuten pitcher. Why? Because Ryan Glynn was basically the best starting pitcher on the Eagles this year, and much better than he was perceived, although I think Kanehisa Arime might have been close if he hadn't been mishandled. Glynn was 7-7 with a 3.95 ERA, striking out 121 and walking 36 in 127.1 IP, giving up 15 home runs for a FIP ERA of 3.82, a WHIP of 1.45, and a K/9 of 8.55 to go with a 3.36 K/BB ratio. Pretty awesome peripherals, even with the atrocity that was Rakuten fielding this year. And that'd make the Fighters rotation something like Darvish, Yagi, Kanemura, Glynn, and... Masaru Takeda? Ejiri? Ken Miyamoto? Who cares, it'll be awesome! Still probably not Softbank quality, but I like it a lot! When the 2006 season started, the rotation was honestly my biggest concern with the Fighters; now the biggest concern is going to be getting a bat to replace Ogasawara.

Speaking of which: Glynn is the third foreigner signed by the Fighters, if I'm counting right, with them picking up Andy Green and Brian Sweeney a couple of days ago. So that really leaves only one open foreigner spot, which raises the question that's been on my mind pretty much since the end of the Japan Series: Whither Fernando Seguignol? A man, a plan, a pair of switch-hit homers, Panama?

Of course, this raises something pretty funny to anyone who speaks Japanese: How on earth will they differentiate "Green" and "Glynn"? Yes, on the back of the uniforms they appear different in English, but on the scoreboards and everything else it presents a problem: due to the fact that there is no difference between the R and L sounds in Japanese, Glynn is グリン and Green is グリーン. The only difference is a split second in how long you hold the vowel sound in "gu-ri-n". But, it seems Glynn vetoed having "Ryan" as his player name, probably because it is a real last name, and team supervisor Shimada said that "Andy" sounds too weak as a name (for a big slugging foreigner, I guess).

As for Ogasawara, he will apparently continue to do publicity for the Ogasawara Islands, as he has been doing for several years, though he had to check with the Giants and everyone else to make sure it was okay. I wonder if the Giants oendan will work "Ogasawara-mura ni wa iruka ga iru" ("There are dolphins at the Ogasawara Islands!") into his cheer song, and whether Giants fans will start to wave inflatable blue dolphins during his at-bats. Sigh.

And speaking of ex-Fighters, if you thought Shinjo pretending to be in a boy band a few weeks ago was bad enough, people in Japan will soon be seeing cardboard standups of him all over the place with a new commercial campaign he's in, looking all "respectable" or something. Scary.

The other ex-Tiger ex-Fighter outfielder Tomochika Tsuboi is going to negotiate re-signing with the Fighters, although on his blog he mentions he's still thinking of going to the MLB, but since it'd just be a minor league deal if anything, he's got reservations about the whole thing. I really like Tsuboi, a lot -- but I don't think he'd actually make it to the bigs if he came over here. He's got less power than Shinjo and an equivalent arm, though he can slap singles around pretty well. However, he's a bit fragile and simply can't stay healthy for an entire season, which is why he got released in the first place.

Hmm. So Kei Igawa showed up in NYC "with hair shorter than Johnny Damon's but probably a little longer than Yankee standard," also pictured here. He was surprised by the amount of cars in NYC. There won't be an official press conference to introduce him until mid-January, either. It looks at a glance that number 29 is open on the Yankees, though they also list two people as number 27, so who knows.

Also, Hankyu Airlines wants to start a Matsuzaka-Igawa tour special, saying how Boston and New York are only an hour apart by plane. Getting Japanese tour groups to the stadiums should be no problem, but I wonder how on earth they actually intend to acquire *game tickets*...

Ichiro is apparently back in Japan and training with Munenori Kawasaki, in an Orix training facility in Kobe. Kawasaki is glad that he started to become friends with Ichiro during the WBC, and regards him like an older brother. All things considered, Ichiro's about as perfect a mentor as Kawasaki could have; they're both lefty hitters with similar builds who use their speed well, and also share the "face of the Pacific League" syndrome, though I don't think Mune-rin is quite at the icon status Ichiro was at the same age.

As for other young Hawks players, Tsuyoshi Wada just signed a deal to be making 2-oku yen next year, or about $1.6 million, which is pretty huge relatively. I mean, Kazumi Saitoh -- you know, that guy who won the Sawamura and beat Matsuzaka for the pitching triple crown -- just renewed his contract for next year, so he'll be making 2.5-oku, or about $2.1 million. Anyway, to celebrate, Wada posed in a really funny Mr. Moneybags sort of picture. Then afterwards he went to go dress up as Santa Claus and play with kids. Tough life, I guess.

And as for old people signing contracts, Kimiyasu Kudoh -- who's about as old as they come these days -- is being re-signed, but at a 40% reduction in salary to around 1.6-oku yen (what on earth is a "deferment hibernation"?). To be fair, when you're signing a guy who'll turn 44 during next season, it's unclear exactly how much money he should really be asking for, even if he is basically Japan's version of... hm, he's 44 years old and left-handed; he's the active leader in wins, IP, strikeouts, Japan Series rings, and just about everything else you'd expect for a guy who's been pitching for 25 years. My god, 11 Japan Series rings, and that's not a joke -- 8 with Seibu between 1982-1992, another with the Hawks in 1999, and then two with the Giants in 2000 and 2002. That's unreal.

Speaking of the postseason, they are changing the rules back so that there's no one-game advantage in the playoffs, and the Central and Pacific Leagues will have the exact same format. If there is any karmic justice in the world, the Hawks will place #1 in the Pacific League and then get beaten out in the playoffs yet again -- just to show that changing the rules to suit your team is always going to be a bad idea.


Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Rock Stars, Reverse Platoons, Random Roundup. Also, puppies

The 8am-10am "morning news" in Japan comes out on the web in general between 3pm-5pm here in America, which is great, because our workday is winding down here and I can see what's starting the next day there.

So when I got home tonight, I was reading an article in Japanese about how Aerosmith guitarist Joe Perry was saying how glad he was to have Matsuzaka in Boston, and then I realized, rather than reading the Japanese translation of what Perry said, there simply had to be an English transcript of it somewhere. That made me feel awfully silly.

I was led to this "Dice-K" t-shirt via a random Google ad from that last page, and it's just terrible, though that might just be because I'm not particularly fond of the nickname. Perhaps I should make a "松馬鹿" t-shirt design.

Last week, Conor Glassey shared the super-awesome YouTube video of all of Seung-Yeop Lee's 41 home runs this year, and if you watch closely, you'll notice that numbers 38 and 39 were off Kei Igawa on September 7th. Which got me wondering about why several top players in Japan seem to end up with reverse platoon splits, and specifically both Lee and Igawa. By a platoon split, I mean how in general, we expect left-handed hitters to hit right-handed pitching better, and vice versa. A reverse platoon split is a lefty hitting lefties better, and vice versa. Righties Tadahito Iguchi and Kenji Johjima have notably hit better off righties than lefties in the MLB.

I'll admit I have limited data and I'm just playing around with what I do have, but when looking at this year's splits it was interesting that left-handed slugger Seung-Yeop Lee hit .311 with 22 homers against righties in 305 AB, and .338 with 19 homers against lefties in 219 AB. And lefty pitcher Kei "is for strikeout" Igawa gave up 17 home runs this year -- 7 to right-handed batters in 518 AB, and 10 to left-handed batters in 251 AB. Igawa struck out 25% of the righties he faced (K/BB 4.18, avg .205), but only 20% of the lefties he faced (K/BB 3.5, avg .294).

While this can probably be attributed to small sample size, and possibly to the fact that a lot of the current good hitters in Japan tend to hit lefty, it still makes me wonder why lefties were hitting him better this year. Offhand, if you take the top ten batting averages in 2006 in each league, you'll find that 14 out of those 20 guys bat lefty. Out of those, the only one besides Lee to show a reverse platoon split this was -- no joke -- Akinori Iwamura, who hit .354 with 11 HR in 178 AB off lefties, and .291 with 21 HR in 368 AB off righties.

If nothing else, it'll be interesting to see if they exhibit the same tendency in the majors next year. Imagine Iwamura being benched against stronger lefty starters, or Igawa being left in too long to face lefties, only to have the opposite of the expected outcome occur. This is probably all just a case of my overactive imagination, but I'm going to try to hunt down more data anyway.

(Also, just think, if I had chosen to go to Nagoya on 9/6 and Koshien on 9/7, instead of the other way around, I would have seen Luis Martinez get shelled by Yakult and Igawa get roughed up by Lee, rather than dealing with a rainout and seeing Kenshin Kawakami get shelled by Yakult. Man.)

Speaking of Kawakami, he didn't accompany the Dragons on their big trip to Las Vegas, but instead visited a center in the Minato-ku area of Nagoya where they train seeing-eye dogs. He made a personal donation of a million yen to the facility, and ran around playing with the dogs, despite that he was wearing a suit and got it full of dog hair. Being as he's pictured with a white labrador retriever, I bet that was plenty of fun to clean off afterwards! Kawakami said he's really fond of dogs and would love to visit the center again sometime (and bring some Chunichi teammates with him).

While in Las Vegas, apparently Morino, Asakura, and Takahashi decided to go skydiving. This in itself may not be amusing, but the picture in the article of Dragonbutt in skydiving gear is pretty funny, plus the fact that one paragraph at the bottom is about skydiving and 95% of the article text is actually about "the great Morino-Tatsunami Third Base Battle", Dragonbutt's plight in becoming the regular third baseman in place of declining veteran Kazuyoshi Tatsunami. (I didn't think it was really a rivalry, though, especially having seen Tatsu helping him out with his fielding.) Dragonbutt plans to do weight training in the offseason to become stronger for the "battle".

Fun pictures: Look! It's Andoh Claus and Fukuhara. And also Hamanaka, Fujimoto, and Nakamura in Singin' in the Rain! Okay, just kidding on that one. You can also see Trey Hillman and his family visiting the area where Lord of the Rings was filmed, as part of the current Fighters victory trip to New Zealand. Kensuke Tanaka is merely enjoying the golf there, as is Brad Thomas, apparently. (I didn't think Thomas would be on the trip since the team released him, but I guess he is from Australia and all, so it's not as far to hop over.)

Most fun mental picture was of Tomoya Yagi meeting yokozuna Asashoryu at a pro sports awards ceremony where Yagi was getting another accolade for being Rookie of the Year. The encounter made quite an impression on the young pitcher, as Yagi was caught by the aura surrounding the sumo champion.

EDIT! Yay, a real picture of Asashoryu and Yagi! I think Asashoryu looks much happier in that shot -- Yagi looks a bit frightened, if anything :) Today's pictures also include Hisashi Takeda in Christchurch and uhhh, Tateishi and Itoh learning how to shear sheep. No, I'm really not making that up.

(Subject line is sort of a tribute to Jeff Shaw.)

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, 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.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Yule Laugh! Yule Cry! Yule Sing! Part 4

(Parts 1-3 were done last year. I'll go add a tag to all four of them.)

Yule Laugh
I'm sure there are plenty of good candidates here -- like Santa Pronk -- but I'd probably still list this year's appearance of Phanta Claus, or any of the other holiday events the Phillies have been doing, which are fun to read about. Makes me sort of sad I won't be in Philly until the 27th or so. There's also a great article with Cole Hamels, who admits that he unwraps his video games way before Christmas.

Yule Cry
To be fair, the only offseason move that actually made me shed tears was Michihiro Ogasawara's clean-shaven doppleganger signing with the Yomiuri Giants. But our beloved crazy Aussie outfielder Christopher "Doyle" Snelling getting traded away from the Mariners, despite the trade currently being on hold pending a Vidro physical, is still pretty sad. I went to the Mariners Team Store on Saturday, by the way, and they have player-issued jerseys from the 2005 season on sale for $60 -- so you can get a wide assortment of nice ex-Mariner jerseys like a Madritch #56, a Borders #37, a Nageotte #37, Thornton #53, and so on. Unfortunately, all the Snelling jerseys they have are "on sale" for $199. The store clerk told me that it was because those were 2006 used jerseys, not 2005. Bleh. I decided not to buy one, though the Uncle Rico one actually fit me fairly well.

Yule Sing
I'd been tossing this song idea around in my head for the last week or so. It's sort of ubiquitous rather than being keyed to just one team:

Stove League
(to the tune of "Sleigh Ride" by Leroy Anderson)
(New lyrics by Deanna "Marinerd" Rubin)

Just hear those cellphones beeping
As trades are cheapening too.
And all the press is fussin'
In a stove league discussion with you.
Online the fans are whining
As Theo's signing up Drew.
And all the scouts are gushin'
In a stove league discussion with you.

Sign 'em up, sign 'em up, sign 'em up, let's go
It's all a big show
We're giving them these contracts full of dough.
Sign 'em up, sign 'em up, sign 'em up, it's lame
Just playing the game.
We're finding a twit who can hit
So the fans recognize his name.

Our roster's full of losers
And beggar-choosers are we.
The 40-man is frozen
with the players we chose in '03.
And when we're feeling braver
We'll try to waiver 'em through.
There's just no sense in rushin'
In a stove league discussion with you.

There's a Krivsky mimic by the name of Flanagan
Signing ancient arms to bolster up the pen again.
Seems the Mariners, Reds, and Orioles will see the biggest flop
At the ticket booths when they watch attendance drop. Plop plop plop.

There's a perfect roster nothing in the world can buy
So we'll trade our soul for someone like Morneau or Dye.
It'll nearly be like a deal pulled off by Bowden or by Beane.
This wonderful plot's what we've got
when the seasons are in-between!

Just hear those cashbags jinglin',
Agents mingling through.
They'll get a deal for Lilly
That'll make you look sillier too.
You should consult a sponsor
If you're choosing Bonds or Alou.
But every batter's crushin'
In a stove league discussion with you.

Sign 'em up, sign 'em up, sign 'em up, let's go
These choices all blow.
We're looking for a catcher who can throw.
Sign 'em up, sign 'em up, sign 'em up, who cares
If we have young players
We'll balance our team with the theme
getting Thomas and Zaun and Stairs!

Our lineup's big on hitters
But not on splitters or curves.
We'll sign a Mirabelli
And he'll catch the hell he deserves.
So now it's time to park it
'Cause this bidding market's a zoo.
There's just no use in thinkin' when
Strike zone's shrinkin' and
Fastball's sinkin' and
Deals are stinkin' when
GM's winkin' and
stove league drinkin' with you.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Japan Photos, Part 6 - Koshien

The other night as the rainstorms raged, I was working on cropping pictures while rewatching some of H2 (a Japanese TV show mostly about high school baseball). I was up to the episode when the Senkawa team is actually playing at Koshien, and as a few of the actors are gathered in front of the Babe Ruth monument by one of the gates, I realized -- crap, I totally forgot to take a picture of it on either of my trips out there! The first time, I did walk around the whole stadium, but it was raining horribly and I was in a bad mood and didn't think of it, and the second time, I got to the stadium about five minutes before the game was starting, having run over from the Osaka Dome.

You can read my blog entry about my Osaka baseball-filled day, and the addendum. The game I saw at Koshien featured the Tigers beating the Bay Stars 5-3, as Tomoaki Kanemoto hit a 3-run homer in the 5th inning which put them ahead, and Wei-Tzu Lin hit a home run when he came in to pinch-hit for starter Tsuyoshi Shimoyanagi in the 7th. Ken Kadokura started for Yokohama and got the loss. I got so excited about getting to see Kyuji Fujikawa pitch in the 8th that I lost my lenscap.

Unfortunately, I really never had good lighting conditions any of the time I was at Koshien. The first time was on Sept 6th -- after my adventure buying tickets at the Hanshin dept store, we went out to Koshien only to find the game rained out, so I took a few pictures while walking around the stadium in the rain. The next time was that game I went to on the 9th, but it literally got completely dark within half an hour of the game starting, and I was up in row 30-something of the Yellow seating area behind first base. I guess it was a great vantage point for lots of crazy balloon-releasing action, at least.

Photoset with thumbnails and descriptions here:
Tigers vs. Bay Stars at Hanshin Koshien Stadium, September 9, 2006 (also rainy day Koshien from Sept 6th)

Koshien Stadium, inside and out.

The seventh inning stretch, and balloons.

Kyuji Fujikawa!, the Tigers bullpen car, and Jeff Williams.

Tigers fans post-game street party, crowds at the subway station, merchandise stand.

Indoor practice building, the "back" gate, signs at the train station.

Wei-Tzu Lin, a balloon-wielding couple, the balloon release moment, a food-box stand, and the sign outside the station:

I really need to go back there sometime when it's actually like, light outside -- and I need to get there early and try to watch BP and stuff. Oh yeah, and I need an aisle seat, dammit.

Friday, December 15, 2006

NPB Roundup: Down Beat Stamp

I have a whole bunch of posts in my mental queue, but unfortunately due to a gigantic wind-and-rain storm in Seattle yesterday, last night my house's power kept flickering and we didn't have internet at all -- nor this morning -- so I'm just going to do one of these link roundup posts, since I couldn't upload my Koshien pictures.

Joel Zumaya, Guitar Hero. You know, even the first time I played Guitar Freaks about six years ago, I thought "This game is just not fun enough to be worth the arm pain I get from it," so I'm pretty amused to see a major-league pitcher go to the other extreme.

The Red Sox signed his Royal Hypeness. The Devil Rays signed Akinori Iwamura to a 3-year, $7.7 million contract.

The Softbank Hawks want you to know that they are not messing around anymore, as they just signed Rick Guttormson and Brian Buchanan. Guttormson pitched a no-hitter for the Yakult Swallows last year, and got a two-year contract from the Hawks for about $2 million. With last month's signings of Adam Hyzdu and CJ Nitkowski, though, it seems that unless they're planning a farm-team shuffle on a regular basis, that leaves Julio Zuleta off of the 4-foreigner quota on the roster. Hmm. Nitkowski has written a neat "I'm going to Japan!" article on his website.

(Speaking of the Hawks new players, Hitoshi Tamura looks a LOT different than he did before in the WBC. I think the short undyed hair looks good on him, though.)

The Fighters signed Andy Green and Brian Sweeney. I knew about Andy Green from months ago when he first said he was interested in playing for the Fighters, but I wasn't aware they were after Brian Sweeney, so that's cool -- I've actually seen him pitch a bit between Seattle and Tacoma. Now if only they could sign Fernando Seguignol already, we'd be in good shape.

Also, they signed Keisaku Itokazu, their third-round pick in the college/industrial draft, a right-handed pitcher out of Asia University. Yay! He will wear uniform number 20, which formerly belonged to Satoshi Yano. Fourth-round pick Hisayoshi Chono is going to Honda, but we knew that.

Rakuten closer Kazuo Fukumori went in to negotiate and sign a new contract, and forgot to bring his signature stamp. Oops. It's not really news, he just cracks me up.

If you live near Las Vegas, you could perhaps stalk the Chunichi Dragons, as they are taking their CL victory trip to Vegas from the 14th until the 19th. You may see such sights as Tyrone Woods helpfully showing his teammates around.

The Fighters are currently off on their victory trip to New Zealand too, but that's a lot further away to randomly go stalk players.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

I'm as confused as the rest of you.

I'm sure that in some alternate universe, the Mariners trading Chris Snelling and Emiliano Fruto for Jose Vidro makes sense.

But not this one.

I'm usually the one around here going, "Hey, guys, it's okay, this isn't that bad, it's just a stupid trade, just a stupid roster move, there's no reason to start raising the pitchforks and punching your walls," etc -- but even I'm completely puzzled by this and a little bit saddened by the idea of not getting to see our favorite adorable Australian anymore. Looking back to May, when I had the realization that I simply didn't love the Mariners anymore, I said the only player on the 40-man roster that I really adored was Chris Snelling. I'd like to hope this trade doesn't go through. Even though Snelling might not have seemed like a huge contributor to the team on the surface, the emotional attachment one gets to certain players can be pretty strong. I mean, it's been fifteen years and I'm still residually pissed at the Phillies for trading away Von Hayes.

It's sort of like the helpless feeling like being a kid and having your best friend’s parents move across the country and take your best friend with them. You know you might keep in touch, but it’s just not going to be the same.

Man, the offseason sucks. And I'm really debating whether I need a more general baseball name for this blog, being as I really don't feel like writing about the Mariners very much lately. I could just change it to "Chiba Lotte Marinerds" and only write about the NPB from now on, maybe...

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

NPB Roundup: Iggy Don't You Lose That Number

We've received a heads-up from Patrick Lagreid that the newly-traded Mariners pitcher Horacio Ramirez is going to be one of the guests on the "Hot Stove League" show on Mariners Radio tonight (Tuesday Dec 12th). It airs from 7-8pm on KOMO 1000 radio, so if you want to hear the new guy, tune in.

Just a few funny things today:

There was a talkshow a few days ago with Munenori Kawasaki and Tsuyoshi Nishioka, who are apparently now the super-hot "Faces of the Pacific League", what with Matsuzaka going to the MLB, Ogasawara going to the CL, and Shinjo retiring. Whether or not this "cool guy combo" will be fighting for the honor of being the hottest young player in the PL or not is yet to be seen, but it sounds like they may at least be fighting for the stolen base title or the trashtalking title next year.

Here's another picture from the talkshow. And in other "Best Hawks Picture EVER" moments, I give you Saitoh and Matoba with their "Most Valuable Battery" awards.

Kei Igawa better get a deal worked out with the Yankees -- because if he doesn't, and he has to come back to the Hanshin Tigers, there's going to be a scuffle between him and Tatsuya Kojima, as the former Osaka Gas lefty has already been assigned Igawa's old uniform number 29.

At least if Matsuzaka fails to sign a contract, his old #18 will still be open. The newly-drafted Lions class has mostly taken numbers of guys who have been released. Kibouwaku pre-pick Takayuki Kishi from Tohoku Gakuin is taking #11, which used to belong to Shinji Mori (who went to the Devil Rays via the posting system for $750k last offseason, then tore his labrum and is still recovering). Jun Yamamoto from TDK Chikumaguma is taking #20, which used to belong to Kiyoshi Toyoda, former Seibu closer, now Giants closer.

And despite rumors that Nippon Ham's 4th-round draft pick outfielder Hisayoshi Chono was softening and considering the possibility of signing, it's sounding more like he's pretty much made up his mind to go play for Honda and hope the Giants take him when he's draft-eligible again, saying "two years of waiting is not that long".

The Fighters did announce their staff for next year, and it looks like Dave Owen was indeed hired as a coach.

Fighters shortstop Makoto Kaneko got up and sang Tatsuro Yamashita's "Christmas Eve" at a fan event recently. Now if only the Fighters put clips of stuff like that on their site... they could put that, Hichori's rendition of Yutaka Ozaki's "Happy Birthday" from Fan Fest, round it out with a few other songs and make an album!

And in completely unrelated events, Barry Zito hosted a "Strikeouts for Troops" event at the Pyramid Alehouse in Walnut Creek tonight. Sounds like a blast. (EDIT:) And as expected, someone on AN posted pictures, and pretty good ones at that!

Monday, December 11, 2006

Japan Photos, Part 5 - Osaka Dome

I know I should be working on these more -- my gosh, it's been almost a week since I posted the Hiroshima ones, but ah well.

These are from September 9th. That was the day I went to both a Fighters-Buffaloes game at the Osaka Dome and a Tigers-BayStars game at Koshien on the same day, right after each other. It was exhausting and awesome. You can read the blog entry here, and score of the game here. I don't need to say much about the game -- the Fighters absolutely killed the Buffaloes, eventually ending in a score of 10-2, the Fighters getting 20 hits. Darvish got the win, which wasn't saying much since he was up 7-1 after two innings. Fernando Seguignol hit home runs from both sides of the plate. My legs and lungs actually got tired from standing and cheering for so much of the game. It was awesome! I had a great time hanging out with a whole bunch of other crazy Fighters fans.

Photoset with thumbnails and descriptions here:
Buffaloes vs. Fighters at the Kyocera Osaka Dome, September 9, 2006

It's not a very big set, only 32 pictures total, since it was indoors.

Osaka Dome, outside and in:

Oendan leaders setting up, playing trumpets, and a legion of Ogasawara fans:

Buffaloes fans, indoor balloon release, and saving spots for tomorrow's game:

Hichori waving, Shinjo posing, a trumpet player, a Susukino Ichiban jersey, and a Fernando Seguignol fan:

It's kind of painful to look back at all these pictures of Ogasawara fans and remember cheering him so much, but alas, that's my own fault for not getting around to working with these until now.

I also forgot I got a shot of a guy in a Matt Winters jersey. That's just plain cool.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Book Review - The Only Game In Town, edited by Fay Vincent

The Only Game In Town, aka "Baseball Stars of the 1930's and 1940's talk about the game they loved".

This is yet another baseball oral history book, and the fact of the matter is that no baseball oral history book will ever live up to Lawrence Ritter's "The Glory of Their Times", which is the original and defining book for the genre.

What The Only Game In Town tries to do is focus more on the integration years of baseball -- when the Negro league players were coming into the MLB. Though, to be fair, while every player in the book talks a little bit about that, only maybe a third of the stories are only about integration, mostly the ones told by the former Negro league players themselves.

I think there are two major weaknesses of this book, though.

The first is minor; it's that there are too many pictures in it. Pretty much each story is a deceptive 25 pages long or so, as compared to the 10ish pages that each ballplayer's story would take up in previous oral history books I'd read. The reasons the chapters appear longer is spacier typesetting and a metric ton of photographs. Photographs in general are a great thing for history books, but most of the ones in this book are not well-chosen. Some of them aren't very good pictures, and then many of them seem pretty random, like "Oh, he mentioned Lew Burdette in a sentence, let's plaster a picture of Lew Burdette in here."

The second is major. The editing is inconsistent and ranges from godawful to merely non-intrusive. I almost didn't continue reading this book after the opening chapter, which was Elden Auker's; the fact that he'd mention how so-and-so player did in such-and-such year and there'd immediately be brackets to correct it, or lots of brackets all over the place with these helpful little titles for people which mostly just detracted from hearing the player's voice.

As if to compensate for completely interrupting Auker's voice, they mostly didn't do that in other places in the book. Instead, there were times where they kept so strongly to the players' voice that the meaning is either obfuscated or obscured. At one point in Johnny Pesky's story he remarks how Ted Williams told him, "For crying out loud, Johnny, why can't you get this? You've got a high school diploma not like me," and I'm sitting there thinking "Wait, what the hell does that mean? Ted Williams didn't graduate from high school, or Pesky didn't?" Or in Buck O'Neil's story, he says how his dad said he was going to take him down to see some "other great baseball players", which sounds like a great leadin to a story, only there's no story there.

Another big issue with this book is that almost all of these players have been interviewed in other books. I'm pretty sure I'd heard almost all the stories in here before, mostly even from the players themselves, either in their own autobiographies or in various other oral history books. A lot of the stories in this book were pretty bland, too; I thought Ralph Kiner's and Dom Dimaggio's chapters were probably the most entertaining, and Buck O'Neil's was good to read just because of the timing.

If you haven't read any oral history books at all before, and don't know much about the players of the 1930's and 1940's, this might not be a bad book to read, but if you've read a lot of baseball books and the prior oral histories by Lawrence Ritter and Donald Honig, you won't really be missing out by not reading this one. It does make a good bus book, though, as oral histories usually do. I finished it at a rate of one chapter per ride, so it took ten rides or so.

Supposedly this is the first in a series by Fay Vincent, too, so hopefully the upcoming volumes will be more groundbreaking and more entertaining.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Trade Paperback

Dodgers sign catcher Mike Lieberthal

My mom loves to tell this story. It's the summer of 1994, and I've just graduated from high school. In our family, on special occasions like birthdays, the person who's celebrating gets to pick somewhere to go for dinner that evening.

My family asks me where I want to go to celebrate. I'm sure they expected me to want to go to The Pub, a steakhouse I liked over in New Jersey, or something along those lines. But no, there was somewhere else I wanted to get dinner.

"Are the Phillies in town? I want to go to the Phillies game tonight."

So off we go, my whole family, still dressed up from the graduation ceremony, to Veterans Stadium, where my mom proceeds to tell every single person in the stands that her daughter just graduated with high honors, blah blah blah blah blah. I don't really remember the game that well. The Phillies lost, and John Kruk hit a home run, and my mom went on about how cute Darren Daulton was, and I said something like, "Down with Daulton!"

A week later, indeed, down with Daulton, as he broke his collarbone or something. Up with Mike Lieberthal, who replaced Kevin Stocker as my Phillies rookie crush.

Two months later, I moved away to Pittsburgh for college, and never lived in Philly again. A week after that, baseball went on strike, and I ended up pretty busy with classes and whatnot for the next four years, only going to one or two games a season (usually when the Phillies came to Pittsburgh). As the years went by, the Phillies roster changed, and eventually, only one name had stayed the same all along. And now there are none.

It feels like a lifetime since I moved away from Philadelphia. I suppose if you use catcher knees as a timepiece, it has been.

Phillies trade Gavin Floyd to the White Sox for Freddy Garcia

Here's another story. It's May of 2003, and I'm debating what to do for my birthday. The Yankees are in Seattle from the 6th to the 8th, and my birthday's the 7th. As it happens, the music band They Might Be Giants are also playing in town on May 6th and 7th.

One of my friends suggests I go to the TMBG concert on my birthday and the Mariners game the day before or after. That way, just in case the Mariners lose the game -- I rarely seem to actually see the home team win on my birthday -- it won't ruin the day for me. Seemed like a sound plan, so we went with that and got tickets accordingly. The concert rocked, and the next day I get together with a bunch of friends for the game; we get junk food, drinks, find our seats, and have a blast. Edgar Martinez hits a sweet home run in the first inning, the Mariners get a 3-0 lead, everything's peachy.

And then Freddy Garcia gives up nine runs to the Yankees in the third inning. They're just coming up to the plate and hitting him like a printer in Office Space. Julio Mateo comes in to stem the bleeding, and the Yanks ultimately score ten runs total by the time the dust clears.

So we spend the rest of the game watching the stadium empty out and betting on how many runs the Yankees will score total, as the Mariners were eventually completely mauled to the tune of 16-5. It sucked.

A few weeks later we were at pub quiz with a group, and one of the trivia questions that came up was, "Which pitcher holds the record for giving up the most home runs in a season?"

As a joke, I yelled out, "Freddy Garcia!"

It got a good laugh.

Mariners trade Rafael Soriano for Horacio Ramirez

It's the end of August 2006, and I'm in a huge debate over what the hell to do with my fantasy baseball team before heading off to Japan for a few weeks. I know I've got to put it into low-maintenance mode, as it's unlikely I'll be able to switch out my bench players more than once or twice a week, rather than once or twice a day. So I'm culling it down to 9 position players and a whole bunch of starting pitchers.

My favorite fantasy buddy Eugene and I are chatting about it, as I'm tossing players on their ass left and right. Chris Duncan gets the axe, Esteban Loaiza gets a spot. I decide to cut some of my middle relievers too so that it's all closers or starters. I drop Burgos for Broxton. I drop Lowe for Lowry. I look at what's left, and I've got to cut either Scot Shields or Rafael Soriano for another closer. Eugene recommends Tom Mastny, who I know absolutely nothing about, but everyone knows Cleveland's closer situation is somewhat akin to the 80's music video for Godley and Creme's "Cry".

So, what the hell, I ditch Soriano for Mastny. "I'm betting Soriano's totally going to get shut down soon anyway."

The very next day, I swear to god, Soriano gets hit in the head by a line drive by Vladimir Guerrero, and is hospitalized with his condition being reported from anywhere from concussion to hairline skull fracture.

I'm freaked out. I send Eugene an IM. "When I said he was getting shut down, I did NOT mean he should get the Ray Chapman treatment!"

He replies, "Well, look on the bright side. Think of all the Alfonso Soriano owners reacting to the headlines."

Thursday, December 07, 2006

NPB Roundup: Fighters, Tigers, and Carp, oh my!

(Hi. Yes, I know about the latest Winter Meeting fun, but I think the best way for me to ignore things like the Soriano-Ramirez trade and the Floyd-Garcia trade is to stop reading English language baseball sites, I think.)

I'm always impressed how the Japanese press can kick a guy when he's down if it makes a good front page photo. Kentaro Sekimoto went in for his contract negotiations with the Hanshin Tigers, and they basically treated him like crap, offering him 40 million yen (about $350k) next year, up from the 30 million (about $260k) he made this year -- after he basically came in and replaced Makoto Imaoka as their regular third baseman and hit well (.301/.382/.441) and played the field well (4 errors in 129 games); he always does seem to contribute when he gets a lot of regular playing time. The offer in itself might not be so weird, if not for two things: one, the Hanshin salary negotiators were apparently yawning and ignoring him while he was making his salary case to them, and two, they gave shortstop Takashi Toritani a raise to 70 million yen from 30 million. Toritani hit .289/.362/.431 AND made a bazillion (okay, 20) errors in the field (in 143 games). Sure, Toritani's a hype-o-riffic Waseda grad and all and a decent player, but Sekimoto's been with the team three times as long and works his ass off. In the wake of the Igawa posting windfall, and how close the team came this year to another pennant, I don't think it's that unreasonable for a lot of the key contributors to want to get paid a bit more, either.

Anyway, apparently, after the way the Hanshin negotiators were treating him, Sekimoto was actually so shocked he broke down crying. So of course all the press took photos of it and ran the story like it was front-page news on their websites with headlines like "Sekimoto in shock!" "Sekimoto was made to look like an idiot!" "Sekimoto crying over Hanshin officials yawning!" and so on.

I guess it shouldn't surprise me. The press loves this stuff (as another example, I can't even count how many times I saw the photos of Kazumi Saitoh being carried off the field crying after the Pacific League playoffs in various sports dailies/sites/magazines).

And of course, Dragonbutt got a raise to 65 million yen next year (from 36 million) for coming in and taking over for Kazuyoshi Tatsunami at third base for Chunichi. Funny coincidence, too: Sekimoto and Morino are a month apart in age and were drafted in the same round of the same draft (2nd round, 1996-1997 offseason). Oh yeah, and Morino hit .280/.321/.395 this year, too.

Okay, anyway. Speaking of Tigers pictures, I thought it was cool to see this one of Norihiro Akahoshi the other day, signing wheelchairs. For the last few years he's donated a wheelchair to charity for every base he steals, and speaks out for making Koshien more handicapped-accessible (good luck with that one, heh). Anyway, in his blog, he mentioned that he felt bad he only stole 35 bases this year, about half of the 60 he averaged over the previous three seasons.

I think the Red Sox are slightly confused on Hideki Okajima's player page, as they're listing him as having gone to college at Koshien. Someone might want to tell them that Koshien is a stadium, not an institution of higher learning, despite what 90% of the teenagers in Japan may tell you. Okajima didn't go to college, as the Giants drafted him from Higashiyama High School.

Eishin Soyogi, the Hiroshima Carp shortstop who was Central League ROY this year, got a raise in salary and a lowering in uniform number; he made 14 million yen this year and will make 32 million yen next year (yes, that's like a $150k->$280k raise), and will be wearing uniform number 6 (owned for the last ten years by the retiring first baseman Itsuki Asai) instead of number 32. He remarked that "It's an honor to wear number 6. [Chunichi shortstop Hirokazu] Ibata wears number 6, so I want to work hard to be better than him." Oh yeah, and Soyogi also wants to train to have an "Ichiro Body".

Speaking of changing numbers, Hochi sports reported that manager Hara has had to shuffle 20 Giants numbers. Thank god for sites like Seibango no Yakata for helping me sort out this sort of thing. They don't list 20 changes in this article, but they do list these:

Chen-ming Chiang: 97 -> 17
Hisanori Takahashi: 17 -> 21
Hiroshi Kisanuki: 21 -> 41
Masanori Hayashi: 30 -> 13
Takahiko Nomaguchi: 13 -> 33
Makoto Kosaka: 2 -> 6
Michihiro Ogasawara: Fighters -> 2

Hisanori Takahashi wants to wear #21 to be like Kazumi Takahashi, another lefty pitcher named Takahashi who was on the Giants on the infamous V squad. Kisanuki wants to be the "Tom Seaver of the Giants" wearing #41. Hayashi's #13 will make him be another lefty closer like Chunichi's Hitoki Iwase.

Former Giants ace pitcher Masumi Kuwata (#18) wanted to try to come play ball in America next year, but has found out that he won't be able to, due to visa limits for non-Americans permitted to play in the minor leagues. According to this article, though, permits for first-year minor leaguers fall under the same category as those issued to agricultural workers and other seasonal laborers. Isn't that scuppered up?

In the wake of former Bay Stars free agent pitcher Ken Kadokura deciding to sign with Yomiuri, suddenly the Terahara-Tamura trade the Bay Stars and Hawks did the other day looks a little better. It still seems to favor Softbank at a glance, but given that Kadokura was Yokohama's only 10-game winner, and he and Daisuke Miura were their only reasonable starting pitchers, it stands to reason that Terahara can't possibly be WORSE than the other options they have right now. As it is, Terahara seems pretty happy with the move, and with being in their rotation. He even went so far as to shave his facial hair. What is it with guys moving to the CL and shaving?

Man, the "Yuki Saito, Handkerchief Prince" craze is never going to die at this rate. Next year, NTV is going to broadcast Tokyo Big Six league games so the legions of swooning Saito fans can watch him on TV, even though he decided on college instead of the pro leagues. Apparently they wanted to just broadcast Waseda's games, but the league said they had to try to cover all six schools. Personally, I think I will continue to be a bigger fan of this Yuuki Saitoh instead. :)

Speaking of Waseda, I guess, look, it's Ken Miyamoto already being accosted by fans wanting autographs! (Why is he signing right-handed? Is he pulling a Zito?) But, hey, here's two shots of the Fighters' new kids on the dock on Nikkan Sports: in school uniform and in Fighters uniform. And here's a whole bunch more on the official Fighters' site. Using this picture we can see that the new class is highschoolers Dass Romash Tasuku (P #66), Yusuke Uemura (P #46), Mitsuo Yoshikawa (P #34), and college/industry draftees Yusuke Uchiyama (P #49), Takahiro Imanami (IF #45), Youhei Kaneko (OF #40), Kazunori Yamamoto (P #44), and Ken Miyamoto (P #17). As expected, Hisayoshi Chono went with his "I hate Nippon Ham" stance and didn't sign. I guess the most interesting uniform swaps here are Uemura taking Hichori Morimoto's old #46 and Kaneko taking Sanematsu/Okajima's old #40. I think I'd mentioned it, but Shinjo basically bestowed #1 on Hichori after retiring to help pass on the torch as being a crazy man. Or something.

The other good thing about this is that now we know that our tall Indian-Japanese draftee does indeed seem to spell his name "Dass", not "Darth" as it had been romanized several other places. This also inspired the press to talk about Dass's curry preferences and feature a small picture of him with his family.

Oh, the Swallows and Lions also have their new team member pictures up. (I should hunt for others, but I'm tired.)

This is decent fodder for the "Yu Darvish is soooooo girly" camp of folks, too.

So on one last note, to go full circle about contracts: Yukio Tanaka, who was team captain of the Fighters last year, took a 67% pay cut to play for a mere 20 million yen next year. It makes sense, since he's mostly a bench bat who's around for veteran leadership and because he has 1982 career hits and would really like to get to 2000. Kazuhiro Kiyohara, on the other hand, is going to get 250 million yen next year to hopefully be injury-free and bash some home runs and be a big name and a big bat (and not a big crybaby). He hit 11 homers this year for a career total of 525, good for fifth on the all-time Japan list. If he can hit another 11 next year, he'll tie Koji Yamamoto, but he'll have a ways to go to catch up to Hiromitsu Kadota (whose display I saw when I was at the NPB Hall of Fame three months ago, as he was just elected this year!) The only thing I wonder is: does he really pull in 2 million dollars worth of merchandise and attendance to the hapless Orix Buffaloes? They're really the only team I see as being truly hopeless next year, and I don't think an aging Kiyo-chan is going to help.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Japan Photos, Part 4 - Hiroshima!

Before I begin this entry I just need to mention that the Bay Stars traded Hitoshi Tamura to Softbank for Hayato Terahara. This is one of those "They did WHAT?!?" sorts of deals. Hitoshi Tamura, before being repeatedly injured this year, was finally coming into his own as a slugger (71 home runs between 2004 and 2005); Hayato Terahara was a high-school star who could throw 97 mph and was a hugely hyped prospect in 2001, but hasn't become consistent at the top-league level yet. So both of these guys are gigantic question marks. It makes sense from the perspective of Softbank being heavy on starting pitching and light on guys who can actually hit a baseball with a bat, and Yokohama being the reverse, but Tamura's too likely to run into a wall and kill himself, and Terahara's too likely to go up in flames. Oy.


I think this one or the Sendai one will end up being my favorite set. Having daylight makes a huge difference.

This set of photos is from September 8th. We took a day trip down to Hiroshima that day, doing touristy things during the day and a baseball game at night. Hiroshima is the most convenient city for that -- literally, we took the streetcar to the stop for the A-Bomb memorial, stepped off the car, looked across the street, and... there's Hiroshima Shimin Kyujo, the Carp stadium. Hiroshima Castle was a 10-minute walk from the stadium in the other direction. Due to heatstroke I begged to go to the stadium early so I could sit down in some shade -- so I ended up getting there in time for batting practice. Which was really awesome for shooting pictures. Even though there was a fence as usual, it was fairly wide, so I just had to put my lens up to it. Unfortunately I couldn't get up to the fence in the infield, though.

I also ended up sitting in a great seat -- right by third base, up high enough to see over the fences, and with a generally good spot to watch Dragonbutt Masahiko Morino, and also to watch this super-intense umpire who I never got a good picture of, sadly. He made these huge gestures to call strikes.

Aaaaanyway, you can read my blog entry for that day or see the box score on Yahoo or something. In short, Hiroshima is a bandbox, and I saw 7 home runs hit while I was there. The Dragons were ahead 7-2 for quite some time, and then they just sort of fell apart in the 8th. We had to leave in the 9th when it was 7-6 or risk missing the last train back to Osaka, and when I checked the score back at the hotel, I couldn't belive it -- the Carp had tied the game in the 9th and come back to win in the 10th. Doh! This is why I NEVER leave games early.

Photoset with thumbnails and descriptions here:
Carp vs. Dragons at Hiroshima Municipal Stadium, September 8, 2006

There's exactly 100 in the set, and I really love about 90 of them. The first half is pretty much from BP time, so it's a lot of player shots. I'll pick out a subset to display here like I've been doing... but really, I love this set. You should just look at all of the pictures. :)

Hiroshima Stadium, outside, inside, and at night:

Shigenobu Shima getting an award:

The infamous "Dragonbutt" shot, 7th inning balloons, and cheering Dragons fans.

Mitsuru Sato, Denney Tomori, Motonobu Tanishige, Dragonbutt, Fukudome:

Fukudome, Tatsunami, Morino, Carp manager Marty Brown, Carp mascot Slyly (a Philly Phanatic clone):

2006 CL ROY Eishin Soyogi, Yoshinori Ogata, Shima, Tomonori Maeda, Masayuki Hasegawa:

Grounds crew, Marty Brown "Wanted" T-shirt, Soda Girl, an Ibata fangirl and a Tatsunami fangirl:

I'd love to take pictures at an afternoon game in Hiroshima someday.

Next picture set should be some part of my Osaka adventure -- where on the same day, I went to a Fighters-Buffaloes game at the Osaka Dome and then an hour later went to a BayStars-Tigers game at Koshien. Not sure if I'll split them up, we'll see.