Thursday, November 30, 2006

Okajima Wears Red Socks

It's somewhat surreal, but Red Sox Sign Lefty Okajima is the headline of the afternoon. Contract's for 2 years, $2.5 million according to the AP.

Hideki Okajima, a tall hefty lefty who will be 31 on Christmas, played for most of his career with the Giants, winning two Japan Series with them before being part of the Nippon Ham Fighters team which won this year. He grew up in Kyoto, and went to Higashiyama High, pitching at the spring invitational Koshien tournament in 1992 and 1993. He was drafted as the Giants third-round pick in the 1993-1994 offseason, and went on to pitch well in various roles, shining as both a lefty relief ace and a closer for the Giants. This year he was 2-2 with 4 saves and an ERA of 2.14, striking out 63 in 54.2 innings with a WHIP of 1.09. Lefties hit a miniscule .186 against him, and all of the 5 home runs he gave up were to right-handed batters.

He came to the Fighters in a trade right before the 2006 season, the Fighters sending no-bat catcher Kazunari Sanematsu and journeyman infielder Shigeyuki Furuki to the Giants for him. It's easily one of the best trades the Fighters have ever made. I will always remember Okajima best for moments like this, striking out Kosuke Fukudome in the Japan Series, over and over and over again. Hopefully he will find a suitable new lefty slugger over here to become the bane of. Personally, I suggest Big Jim Fuku-Thome.

The real downside to Okajima's new team being the Red Sox is that there's very little chance of me getting to tell him how awesome I thought he was in the Japan Series, as Sox fans are notorious for filling up Safeco within about five seconds of the gates opening for batting practice, and all the Japanese fans are going to come in to see Matsuzaka, too.

Shinjo's new career?

Thanks to The2Belo informing me about it, I went and watched the November 20th episode of the TV variety show SMAPxSMAP. (Everyone loves SMAP, right?) Recently-retired Fighters outfielder Tsuyoshi Shinjo was the guest, and it was probably the funniest episode of any Japanese TV show I've ever seen. I literally was laughing so hard I almost fell out of my chair.

Shinjo started off the show by coming out and pretending he was the owner of "Bistro SMAP", the Iron-Chef-like food competition they do on the show... as the real owner Masahiro Nakai walks out, dressed in an identical host outfit, wondering what the hell is going on. Shinjo's just like, "There's been a change in ownership here." The other four SMAP guys are like "Yeah, I heard that too." After the gag, Shinjo says that the food he wants to eat is "nippon ichi oishii ryouri", which could be interpreted as "the best cooking in Japan", or more likely, "tasty food for a Japan Champion!"

(screen capture from SMAPxSMAP 11/20/2006, Fuji TV)

They went down to the kitchen for a while after that to chat while the SMAP guys prepared a feast for champions. Takuya Kimura and Tsuyoshi Kusanagi were one team, and Shingo Katori and Goro Inagaki were the other. Shinjo talked about various stunts he'd pulled and other details about the team (at one point he was talking about Hichori, and the other guys are like "Hichori... is that a nickname?" and Masa and Shinjo are both like "No, it's his real name! Did you see when he dressed up as Piccolo at the All-Star Game?"). Katori even said how he didn't really follow baseball, but watching Shinjo made him think it looked really fun and exciting, and Shinjo said, "Hearing that from people makes me really happy."

The food they made was really really yummy. Despite that Kimura and Kusanagi won, I liked Shingo and Goro's arrangement better, partially because I've had a weird craving for good omurice lately, but mostly because they made this awesome dessert that was basically a baseball in a glove bowl, the ball being made out of strawberry mousse and cake, and they even decorated it with a "Shinjo HT 63". So cool! (So yummy-looking...)

Shingo Katori came out dressed up in a Fighters uniform when Shinjo was trying the desserts, and he was like "Look, I'm manager Hillman! 1, 2, 3, SHINJIRARENAAAAAIIII". It was pretty funny.

Now, here's the scary part. After the Bistro SMAP half of the show, they did this second half where it was almost like they were parodying themselves or something. They were initiating Shinjo into an idol group called the "Skate Boys", where they were all dressed up as an 80's boy band, in pink tank tops with a glittery "S" on them, and white shorts, and high white knee socks, and headbands with cutesy nicknames on them. First they sang and danced to a song. Shinjo really did try pretty hard to follow the routine.

Then, uhhh... they practiced doing their smiles as "cute boy band idols". It was pretty frightening. Shinjo's in the middle of the bottom row here as they all pose together.

Then they went and did this gag where all six "boy band members" had caricatures drawn on this carnival-board thingy, and they all had to throw baseballs to try to knock out the faces. Shinjo's is in the bottom right. Since there was another Tsuyoshi in the band, Shinjo became "Tsuyo-tsuyo", as Kusanagi was "Tsuyo-chan".

At one point Kimura threw a few baseballs and utterly missed the board, which was funny enough, but then he got down on one knee and put his glove on his head in the same pose Shinjo and Hichori and Inaba used to do all year in the Fighters outfield, and Shinjo cracked up and joined him here too:


Well, anyway. This was a tremendously funny episode of SMAPxSMAP. To be fair, the last time I watched it was when Orix's Kiyohara and Nakamura were on it, and they aren't anywhere near as charismatic. The disturbing part was how well Shinjo fit in with SMAP -- he's about the same age as the older members, has similar looks (they all have disturbingly white bright teeth and smiles), and similar mannerisms and charisma. I think he's going to be pretty awesome if and when he ends up as a TV personality somewhere. I'd almost like to see him teamed up with Kazushige Nagashima for something. Maybe they could be a pair of cops and have to hunt down Kazuhiro Kiyohara as a yakuza lord. That'd rule.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Japan Photos, Part 2 - Tokyo Dome / Seibu Dome

Yeah, I'm aware that the Yankees won the posting bid of $25 million or so for Kei Igawa, but you can read about that all over the place. I'll do some sort of post-posting post at some point. I guess we already know what he looks like in pinstripes, so it's all good. (Does this mean it's my job to make fun of the way he dresses more or less now that he'll be a Yankee? And is it cool or uncool for MLB players to carry around anime totebags? Ah, Kei-chan, I do hope you do well... except when facing the Mariners, of course.)

Anyway, these pictures are from my second full day in Japan, where I hung out with my friend Li again. Being from New York, he actually wanted to find a Shinjo jersey, so we met up at the Tokyo Dome so I could show him the big baseball store there and take some pictures, and we could then take the train out to Tokorozawa for the Lions-Fighters game. You can read my blog entry about the day, or the game log on the Fighters' site. Quick version is that Fighters' starter Satoru Kanemura gave up a grand slam to catcher Toru Hosokawa, and the Lions' Fumiya Nishiguchi had much better luck keeping the Fighters lineup down, so the Lions won 6-2 in the end.

I sat in the outfield unreserved turf "seating" during this game, cheering my lungs out with a ton of other Fighters fans, so most of the pictures are actually of fans and such, rather than of players. Plus, the lighting at the Seibu Dome is pretty atrocious and they had pretty thick fences around the field.

Photo set with thumbnails and descriptions is here:
Tokyo Dome and Invoice Seibu Dome, full photo set

Outside the Tokyo Dome; outside and inside the Seibu Dome

To:Do shop, Giants Adidas shop, and "Giants Is Giants" poster:

A Hichori sign, a Shinjo sign, and a baseball caught by the guy next to me.

Cardboard cutouts of Lions players outside a bento stand, an oendan leader, a beer guy, and a cute kid.

There's some other fun things in the photo set, and this one is less than half the size of the Sendai one. Enjoy!

Next up: Swallows vs. Dragons at the Nagoya Dome. Should be up in time to be a Friday Foto, even!

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Random Roundups

Well, let's see. Today (the 27th) was Willie Bloomquist's birthday (and Pudge Rodriguez and Jimmy Rollins and Mike Scioscia, if you're counting) and his present this year from the Mariners is a contract extension! Whee!

The Hall of Who?

The 2007 Hall of Fame candidate list is now out. Let's face it, Tony Gwynn and Cal Ripken Jr are pretty much guarantees. There are a lot of question marks out there for a lot of the other players on the list -- many of whom are close, but not quite HOF quality. The only one I feel somewhat strongly about is Rich Gossage -- it just seems wrong that last year they voted in the Bruce but not the Goose. Either way, this would be an opportune time to plug The Goose Is Loose, which was one of the funniest baseball books I've ever read. The other funny case on the list to me (besides Jay Buhner, heh heh) is Tommy John -- I don't actually think he should be in the HOF, but I do think he had a long and amazing career, and that he doesn't actually have to be in the HOF to be immortalized, since pretty much every pitcher from now on who blows out his elbow will think of the guy.

Who Wants To Pay A Millionaire?

This past week saw Gary Matthews sign a ridiculous 5/50 contract with the Angels, the Astros sign Carlos Lee to an even more ridiculous 6/100 contract (and Woody Williams for 2/12.5), and the Orioles signed Danys Baez to a ridiculous 3/19 contract. But it's not all completely ridiculous. Philly is signing Adam Eaton to a 3/24 contract, and David Dellucci is following the J-Mike path from the Phillies to Cleveland, signing a reported 3/12 contract. Former Pepperdine Wave Randy Wolf is supposedly returning to South California with the Dodgers, for a very reasonable 1/8 contract coming off TJ surgery. (So much for the Wolf Pack in Philly.)

Around the Blogs in 80 Seconds

Jeff at Lookout Landing neatly summed up the Mariners 2006 season in quotes, Derek at USSM wrote Winter Meetings: The Text Adventure, Dave forwarded an interesting article about the life of King Felix, Conor Glassey wrote a song parody called White 'n' Dirty about Willie Bloomquist, and Phillies Flow has a lot of good recent stuff on Chris Coste, including a link to an article about his career path, and an entry arguing why Coste should make the 2007 roster. Mike Berquist has finished his series on the 1950 "Whiz Kids" Phillies, posting the final entry today; links to the rest of the series are at the bottom of that entry. Last, but not least, MetsGrrl wonders how I omitted the latest GQ model Jose Reyes from my NL All-Cute Team; but in reality, seeing that hair, I have to consider DFA'ing David Wright, actually.

Welcome to Sapporo, Mr. Green

Hey, it appears that Andy Green is signing with the Fighters, which is rad. At 5'9" and 175 pounds, he's got about the right physique to fit in (he'll pretty much mimic Kensuke Tanaka), and if he can hit in Japan like he did in 2005 in the PCL (.343/.422/.587, voted league MVP), that'll be pretty sweet. Not quite an Ogasawara replacement, but I think he'd be a good righty to put between Kensuke and Inaba or Seguignol, what with Naoto Inada (another lefty batter) most likely stepping in to take over at either third or first.

In the natural cycle of gaijin, the Fighters are not offering Brad Thomas a contract for next year. The big left-hander was 4-1 with a 3.74 ERA, striking out 43 in 45.2 innings pitched. He'd be a good pickup for some other team in Japan, given the general musical chairs game going on right now.

I'm not Gary Garland, Nor Do I Play Him On TV

Without Gary out there reading all the Japanese newspapers and translating interesting tidbits into English, I guess I have to go try to make sense of what's going on. I'm not as thorough in reading the news, but here's a few things:

First, Julio Zuleta is a free agent, having come to a halt in contract talks with the Hawks, as he wanted a multiyear deal and they wouldn't budge on it. I wonder if another Japanese team will sign him or if he'll get any interest from MLB.

Zuleta's former team, the Cubs, seem more interested in Kei Igawa. I do wonder whether Igawa knows he's a "second-tier" pitcher.

I keep seeing articles about "Nippon Ham's Kaneko signs" referring to Youhei Kaneko, the drafted outfielder from Honda. Oops.

Bobby Valentine keeps going on these trips to Okinawa to talk with Yaeyama Shoko ace Yuta Ohmine, who originally said he wouldn't play for any team except the Hawks, but has since relented and signed with Lotte. They promised him uniform number 1, and on this trip to Ishigaki Bobby brought him a uniform.

In other "What's Bobby V Up To?" news, Bobby posted a link on his blog to a YouTube clip where he's leading a cha-cha dance on stage before a Marines game earlier this year.

Komadai Tomakomai high school ace Masahiro Tanaka, drafted onto the Rakuten Eagles a few months ago, has been told that he will start on the top-level team in spring camp, as the management has said that he's "just not a minor league player". Tanaka will wear uniform number 18, which has a connotation of being worn by ace pitchers.

There was a second tryout at Chiba Marine Stadium on Monday with representatives watching from all 12 teams. 36 players participated, including released players such as the Fighters' Tomochika Tsuboi, the Hawks' Katsuhiko Miyaji, and Seibu's Fumikazu Takanami. (It doesn't sound like Tsuboi did particularly well, unfortunately.)

Dragonbutt Masahiko Morino is apparently causing a stir with the Chunichi management by demanding a significant raise in his contract.

Sounds like half of the Fighters don't want to go on their victory trip to New Zealand from December 14-26. Ogasawara's ducking out on account of switching teams, Shinjo retired, Yagi has a leave of absence, and Inaba and Hillman are only going for part of the trip, etc. Takes the fun out of it, doesn't it?

The Yakult Swallows are getting rid of Rick Guttormson. He wanted a 2-year, 700-million yen contract; they offered him a 1-year, 150-million yen contract; and alas, it appears they have agreed to disagree. Guttormson was 9-10 with a 2.58 ERA this year, and a no-hitter on May 25th against Rakuten.

Tomoaki Egawa has apparently been designated to be the Hawks' "post-Kokubo" third baseman, and as such is apparently assigned to train with him and absorb some "Kokuboism". Egawa's had a somewhat crazy few years, as he was a pitcher for Ujiyamada high school, pitched at Koshien, was drafted as a pitcher by the Hawks, but since he hit a lot of home runs and the Hawks are so pitching-heavy already he was converted to shortstop/third base, and then entirely played outfield for the Waikiki BeachBoys in the Hawaiian Winter League this year. He hit .274/.343/.483 on the Hawks' farm team in 2006; that's not too shabby for a 19-year-old kid.

Err, anyway. So on one final note, mostly bookmarked for myself: Nikkan Sports's contract signing news page with everything they know about contracts, which is pretty much everything I know about contracts.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Japan Photos, Part 1 - Sendai

I had some spare time this long weekend and cropped/resized/thumbed/labelled/sorted the first installment of Japanese baseball pictures from my trip in September. (If you are new to this blog or weren't paying attention in September or are putting off doing work on a Monday morning, feel free to read my Japan Trip entries, care of Blogger's handy new labelling tool!)

I realized that part of why I have felt such a huge mental block towards actually going through the trip collection is that I took around 400 pictures in Sendai. It was a BEAUTIFUL sunny Saturday afternoon and I was in a stadium and city I'd never been to before. I'm pretty sure I took more pictures at that game than any other game I attended, seriously. So in theory I should be able to go through my other sets a lot more quickly in the future, and will be hacking away at them in the next few weeks.

So, these pictures are from September 2nd, at a game of the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks vs. the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles at Miyagi Fullcast Stadium in Sendai, Japan. Blog entry from that day is here and the scoreboard/gamelog/etc is here. Short version: I hadn't even been in Japan for 24 hours when I hopped on a shinkansen to Sendai just to see the Hawks' Saitoh pitch against Rakuten's Ichiba. Saitoh was wonderful and the Hawks won the game 4-1, Nobuhiko Matsunaka scoring the first run for Softbank on a solo home run and Jose Fernandez scoring the only run for Rakuten on a solo home run off closer Mahara in the ninth.

Photo set with thumbnails and descriptions is here:
Eagles vs. Hawks at Miyagi Fullcast Stadium, Full Photo Set

Though I have no idea whether anyone will actually click on that link and look at the 128 pictures I sorted out, so I figured I'd throw a few thumbnails up here as encouragement:

The stadium itself:

Pre-game, and the complexities of trash:

Selling goods, selling food, and a mighty swing:

Shibahara, Matoba, Honda, Fernandez, Jolbert Cabrera:

Kazumi Saitoh, Yasuhiro Ichiba:

More Saitoh/Ichiba, and some cheerleaders:

The balloons go a-flying!

I dunno, seriously, there's a LOT of pictures there, as I was really in "wow! take pictures of EVERYTHING!" mode. I think I took too many of Julio Zuleta and Munenori Kawasaki. (No such thing as taking too many pictures of Kazumi Saitoh, of course.) I ended up with a lot of pictures where faces weren't clear though, due to the bright sun that day and the shade of baseball caps, or due to it just being too far to zoom; and of course, it was hard to get on-field shots from my seat because of all the damn fences, though I spent two innings standing up on the walkway.

Anyway, uh, hi! Hope you have fun looking through these! Next set will be Lions vs. Fighters at the Seibu Dome. It is a much much much smaller set. Stupid roofs with bad lighting and all.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Requisite Ogasawara Post

(aka "Guts, I think you screwed up".)

Something is rotten in the state of Denmark. Or the prefecture of Hokkaido, as the case may be.

My favorite Japanese baseball player, Michihiro "Guts" Ogasawara, the first-and-sometimes-third baseman for the Nippon Ham Fighters for the last ten years, has apparently agreed to be the third baseman for the Yomiuri Giants. (Japanball/Kyodo article.) This sucks. For anyone who's watched the Yankees sign away their favorite player from a team at some point, you can understand the feeling of the suckage -- but what's weirder about this situation is threefold:

1) He didn't actually get a salary raise at all to move to the Giants (according to most sources, it'll be a 4 year, 1.6-billion yen contract; the Fighters were offering 3 years, 1.5 billion yen)

2) The motivation for the move is theorized to be because his wife and daughters never moved up to Hokkaido, and have been bugging him to move back to the Tokyo region instead

3) He never came clear with the fans about his intentions. Everyone heard about this through the media, not from him. The media had been saying rumors that he was going to sign with the Giants on the 22nd over and over again, but since Ogasawara himself didn't actually say anything about it during the fan festival and parade weekend in Hokkaido, a lot of people held out false hope. One group went and got 30,000 fan signatures on a "Please stay with the Fighters" petition. Due to the timing, I don't think he even knew about them before he made his decision.

Things got even weirder because apparently he put up a long message on the Fighters' official web site... which was subsequently edited down in the next few hours. I only saw the latest version, which reads:



最後まで自分を信じて応援し続けてくれたファンのみんなには大変申し訳ない気持ちでいっぱいです。 今でも目を閉じるとスタンドいっぱいにこだまする皆の声援が聞こえるようです。この気持ちを忘れることなく、応援してくれるみんなの気持ちを忘れることなく、そして北海道を決して忘れることなく挑戦し続けていきたい。皆の力がファイターズをさらに大きくすることを信じています。本当にありがとうございました。

Translated (more for sentiment than accuracy): "To the Fighters fans all over the country: I know this is too late to be informing everyone, after the newspapers and TV shows already reported it, but I am leaving the Fighters. After experiencing three years in Hokkaido, I think I need to try to find a new dream to pursue, starting from square one. In Hokkaido, I grew a lot as a player and I will never be able to forget the experience here, because those three short years were some of the best of my life. Hokkaido has become like a "second home" to me, and I will never forget the place; all of you I have met can never be replaced in my heart. I may be leaving you now, but within the world of pro baseball I will certainly have the chance to come back to the Sapporo Dome to see all of you. At that time, I want to return to these grounds with pride, as the "Ogasawara who was raised by Fighters fans".

"I feel like I can't possibly apologize enough to the fans who have believed in me and cheered me until the end. Even now when I open my eyes towards the stands, I can almost hear the echoes of everyone's voices cheering. I will never forget that feeling, of everyone cheering for me, and I will never forget Hokkaido when facing future challenges. Furthermore, I believe that everything I ever accomplished for the Fighters came from the power given to me by the fans. Truly, I want to thank you all."

It's a nice sentiment, I guess, but yeah, I can see why a lot of people would have definitely liked to have heard it from him BEFORE reading about his decision in the newspaper.

It's funny, I personally don't entirely know how to react. I know I feel a little bit betrayed, but I'm also in that Japanese mindset of "it can't be helped" and "Ogasawara will always be our Ogasawara" and "we are still Fighters fans no matter what". Watching the Sapporo parade footage on YouTube, I was sitting there convincing myself that I'd still love the Fighters even if Guts left. I think I still feel that way. I don't know who's going to replace him at first base or with his consistent 900+ OPS. But just because Ogasawara and Okajima are leaving for other teams, and Shinjo's retiring, and so on, doesn't mean I don't love Kaneko, Yukio, Hichori, Kensuke, Inaba, Inada, Seguignol, Takahashi, Tsuruoka, Darvish, Yagi, Takeda(s), Micheal, and yes, even Kanemura. I'm excited to see if Inada and Konta can step up and join the starting lineup next year; I'm hoping to see good things from Keizo Kawashima; I'd like to see Kimoto come back; I'm hoping Hichori stops chasing bad outside pitches; and I'm hoping to see if Ken Miyamoto can be a shorter Tomoya Yagi.

But, I'm not sure what to do with my Ogasawara #2 jersey now. I don't know whether I should continue trying to read his autobiography now, since it might make me feel pretty sad. (I only read about 20 pages so far, the WBC chapter.) I deflated the blue dolphin that had been sitting up on my Fighters Shrine, which I still haven't taken down. And I'm finally replacing this as my desktop background.

Apparently the Giants are going to make Makoto Kosaka give up #2 so Ogasawara can wear it. (Of course, Lotte fans will recall that Kosaka mostly wore #1 with the Marines, but #1 is retired on the Giants for Sadaharu Oh. Saburo wore #2 for Lotte until Bobby Valentine claimed it.)

I don't know if this is the first and last post about the whole Ogasawara situation, or if you're going to hear me continue to whine about it all winter until the Fighters find someone to fill the gaping hole in their lineup. I wouldn't mind seeing the Fighters try to pick up Adam Riggs (as the Swallows apparently released him and Guttormson), maybe. At least he's already a proven hitter in Japan, unlike certain players I could name later. I dunno. And there was the Andy Green rumor too -- I wonder what came of that.

Either way, I guess we'll see what happens. It's going to be pretty weird next time I go to a Fighters game, when they get up to the third batter in the lineup and there's no special banners and signs and flags and "tachiagare Ogasawara..."

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

NPB College/Industrial Draft List

I'm sorry, I needed something to take my mind off Ogasawara signing with the Giants, because I can't deal with that right now. I just can't.

So I went and translated the full lists of the college/industrial draft. Hopefully it'll be useful to someone.

I worked with the Sankei Sports list as my master list (so all height/weight info is from there) and then did web searches to figure out various other things, mostly hometown prefectures. There's like three where I took the hometown of their high school since I couldn't find anything else (and those are denoted with a dash afterwards), I'm sure I can find out as details come in. I also used the industry/college draft issue of Shukan Baseball for some info.

Players with pages linked are just because I ended up looking them up to find out info in the first place so figured I might as well save that info.

I've got some thoughts about how some teams did their drafting (notably Hiroshima taking all industry-league older players), but I'm pretty mentally shot.

I'm thinking of trying to write up how the draft works, too, at some point. It's incredibly convoluted, but I think I finally understand the whole pick-skipping thing, at least. You'll notice in most of these there's a K and then a 3 -- because the K is the pre-signed kibouwaki player, then almost every team except Rakuten didn't have a pick until the technical "third round", due to not skipping the first round of the high school draft and due to signing a kibouwaki outside the draft.

Name Pos Univ/Company B/T DOB Ht/Wt Hometown
-------------------- --- ------------ --- ---------- ---------- --------

Chunichi Dragons

K: Daisuke Tanaka C Toyo Univ R/R 12/18/1984 174cm/78kg Hiroshima
3. Takuya Asao P Nihon Fukushi Univ R/R 10/22/1984 182cm/71kg Aichi
4. Masanori Kikuchi P Toho Gas L/L 09/09/1984 177cm/82kg Shizuoka
5. Tatsuro Iwasaki IF Nippon Oil (ENEOS) R/R 12/28/1984 175cm/75kg Kanagawa
6. Akinobu Shimizu P Meijo Univ R/R 10/26/1983 175cm/85kg Mie
7. Akira Nishikawa IF Hosei Univ L/R 04/02/1984 175cm/72kg Mie

Hanshin Tigers

K: Tatsuya Kojima P Osaka Gas L/L 10/07/1985 180cm/73kg Osaka
3. Keiji Uezono P Musashi Univ R/R 06/30/1984 180cm/80kg Fukuoka
4. Takashi Shimizu C Kanzei Gakuin Univ R/R 04/23/1984 177cm/75kg Hyogo
5. Yuuji Oshiro IF TDK Chikumagawa S/R 10/07/1985 172cm/75kg Okinawa

Yakult Swallows

K: Shun Takaichi P Aoyama Gakuin Univ R/R 07/09/1984 177cm/80kg Chiba
3. Satoshi Nishizaki P JR Hokkaido R/R 08/01/1982 174cm/68kg Fukuoka
4. Atsushi Kinugawa C Sumitomo Kashima R/R 03/20/1981 180cm/90kg Hyogo

Yomiuri Giants

K: Norihito Kaneto P Ritsumeikan Univ L/L 04/10/1984 177cm/83kg Hyogo
3. Takahisa Ueno P NTT East L/L 12/09/1984 177cm/75kg Tokyo
4. Hidetoshi Tsuburaya IF Aoyama Gakuin Univ L/R 09/17/1984 181cm/75kg Kanagawa
5. Kazuho Fukasawa P Shikoku / Kagawa* L/L 09/16/1983 180cm/72kg Yamanashi
6. Takayuki Terauchi IF JR East R/R 05/27/1983 177cm/75kg Tochigi
7. Ryousuke Fukamachi P Chukyo Univ R/R 10/25/1984 181cm/81kg Aichi

(Shikoku League, Kagawa Olive Guyners)

Hiroshima Carp

K: Michito Miyazaki P Honda Suzuka R/R 09/06/1978 181cm/78kg Wakayama
3. Hirofumi Ueno P Toyota R/R 04/10/1981 176cm/82kg Kagoshima
4. Takahiro Aoki P Nissan L/L 11/26/1981 187cm/80kg Gifu
5. Naoki Nakahigashi OF Honda Suzuka L/R 10/05/1981 168cm/68kg Hiroshima

Yokohama Bay Stars

K: Kentarou Takasaki P Nissan R/R 06/24/1985 175cm/80kg Kumamoto
3. Yuta Kimura P Tokyo Gas L/L 05/21/1985 189cm/80kg Akita
4. Tatsuya Shimozono OF Kyushu Kokusai Univ L/L 11/22/1984 179cm/81kg Miyazaki
5. Yusuke Shimokubo OF Nippon Express R/R 01/21/1979 173cm/78kg Kagoshima
6. Michiomi Yoshihara P Honda Sayama R/R 10/29/1981 181cm/83kg Tokyo

Nippon Ham Fighters

K: Ken Miyamoto P Waseda Univ L/L 04/18/1984 174cm/78kg Okayama
3. Keisaku Itokazu P Asia Univ R/R 11/07/1984 180cm/88kg Okinawa
4. Hisayoshi Chono OF Nihon Univ R/R 12/06/1984 178cm/78kg Saga
5. Kazunori Yamamoto P Waseda Univ L/L 06/13/1983 184cm/90kg Shimane
6. Yohei Kaneko OF Honda R/R 12/04/1981 177cm/83kg Yamaguchi
7. Takahiro Imanami IF Meiji Univ L/R 07/06/1984 170cm/75kg Fukuoka
8. Yusuke Uchiyama P Asahikawa Univ R/R 08/21/1984 182cm/83kg Kanagawa

Seibu Lions

K: Takayuki Kishi P Tohoku Gakuin Univ R/R 12/04/1984 180cm/69kg Miyagi
3. Jun Yamamoto P TDK Chikumaguma R/R 04/16/1982 188cm/80kg Kanagawa
4. Takuya Hara IF Kanto Gakuin Univ L/R 05/18/1984 174cm/74kg Kanagawa
5. Tetsuya Iwasaki P Mitsubishi Yokohama R/R 10/13/1982 190cm/88kg Saitama
6. Yutaro Ohsaki OF Aoyama Gakuin Univ L/R 10/18/1984 170cm/80kg Ibaraki

Fukuoka Softbank Hawks

K: Kenji Ohtonari P Kinki Univ L/L 11/19/1984 174cm/82kg Kyoto
3. Hiroaki Takaya C Hakuoh Univ L/R 11/13/1981 178cm/83kg Tochigi
4. Masahiko Morifuku P Shidax L/L 07/29/1986 175cm/67kg Aichi
5. Yuuya Hasegawa OF Senshu Univ L/R 12/22/1984 178cm/81kg Yamagata
6. Hideto Kawazu P Fukuoka Univ R/R 03/26/1985 181cm/80kg Saga-

Chiba Lotte Marines

3. Takumi Kohbe OF Ryutsu Keizai Univ L/R 02/23/1985 191cm/95kg Ibaraki
4. Tadahiro Ogino P Hitachi R/R 04/16/1982 174cm/71kg Tokyo
5. Ryousuke Eguchi P Aichi Gakuin Univ L/L 08/12/1984 175cm/77kg Tokyo-
6. Taiki Nakagoh P JR Shikoku R/R 09/21/1984 175cm/68kg Tokushima-
7. Tatsuya Kakunaka OF Shikoku/Kochi* R/R 05/25/1987 180cm/80kg Ishikawa
8. Kodai Matsumoto P Duplo L/L 12/23/1980 175cm/75kg Hyogo

(Shikoku League, Kochi Fighting Dogs)

Orix Buffaloes

K: Satoshi Komatsu P JR Kyushu R/R 10/29/1981 180cm/78kg Fukushima
3. Keiji Ohbiki IF Hosei Univ R/R 06/29/1984 177cm/75kg Osaka

Rakuten Golden Eagles

1: Satoshi Nagai P Toyo Univ L/R 09/27/1984 177cm/69kg Gunma
3. Motohiro Shima C Kokugakuin Univ R/R 12/13/1984 178cm/82kg Gifu
4. Fuminori Yokogawa OF Aoyama Gakuin Univ R/L 12/03/1984 186cm/90kg Ibaraki
5. Naoto Watanabe IF Mitsubishi Fuso R/R 10/15/1980 173cm/70kg Ibaraki

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Roster moves and MVPs

I was going to write more about the NPB Industrial/College draft, but got sidetracked. If I don't see a translated list of the draftees anywhere else by tonight, I'll put one together here, at the very least.

So instead, here's what I've been reading today:

There were Jeremy Reed trade rumors abounding in a USSM comment thread yesterday. They haven't turned into anything yet, though.

Pat Lagreid informed me that manager Mike Hargrove is going to be a guest on the Hot Stove League hour on Mariners Radio tonight at 7pm on KOMO 1000, so if you want to hear what Grover's got to say about the offseason so far, tune in and have a listen.

Mariner Minors has a good report up on the Mariners' recent 40-man roster management, about which players are being protected from the Rule 5 draft, which players aren't, and which players have departed (notably, TJ Bohn was claimed by the Braves off waivers and Jeff Harris was signed by Cleveland (I still haven't seen an article confirming it but our Harris informer at LL mentioned it as well)). There's a press release up about the roster moves.

In the realm of "headlines you could amusingly misread", today there was one reading Sox Have Matsuzaka For Dinner. It probably doesn't help that the picture of him in the article makes him look really chubby!

MVPs have been announced for both leagues now. Ryan Howard won the NL Award, a day after turning 27 on Sunday. The Phillies unfurled a banner celebrating it out at CBP, but even better, he stopped by an elementary school in Philly and helped them paint a mural they were making to honor him. They sang happy birthday to him and gave him cake. Sounds like he'll have one busy offseason, making appearances all over the place.

This marks the second MVP in two weeks for Howard, as he was awarded the Japan-MLB All-Star Games MVP as well, captivating the crowds over there with his charming smile and powerful bat.

At least this year, unlike last year, there isn't some stupid football player starting a ton of controversy and keeping Howard from getting his due recognition in Philly; last year when he won the Rookie of the Year, there was barely any coverage of it.

You could make an argument that Albert Pujols deserved the NL MVP more; you could make an argument that Derek Jeter deserved the AL MVP more too, but the winner in that league was Justin Morneau, making a nice Twin set of awards with Johan Santana's Cy Young.

Justin Morneau was also awarded the accolade of "Boyfriend of the Year" by the sasstistical analysts at Bat-Girl. Whether or not he considered this to be a higher honor is unknown, as Morneau could not be reached for comment.

On another note of Cardinals being snubbed, my baseball calendar lists Ken Griffey Jr. for today's player birthday. That's just ridiculous, given that it's Stan Musial's birthday AND the ballpark of the month is Sportsman's Park in St. Louis.

I haven't come up with a catchy tune idea for an MVP song parody yet this year, unfortunately.

Monday, November 20, 2006

NPB Roundup: Shiggy, Drafting, and other fun

Hey, it looks like Terry Collins wants to hire Shigetoshi Hasegawa as a coach for Orix. Collins managed the Angels when Shiggy first came over and played for them, and Shiggy came to the US from the Orix Blue Wave in the first place. It seems like it'll be a good fit if he wants it, though it sounds like Shiggy's just thinking about it for now and will give them an answer depending on the circumstances when spring camp starts. He's one of my favorite Mariners ever, and I think his unique set of skills and knowledge and intelligence would make him an excellent coach, should he choose to pursue it.

Industrial/College draft starts tomorrow, by which I mean Tuesday in Japan, which is Monday afternoon/evening in Seattle. I realize I still don't fully understand exactly how it works, but it sounds like Lotte and Rakuten don't get to take a pre-pick - Lotte because they actually took a second round pick in the high school draft, and Rakuten because they didn't decide in time or didn't have their unofficial offer accepted. The list of pre-picks (kibouwaku, whatever) is up various places; SportsNavi (among others) has profiles for them all, if you read Japanese -- and my guess is that anyone else who cares about the NPB industrial/college draft probably does :)

The list, anyway:

Yokohama: Kentarou Takasaki, Nissan, RHP
Hiroshima: Michito Miyazaki, Honda, RHP
Orix: Satoshi Komatsu, JR Kyushu, RHP
Giants: Norihito Kaneto, Ritsumeikan Univ, LHP
Yakult: Shun Takaichi, Aoyama Gakuin Univ, RHP
Softbank: Kenji Ohtonari, Kinki Univ, LHP
Tigers: Tatsuya Kojima, Osaka Gas, LHP
Seibu: Takayuki Kishi, Tohoku Gakuin Univ, RHP
Chunichi: Daisuke Tanaka, Toyodai Univ, C
Nippon Ham: Ken Miyamoto, Waseda Univ, LHP

I have to admit that Miyamoto's the only one I've really looked into at all, for obvious reasons.

The soon-to-be newest Devil Ray, Akinori Iwamura, apparently is going to try for the media 'Good Guy Award'... or something. He's also hoping to have a Japanese interpreter/trainer.

37,741 people came to Fighters Fan Fest at the Sapporo Dome on Sunday. Shinjo wasn't there, but Ogasawara was, and this is too cute for words. But never let the Fighters be without goofiness anyway, as Atsunori Inaba got the entire stadium to do an "Inaba Jump" and make the ground shake like it did during the Japan Series, and Hichori Morimoto apparently gave a rousing rendition of Yutaka Ozaki's "Happy Birthday".

(All the articles are also saying Ogasawara will announce signing with the Giants on Tuesday or Wednesday NOTLISTENINGCANTHEARYOUBLAHBLAHBLAHWAAAAAAHHHH)

The Fighters are looking at hiring Dave Owen as a coach. Owen and [manager Trey] Hillman both went to the University of Texas at Arlington (though not at the same time, I don't think), and with the release of pitching coach Mike Brown (for whatever reason -- the Fighters' pitching this year was sensational!), they wanted to find an American coach so Hillman would at least have someone he could discuss plans with in English (or Texan, as the case may be -- he's got the best drawl!) on his staff. Owen has been working as an infield coordinator in the Phillies minor league system.

I could talk about stuff going on in the MLB Hot Stove, but as usual you could just look at the tracker and see what's occurred, or look anywhere else on the net and see what rumors abound. The Big Hurt going to Toronto is probably the biggest news of the last week, or maybe the Big Contract going to Soriano supposedly. I guess the smallest news would be that Scott Spiezio signed for another two years with the Cardinals. In completely unrelated news, I bought a new pair of character shoes today made by Capezio. I hope they last me a while; if they wear out in a year and get released to Goodwill and someone else pays $3 and fixes them up and gets a good year or two out of them and wins a ballroom world championship, I'm going to be annoyed.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Fighters Victory Parade!

I can count on one hand the amount of things I can clearly recall from the first 4-5 years of my life:

- when my little brother was born
- spraining my ankle jumping off a table (you think little boys do stupid things, you should see the stupid things little tomboys do)
- getting my first library card
- my grandfather dying
- the Phillies winning the World Series

Thus, getting to see pictures of yesterday's Fighters Japan Series victory parade in Sapporo brought back a really long-buried memory of mine, being outside in Philadelphia on a cold October morning trying to see the Phillies parade going by, too small to see much, too big to stay on my dad's shoulders for very long, too scared of the hundreds of thousands of people cheering.

According to Sankei Sports and others, approximately 143,000 fans came out for the parade, even though it was about 40 degrees out. The parade started with an opening ceremony in front of the south entrance to the JR Sapporo station, where a full band played the Fighters team songs and various people spoke, including the governor of Hokkaido and the mayor of Sapporo. The parade went for approximately 1.3 kilometers, heading south at about 2-3 km/h. Most of the players were on top of two buses, waving to the crowds. Several were either in uniform or wearing Fighters jackets, except Shinjo, who was wearing plain clothes (and tossing his designer bracelets into the crowd). In front of the buses were three cars; manager Trey Hillman and player rep Makoto Kaneko were in the front car, while team captain Yukio Tanaka and veteran pitcher Satoru Kanemura followed in another car, and Yoshinori Tateyama and Shinji Takahashi were in another car behind them.

Shinjo gave a shivering Hichori Morimoto a scarf to wear. "I forgot my long sleeves," Hichori said. "The cold made me very tense. But gathering outside the ballpark like this made me so happy!"

"The confetti makes it look more like Hokkaido with snow falling, doesn't it?" said Makoto Kaneko. "Seeing everyone smiling was great, too."

Doshin sports had a truck out there that said "シンジテタ!日本一" ("We believed! Japan Champions", a reference to Trey Hillman's saying "I can't believe it!" so much), and as they reported, fans held up signs that said anything from "thank you Shinjo!" to "don't go, Ogasawara".

Yu Darvish looks so incredibly happy. And so incredibly young.

Kensuke Tanaka couldn't be at the parade because he had an operation on the 16th to remedy an embedded bone fracture that apparently was a result of getting hit by a pitch by Nagisa Arakaki in the summer of 2004. (Sorry, I suck at medical terms, Japanese article here. The end of the above linked Sankei article says it was the top of his ankle.)

Lefty relief ace and Fukudome-killer Hideki Okajima was at the parade, saying that as a free agent, he's had offers from a few MLB teams, and is likely to accept as they've offered him more money.

And as for other free agents... Ogasawara looks pretty happy waving from the top of the bus. Hopefully all of the "Please don't go, Ogasawara!" signs had an effect on him.

Approximately 3,000 people volunteered to clean up the confetti after the parade.

(I see that there's clips of the parade of up on Youtube -- no idea whether they'll stay there. Eight segments: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8, about 9 mins each. The second one has the opening ceremony. The third one actually has the exact lineup of who's in what bus at about 5 mins in. Parade starts in segment 4 with Hichori running around on the bus like a weirdo. Segment 5 starts off with confetti. In segment 6 the parade passes by the office building the TV guys are narrating/shouting from (and the band is playing "Seishun Amigo"?! WTF?))

Oh, and the 2006 Fighters DVD was released on Saturday as well! I need to go order my copy.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Friday Foto - In honor of Johan Santana

I took this one last September when I was at the Metrodome for Laurel's wedding, during batting practice.

Young Santana Fans
A bunch of kids who know greatness when they see it.

Going back, it appears that these Santana-jersey-wearing kids were actually watching Francisco Liriano warm up, too.

This post is in honor of the fact that for once, nobody disagreed with the obvious choice for the Cy Young Award in the American League, Johan Santana. Much like I was happy when Kazumi Saitoh won the Sawamura unanimously, I'm overjoyed for Santana here.

The pitching triple crown is funny in that the categories work together -- if you strike out a lot of guys, it'll help you keep a lower ERA, which in turn will help you win a lot of games. Whereas the hitting triple crown is tougher, as a home run power swing often comes at the cost of a few points of batting average. There hasn't been a hitting triple crown winner since 1967, but there have been seven pitching triple crown winners since then, counting Santana this year. He is the first to win it with less than 20 wins, as well (19-6, 2.77, 245 K).

Thursday, November 16, 2006

The Bunt Heard Round The World

"Home run, home run, Hosokawa! Timely, timely, Hosokawa!"

The cheers from the outfield bleachers filled the Invoice Dome on a crisp September night. But what were they cheering for? The shortest home run in history?

Toru Hosokawa, the catcher for the Seibu Lions, was at the plate, squaring away to bunt for the third time that evening. Three times, he'd stood on deck and watched Shogo Akada hit a single, and didn't even need to see the coach's signal to know he should bunt the runner ahead to second base. Three times, he'd come in, ready to unselfishly sacrifice his own at-bat in order to advance his team's cause. Three times, the crowd screamed wildly for him to get a hit, to drive in a run.

He caught the ball with the bat, rolling it along the ground in front of home plate, and took off running as fast as he could. Matoyama's throw to first was in plenty of time for the out. Hosokawa headed back to the dugout to a roar of cheers from the Lions fans, and the words "Mission Accomplished!" flashed on the big screen.

Mission accomplished, indeed.

Sacrifice bunts are as big a symbol of Japanese baseball as Sadaharu Oh or Koshien Stadium. It's well-known that Japanese baseball players are about twice as likely to bunt as their American counterparts. But exactly how effective a strategy is it?

This year the Nippon Ham Fighters won the Japan Series against the Chunichi Dragons. One obvious reason for this is that in the 5 games that the series lasted, the Fighters scored more than twice as many runs as the Dragons did, 20 to 8. However, another significant thing they did twice as often was sacrifice bunt -- 13 times to the Dragons' 6 times. They also capitalized on those bunting opportunities more, as over half of their bunts (7) led to runners scoring, yet the Dragons only scored two runs from their 6 bunts.

Kensuke Tanaka, the Fighters second baseman who led the Pacific League in sacrifice bunts this year with 34, also set a special record in the Japan Series by hitting six successful sacrifice bunts. Even more impressively, five out of the six resulted in Hichori Morimoto scoring a run. The other run-scoring bunts for the Fighters happened in what would become the final game of the Series. Down by one run in the fifth inning, Naoto Inada doubled, Shinya Tsuruoka bunted him to third, and Makoto Kaneko successfully executed a suicide squeeze bunt to tie the game.

Elegant? Perhaps. Effective? Definitely.

The Fighters also grounded into only two double plays compared to the Dragons' six, which could also be a result of having one runner on second more often than one runner on first. Having a speedy and smart baserunner like Morimoto on second also allowed the Fighters to let RBI-men Ogasawara, Seguignol, and Inaba do their jobs more effectively.

The sacrifice bunt, a fundamental part of "small ball" baseball tactics, has been rolling towards a slow death on the MLB side of the Pacific. Sabermetrics have shown that without any other situational knowledge of a game, a sacrifice bunt will generally lower the probability of a run scoring, not raise it. And regardless of whether a manager listens to their inner stathead, most big-league skippers would generally rather play for a big inning than squander their outs, with the exception of pitchers hitting in the National League.

The number of home runs in the MLB and the number of sacrifice bunts didn't change significantly between 2005 and 2006. On average, teams bunted once more (55) and hit 12 more home runs (179) than they did last year. National League teams bunted 1190 times, about two and a half times as many as the American League 461. The World Series teams, the St. Louis Cardinals and the Detroit Tigers, did not bunt significantly more or less than they did last year, although the Cardinals hit 14 more home runs and the Tigers hit 35 more.

Looking at the NPB, however, yields wildly different results.

From 2005 to 2006, Japanese pro baseball saw a 30% increase in sacrifice bunts from 1014 to 1323, but they also saw a 17% decrease in the number of home runs hit, from 1747 to 1453. Only the Yakult Swallows went against the trend, both increasing their home runs and decreasing their sacrifice bunts.

There were two teams that increased their sacrifice bunts far and away more than any other teams in Japan -- none other than the Japan Series contenders, the Nippon Ham Fighters and the Chunichi Dragons, reporting increases of 79 and 73 respectively. The Fighters even went from hitting a Pacific League-low 54 bunts in 2005 to their league-leading 133 in 2006. Bobby Valentine's Chiba Lotte Marines, in comparison, hit exactly one more sacrifice bunt in 2006 than in 2005, their 57 total being the lowest in all of Japan, the Yomiuri Giants' 89 being the second lowest. They also dropped from being Japan Series champions to finishing in fourth place.

Fighters manager Trey Hillman said at spring training that he was willing to listen to his coaches and players and try to play more Japanese-style small ball, rather than going for big innings. The Fighters scored 38 less runs than they did the previous year, but they also won a club record 82 games and their first Japan Series title since 1962. Hillman hoped the new strategy would let the players play better and harder, getting one run on the board first and worrying about the rest later. It worked far better than anyone expected.

Bunts, strong defense, and young pitchers with fighting spirit - ingredients of a classic Japanese recipe.

Or maybe just for the breakfast of champions.

(Data for this article culled from and; my spreadsheets are here and here.)

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Blogger Beta, Redux

I know some of you read this blog on an RSS feed. Can someone confirm/deny for me whether me going back and adding labels to old posts is completely screwing things up for you or not? If it is, I'm really sorry -- and I warn in advance that over the next week or two I'm seriously going to be trying to tag everything in this blog, and I'm not really sure I can stop it from republishing everything with new dates. (Hmm... tried a test of disabling RSS and no, that doesn't help either.)

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

More NPB Awards - Best Nine, ROY, and MVPs

2006 Pacific League Awards (Japanese):

MVP: Michihiro Ogasawara (Fighters, .313/.397/.573, 32 HR, 100 RBI)
ROY: Tomoya Yagi (Fighters, 12-8, 2.48)

Pretty much everybody predicted Yagi as the PL ROY, I think. He lived up to every expectation anyone could have possibly had of the Soka University graduate, becoming part of a powerful young one-two punch with Yu Darvish that will anchor the Fighters for years to come. Yagi was an almost unanimous ROY candidate (175/180 votes).

I predicted Ogasawara as the HR king before the season started, but even in mid-September I was still figuring he'd only get MVP if the Fighters won the league. Oddly, I thought it'd be between him and Alex Cabrera though, and instead he only edged out Kazumi Saitoh by 20 points in the voting, while Cabrera barely got any at all.

PL Best Nine:
P: Kazumi Saitoh, Hawks
C: Tomoya Satozaki, Marines
1B: Michihiro Ogasawara, Fighters
2B: Kensuke Tanaka, Fighters
3B: Jose Fernandez, Eagles
SS: Munenori Kawasaki, Hawks
OF: Atsunori Inaba, Fighters
OF: Nobuhiko Matsunaka, Hawks
OF: Kazuhiro Wada, Lions
DH: Fernando Seguignol, Fighters

2006 Central League Awards (Japanese):

MVP: Kosuke Fukudome, Dragons (.351/.438/.653, 31 HR, 104 RBI)
ROY: Eishin Soyogi, Carp (.289/.332/.422)

I was fairly sure Fukudome would get the award, even though one could make a pretty good argument for Tyrone Woods (.310/.402/.635, 47 HR, 144 RBI), who finished third in the balloting, with Kenshin Kawakami placing second. Woods is not the worst defensive first baseman that has ever lived, but Fukudome's one of the top outfielders in Japan.

Soyogi's not a bad choice for ROY at all, though I actually would have voted for the guy who placed second, Yuuki Yoshimura of the Bay Stars (.311/.336/.573, 26 HR). Neither one really took the league by storm like Norichika Aoki did last year, but both were respectably good players on relatively bad teams.

CL Best Nine:
P: Kenshin Kawakami, Dragons
C: Akihiro Yano, Tigers
1B: Tyrone Woods, Dragons
2B: Masahiro Araki, Dragons
3B: Akinori Iwamura, Swallows
SS: Hirokazu Ibata, Dragons
OF: Kosuke Fukudome, Dragons
OF: Tomoaki Kanemoto, Tigers
OF: Norichika Aoki, Swallows

Yeah, these lists do look fairly similar to the Gold Gloves, don't they...

Pictures: MVP/ROYs, Fukudome and Ogasawara, Soyogi and Yagi
WBC Medal/Ribbon ceremony. Wada and Matsuzaka.

(I also saw that Brandon Webb won the NL Cy Young over on this side of the ocean. AL Cy will be announced Thursday.)

(Yes, I am very specifically not talking about Matsuzaka and the Red Sox, for now. I vaguely debated making a post listing exactly what $51 million is worth in terms of things like tacos, playstations, automobiles, and small countries in Africa, but have other things I need to work on. There's plenty of hibachi coverage on right now anyway.)

Blogger Beta

I actually don't have that much to say, but I want to play with this new blogger beta thing. It says that it can now do post labels, which is really awesome. Post labels, and the ability to cut posts, were really about all I wanted, and now, look, they exist! Whee! Now I'll have to go back and label everything. Don't count on another post from me until sometime in 2009.

Anyway, let's see if I can make up some content.

Once upon a time, Jim Bunning was embarrassed to say he was the manager of the Toledo Mud Hens. Now, imagine what someone's going to have to go through with the reins of the Lehigh Valley IronPigs? Eeeek. I mean, Ooooiiiink.

I'm not much for roster speculation or the whole free agent circus, but I have to admit that I do bookmark the Free Agent Tracker this time of the year and check it most days. Today, at least, it was interesting to see that Kazuo Matsui re-signed with the Rockies. It occurs to me that it would have been funnier if he'd gone back to Japan to take Akinori Iwamura's place, though.

This is also the Awards Season, and today the Rookies of the Year were announced. Justin Verlander won it for the AL, and.. Hanley Ramirez for the NL? I thought Ryan Zimmerman would edge him out, and the Marlins rookie jar would fight among itself for other votes, but I guess not.

This year's Gold Gloves and Silver Sluggers were announced a couple of days ago as well. There's a lot of arguments to be made for or against the picks, but I thought the most interesting thing was looking at which players won both: Carlos Beltran and Derek Jeter.

Hmm, so Trey Hillman mysteriously is no longer in the Oakland manager candidate mix. Japanese press predicts that he will re-sign with the Fighters. That's good -- I think he's built a great relationship with the team and with the fans. Now if only certain Ogasawaras would make up their minds, we'd be in good shape!

Seibu is stringing out the Matsuzaka hype another day or three. On an almost completely unrelated note, I was at Target tonight and randomly saw the Upper Deck World Baseball Classic Boxed Set for sale for $9.99, and impulsively bought it. The selection of Japanese players in the set is a bit odd, though, the strangest being that there aren't cards for Uehara and Matsuzaka. I sort of figured both of them were a lot more hyped up than, say, Shunsuke Watanabe, who is included. I'd personally rather have a Watanabe card, of course, but I'm weird.

Anyway, I'm going to go publish this article and then go play with the new Blogger gadgets for a bit. Exciting!

Monday, November 13, 2006

Book Review - Clearing the Bases, by Mike Schmidt

Okay, I guess technically the book is really called Clearing the Bases: Juiced Players, Monster Salaries, Sham Records, and a Hall of Famer's Search for the Soul of Baseball, by Mike Schmidt with Glen Waggoner. But whatever. I actually got my copy of this book several months ago -- Schmitty was doing some book signings around Philly when it first came out, so my dad went and got me a signed copy as an early birthday present.

I finally got around to reading this book this past week. It took me about eight 30-minute commuting bus rides to get through it. It's really a very good bus book, actually -- I could get through at least a chapter per bus ride, sometimes two, and there wasn't a lot of context to worry about since the subject matter jumps all over the place.

The first six chapters of this book are really awesome; they're basically the autobiography section, where Schmidt talks about his career from the time he signed out of Ohio University, to the day he retired. He just tells a lot of stories in a really fun way; there may have been a really big "oh my god! Mike Schmidt!" factor for me, given that I spent the first 12 years of my life watching him play third base for the Phillies, but I think that the stories do stand on their own just fine.

Unfortunately, just as his career ends, so does the light part of the book. The rest of it deals with his opinions on a bunch of the current issues surrounding the game, and while the tone is still light in most places, the subject matter really isn't quite so much. I think the last eight chapters could be summarized as such (no, these are not direct quotes, I'm just paraphrasing from his point of view):

7,8. "You know, I understand why guys did steroids. They were looking for an edge. I briefly thought I might have done them too if the opportunity had existed when I was a player, but now that I researched stuff for this book and found out what that crap does to your body? No way, man. No way."
9,10. "Hitters today are a lot better than they used to be. The balls and bats are lighter, too. So when you're looking at all the records set nowadays, the numbers guys are racking up, they're legit, you just have to remember to take them in context. Hank woulda hit a thousand homers if he'd played thirty years later. Hell, I might have had 700. Remember, I used to lead the league with 38 homers, after all. Context."
11. "The Hall of Fame selection process kind of sucks. Writers can be jerks. And personally, I'd vote McGwire in, regardless of the controversy."
12. "Oh, for the love of god, will you guys forgive Pete Rose already? I think he knows he screwed up."
13. "Managing a minor league team is really hard. But I think I had a lot of fun. Why, though, do teams invest millions of dollars in prospects and then pay some random dude in single-A $30,000/yr to teach these kids fundamentals? Shouldn't they invest more in lower-level training?"
14. "Okay, so now that you've read my rant, let me just remind you all: Baseball rules. I may be an old-timer and I may sound bitter, and I definitely think today's stars are way overpaid and there's no team loyalty and all that stuff. But who cares, you're reading this because you love baseball as much as I do. Anyone know who's starting for the Phillies tomorrow?"

Anyway, I think this is a pretty entertaining book overall regardless, a fairly quick read, it has some very good points made within it, and it's definitely worth it for Phillies fans or for anyone who was a big Mike Schmidt fan. There'll definitely be moments when you're left shaking your head thinking, "Oh, come ON, whatever, get over it," (which he's very self-aware of and pokes fun of within the book, even), but plenty of moments of "that's awesome", or "yeah, that's a really good point," or "huh, that's an interesting idea, I wonder if it could work" as well.

If nothing else, if you read it this offseason, there'll definitely be moments when he's talking about contracts in the 1970's where you'll suddenly be struck by the amazing salary inflation since free agency -- Schmidt mentions signing a 6yr/$3.3mil contract, making him the highest-paid player in the NL in 1976 at $550k/year. Nowadays, that's not that far above the major league minimum salary. Later he'll remind you of the early 80's when Nolan Ryan was making a million dollars a year for playing baseball. Even I remember my parents saying how ridiculous that was. Funny how things have changed.

Interestingly enough, Mike has his own website now and even a blog.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Konami Cup / Asia Series, Finals - Fighters vs. Bears

Ok, even though I can't watch this one, and Westbay's actually AT the game so he isn't broadcasting it or anything, I'm going to stay up to see what happens, follow the Gameday tickers online and translate them here. Let's go Fighters!

Also, um, I love these people, who are organizing a "please stay, Ogasawara!" signature/etc campaign. It's the exact sort of thing I'd do if I lived in Sapporo.


Huang CF Morimoto CF
Lu RF K. Tanaka 2B
Lin SS Ogasawara 1B
C.F. Chen DH Inaba RF
Shih 3B Kimoto 3B
Zheng LF Inada DH
Pan 1B Tsuruoka C
F.M. Chen C Konta LF
Chiang 2B Kaneko SS

--------------- ----------------
Hsu (2-4, 2.94) Darvish (12-5, 2.89)

I'm following the game from here and here. It's a little depressing that the Fighters don't actually have a ticker up on their own site, but oh well. If anyone's in Japan and feels like broadcasting or slingboxing the game to me, that'd be great :)

First inning, top: Huang led off the game by striking out swinging. Lu followed that by striking out swinging as well. And... Lin struck out too. Yay Darvish! He threw 14 pitches that inning.

First inning, bottom: Hichori grounded out to short. Kensuke lofted a high pitch for a pop-out to center. Ogasawara hit a hard liner up the first base line but it was snagged by Bears first baseman Pan. Hsu threw a meager 7 pitches that inning.

Second inning, top: Chin-Feng Chen struck out swinging on a low outside slider. Shih struck out swinging on a slider as well. And then for a change, Zheng grounded out to short. Man, for a minute I thought Darvish was going to strike out everyone tonight. He threw 13 pitches that inning for 27 through two.

Second inning, bottom: Inaba grounded out to second. Kimoto hit a "half liner" fly out to short. Naoto Inada got the first hit of the game when he smacked the ball down the third-base line into left field for a double! Unfortunately, Tsuruoka hit a fly ball in foul territory which was caught near first base, stranding Inada at second. Doh. Hsu threw 11 pitches that inning for a total of 18. Still no score.

Third inning, top: Pan continues the trend by striking out swinging on another slider. Feng-Min Chen hits a fly ball in foul territory on the first-base side, Ogasawara making the catch. Chiang struck out swinging. Darvish threw 11 pitches that inning for a total of 38.

Third inning, bottom: Konta grounded to short but Lin booted the ball for an error. He immediately made up for that when Kaneko grounded to short though, firing to Chiang at second and Pan at first for the double play. Hichori grounded back to the mound and that was the inning. Hsu threw 6 pitches that inning for a depressingly low 24 through three.

Fourth inning, top: Huang curbed the no-hitter thoughts with a single to left. Lu bunted him to second. Lin took a low outside 3-1 pitch and walked. Chin-Feng Chen struck out looking at a fastball right down the middle. Shih struck out swinging to end the inning, stranding Huang and Lin at second and first. Darvish has struck out 9 batters through 4 innings -- no joke -- and has thrown 56 pitches, 18 that inning. Still no score.

Fourth inning, bottom: Kensuke Tanaka hit a pop fly out to center. Ogasawara grounded out to second. Inaba also hit a pop fly to center. At least they finally made Hsu throw a couple of pitches, 14 that inning, but still a meager 38 through four. Come on, guys! There hasn't been a full count yet this game on either side.

Fifth inning, top: Zheng flies out to second. Pan hits the ball up the first-base line, where Ogasawara extracts revenge for that play in the first inning. Feng-Min Chen hit a fly ball towards first which Ogasawara caught for the third out. Darvish didn't strike out anyone that inning and he threw 14 pitches for a total of 70 through five.

Fifth inning, bottom: WOW! A FULL COUNT! Kimoto gets to a 3-2 count and hits the sixth pitch to second, grounding out. Naoto Inada, who I had originally thought about jokingly putting quotes around "DH" for, singles to center, and with that second hit is still the only Fighters batter to get a hit at all! Centerfielder Huang makes an error getting the ball in and Inada slides headfirst into second base. Tsuruoka grounds out to short, and Inada can't advance to third. Konta then strikes out swinging to end the chance. Doh.

Three notes here: 1) Hsu threw 16 pitches that inning for a total of 54 through five; 2) apparently he made a good guts pose at the end of the inning; and 3) Konta was his first strikeout victim. Hsu 1, Darvish 9. Yeeeeeah.

Sixth inning, top: Chiang flies out to left. Huang grounds out to third. Lu grounds out to second. I guess Darvish gave up on striking out everything in sight, but that was 9 pitches for the inning, 79 through six. Still no score.

My internet chose this exact moment to totally flake out on me for like fifteen minutes. It's been sporadically doing this all weekend, and it's REALLY annoying, but I have to remind myself that back in the old days, people would get together by the thousands to stand in front of mechanical scoreboards in a shop window downtown or something, and following a Japanese baseball game was absolutely unheard of. So it could be much much worse.

Sixth inning, bottom: My internet dropped JUST as I saw that Kaneko hit a single to left-center! Hichori bunted him over to second. Kensuke apparently pounded a rather nice ball way the hell out to left field but Zheng made a running catch to get it. Fortunately Hichori got back to the bag. Ogasawara was unsurprisingly intentionally walked, and unfortunately, Inaba struck out to end the inning, stranding Kaneko and Ogasawara on base. Hsu threw 16 pitches that inning for 70 through six.

Seventh inning, top: Lin struck out but the pitch got away from Tsuruoka, so it was called a passed ball and Lin got to first base safely. Fortunately then Chin-Feng Chen grounded the ball back to Darvish who threw to second to catch Lin, and Chen was out at first to complete the double play. Shih hit a fly ball to second to end the inning. Darvish threw 8 pitches that inning for 87 through seven. They have a comment here about how Chen is now 0-for-7 against the Japan teams, though he was 6-for-8 against Korea and China.

Seventh inning, bottom: Ooooh, a pitching change. James Fiore comes in for the Bears. Hsu's line: 6 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 2 K, 70 pitches. Not bad, really.

Kimoto grounded out to third, but they made an error on the play and he was safe at first. Inada, rather than getting another single, bunted Kimoto over to second. During Tsuruoka's at-bat there was a wild pitch and Kimoto advanced to third, setting the stage for Tsuruoka to get an RBI single to right! Fighters score, 1-0! I guess that pissed off Fiore because he struck out Konta and Kaneko after that, though at least Konta got up to a full count first. Fiore threw 20 pitches that inning.

Eighth inning, top: Iiyama comes in to play third for the Fighters. Zheng starts the inning off by walking. I wondered why SportsNavi was hanging, but it appears that a pitching change is in order, and Hisashi Takeda is replacing Darvish on the mound, and Satoshi Nakajima is replacing Shinya Tsuruoka at the plate. Darvish's line: 7 IP, 1 H, 2 BB, 10 K, 92 pitches. HOLY CRAP!

Hisashi gets off to a good start by striking out Chung-Wei Pan. Great, my internet is flaking out again. Unfortunately, Feng-Min Chen also gets a single to right, advancing Zheng to second. Chin-Te Yu comes in to pinch run for Zheng as Chiang grounds into a 4-6-3 double play. WHEW. Hisashi threw 9 pitches that inning. Score is still 1-0 Fighters, runners stranded on first and second.

Eighth inning, bottom: Ahhh, we're back to our old tricks, of course. Hichori leads off by singling to left, and Kensuke bunts him to second. Ogasawara gets up to a full count before being unintentionally walked. Inaba struck out and Iiyama grounded out to short, first baseman Pan stretching out to get the quick throw. Fiore threw 23 pitches that inning for a total of 43 in his two innings. (That's more than Hsu threw in 4 innings, heh.)

Ninth inning, top: Micheal took the mound for the Fighters and struck out Long-Yi Huang and a pinch-hitting Hsiao-Wei Huang. Lin hit a fly ball out to second, Kensuke caught the ball, Micheal made his standard guts pose, and that was the game.

Fighters win, 1-0!

(photo from Nikkan Sports)

Of course, they won 1-0 on an unearned run. That's pretty crazy -- what a close game! You have to wonder how different it would have been if Seguignol, or maybe even Shinjo, had been able to be there.

Darvish was the game hero (and apparently the Series Hero as well).

Congratulations to both teams though, it sounds like it was a very well pitched and defended game on both sides.

Last year a total of 37k people showed up for the final game, whereas this year it was only 24k. I could guess that the extra 13k people last year could have been attributed to Lotte's Seung-Yeop Lee playing against the Lions, his former team in Korea, though it might also have just been a matter of the Marines having a larger fan base in Tokyo than the Fighters do.

Japanball article here.