Wednesday, January 31, 2007

NPB 2007 Team Slogans

With spring training starting tomorrow, it seems that almost all of the teams have pretty much settled on their slogans for the year, as far as I can tell. Some are funnier than others.

(Also, Spring Training camp locations are on here. I need to inform Jeff Shaw that the nearest training camps to him are the BayStars, Carp, and Dragons, not the Fighters.)

Pacific League

Fighters: 「FANS: Focus, Advance, Nexus Spirit」 (集中、進化、結束)

("Shuuchuu, shinka, kessoku". The latter is more like "union", but whatever.)

Lions: 「心を、ひとつに。力を、ひとつに。」

("Kokoro wo, hitotsu ni. Chikara wo, hitotsu ni." There's no official English version, but it's something to the effect of "One Heart. One Power.")

Hawks: 「めざせ世界一!」

("Mezase sekai ichi!" Again, no official English version, but they've had this slogan for three years now... effectively "Aim to be the best in the world!")

Marines: "All Hands to the Flag!" ~結束、フラッグのために~

("Kessoku, furaggu no tame ni", literally "unite for the flag", referring to the pennant, I assume)

Buffaloes: "One Heart Beat" ~鼓動をひとつに~

("Kodou wo hitotsu ni")

Rakuten: "Think Hard, Win More." ~考えろ。そして勝利を掴め!~

("Kangaeru. Soshite shouri wo tsukame!" literally "think - then seize the victory!")

Central League

Hanshin: "Be the Best For the Fans" ~最高をめざせ! そしてファンのために!~

("Saikou wo mezase! Soshite fan no tame ni!" literally "aim for the best! For the sake of the fans!")

Yakult: "Let's Make It Happen!"

Yomiuri: "Show the Spirit ~奪回~"

(That last part is pronounced "dakkai" and means "recapture". Technically, dakkai is the slogan, and "show the spirit" is the catchphrase, but whatever.)

Hiroshima: "All-In"

(this was their slogan last year too)

Yokohama: 「なせば成る~Move on~」

("Naseba naru" -- I always thought of that phrase more like "if you put your mind to it, you can do it")

Chunichi doesn't appear to HAVE a slogan for this year. Are they still in Ochiai "オレ竜" mode? ("Ore-ryu", or "my way", but with the pun that the ryu is the kanji for dragon)

Argh, I've had Fighters outfielder Atsunori Inaba's cheer song going through my head since I got to the Rakuten slogan, since the last part of it is "shouri wo tsukami tore".

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

What I'm Reading Today

This is the time of year for fan fests, and while there are several Fan Fest reports on Athletics Nation which make me jealous (they had like 16 players there and other coaches and front office guys), the best fan fest article I've read so far anywhere was Joe Posnanski on the Kansas City Royals Caravan, complete with a running tally of John Mayberry stories and countdowns to how long it took people to mention Gil Meche. Simply fantastic, worth a read. (Thanks to Steve Nelson for pointing it out.)

Jayson Stark writes about how Colorado Rockies players are using iPods in the dugout to watch pitcher-batter videos, among other things. I think it's a great idea, though the potential for distraction is pretty high. Now Richie Sexson can watch the tater-tot-kicking scene from Napoleon Dynamite right in the dugout! And the bullpen guys would be like "eh, we've got an hour or two before anyone'll need us... anyone got last week's episode of House on their iPod?" And just imagine the players deciding to plug their iPod directly into the soundboard to pick their at-bat music every day! (Thanks to eknpdx for pointing it out.)

Three Weeks to Pitchers and Molinas, an article on the Molina brothers. Of all the sets of three brothers in the majors, they are the only one where all three have World Series rings. (Thanks for 6-4-2 for pointing it out.)

It's not officially Ryan Madson Day anymore, but Jason at Beerleaguer got to interview Ryan Madson at a press event last week. It's only a 4-minute audio clip, but I thought it was a good interview. He sounds pretty aware of his role on the team and has some pretty incisive comments on what he needs to do to succeed, even just as a reliever.

Tom at the Balls, Sticks, and Stuff wrote a nice little article on Dummy Hoy the other day. You know I'm a sucker for history.

Erik Grissom at Phillies Flow points out that no matter how big Ryan Howard's accomplishments this year were, they're still not bigger than those of Chuck Klein's in 1930. Personally, I'm always amazed whenever I read anything about the 1930 Phillies season. Klein hit .386 with 40 HR, Lefty O'Doul batted .383, the team batting average was .315, and those two plus Pinky Whitney each had over 200 hits. And where did they finish? Dead last, losing 102 games. In addition, Klein had two 26-game hitting streaks that year, which was the post-1900 Phillies club record until Utley and Rollins blasted it away in 2005-2006.

Bobby Valentine agrees with me that Saburo should have had his eye surgery done earlier. Right before spring training is only a good idea if you want to have an excuse to not go to spring training.

Marty Brown, on the other hand, appeared at a Hiroshima Carp fan event the other day and signed stuff and (I think) helped cook and distribute Miyazaki oysters, in preparation for the team heading to Miyazaki for spring training. Also, it appears the Carp are broadcasting their spring training over the web again -- I'll have more details on that and other NPB spring training in a day or two.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Mariners Fan Fest 2007

I have to admit that I wasn't all that excited about going to Fan Fest this year, so rather than camp out at 8am with PositivePaul and Corco and the other insane autograph-seekers, I overslept and didn't get there until 11:30am, and I had to pick up my friend Jason on the way. By the time we arrived, all 3000 of the autograph vouchers were gone. Oops.

This year (as opposed to last year), I did the following:
- saw a bit of the Hargrove Q&A
- saw the Felix/Rivera Q&A
- walked around the infield and sat in the visitor's dugout
- watched a few rounds of Last Fan Standing trivia, didn't get picked, got bored and left
- toured the history exhibit and the clubhouse and all, since Jason hadn't seen them before
- walked around the stadium and saw all the various tables set up all over the place
- saw the last few minutes of the Lincoln/Armstrong Q&A
- saw the Putz/Betancourt Q&A
- saw the Bavasi Q&A

And that's about it. I took a whole bunch of pictures, and I took notes on my Sidekick, but they're a bit scattered. I'll see what I can piece together and throw in a few of the photos I've cropped.

Fan Fest
Mike Hargrove answers questions in the Dugout Dialogue.

Hargrove actually seemed to be in a fairly good mood, but some of the questions he got were pretty crazy. Someone asked him, "What the hell was the deal with you guys losing to Oakland so much last year? If you'd even gone 50-50 against them you'd have been in the playoffs!" Another person asked him why they traded Jamie Moyer, and I really don't know why he'd be the one to answer that (he said something like "Well, you know, Jamie's in his 40s, we didn't know how much longer he'd be playing, it's not that we didn't like him or something.")

He mentioned that he'd been emailing back and forth with Ichiro a bit these last few weeks and that he expects to keep Ichiro in center field this upcoming season.

People asked about Broussard and Mike Morse, and Grover basically said that he figured both of them were going to be role players this year. He actually described Mike Morse as a utility guy, saying "he can play some infield, a bit in left, a bit in right," which means he obviously wasn't watching last time Mike Morse actually played in the outfield, but hey, that was followed by "though none of these guys really have the talent level of Willie Bloomquist as a utility player, of course."

He credited JJ Putz with having a spectacular season and really bailing the team out there, and said they owed it to Eddie Guardado for teaching him so well. And in a completely random question, someone asked who the backup catcher would be this year, and Hargrove was like "Uhh... Rene Rivera?" with this look of "Do I have another choice?" on his face.

He was mobbed by people seeking autographs, but since I got him last year, I didn't bother, but instead found a better vantage point for the Felix and Rene Rivera session.

Felix Hernandez
A pensive King Felix.

Felix Hernandez
I swear this was in response to "You only have #34 because of Freddy, right?".

Rene Rivera
Backup catcher Rene Rivera shared the session with Felix.

So yeah, the minute Felix came out there was a ton of applause, and the first thing they started talking about in his session was, of course, how much weight he'd lost and how great he looked.

"How much weight did you lose, anyway?"
"I lost 25 pounds!"
"How'd you do that?"
"I stopped eating fried food."

I was really struck by how great Rivera and Felix both were at speaking English. Last year Felix had an interpreter, but this year he pretty much fielded everything on his own. They did have a Spanish interpreter there, but the guy literally just sat there, they never asked him for help, and Felix's speech was really good.

Rivera got a couple of questions from time to time. Someone asked what he has to do as a backup catcher -- "I have to stay ready for anything, so I work harder to keep in shape." Which pitcher does he like to face? Rodrigo Lopez. Is he looking forward to catching for Jeff Weaver? "I look forward to catching for EVERYONE."

Felix got a pretty wide variety of questions. Some people asked about his pitch selection, and his funniest response was "Pitching inside? I love it!"

The pitcher he looks up to the most? "Freddy Garcia. Doesn't everyone know that?"

Any particular batters he likes to face? "Vladimir Guerrerro." What does he do for that? "I keep the ball fast and down in the zone. Not that it matters, he can hit everything."

Why does he have number 34? "Because I had it in the minors... hey, come on, it's NOT because of Freddy, I swear! It's just a number I like. Baseball players are sort of superstitious about their numbers."

Yeah, so like I said, we wandered around for a while after that. I didn't actually do the "run around the bases" thing last year, so that was sort of fun, and we did the whole take-pictures-in-the-dugout thing, so now I finally have a picture of myself sitting in a major league dugout that isn't Yankee Stadium.

You can pretty much walk straight into the clubhouse from the visitor's dugout, so we did that. We went into Last Fan Standing, got tickets, but weren't picked to compete. Sadly, the categories we saw were NL/AL Wild Card Teams, and "Former Teams of the Mariners 40-Man Roster", which actually was a contest of "Can you name all the teams Batista and Guillen have been on?" After those, we wandered off again.

We went through the Pacific Northwest baseball exhibit down in the Diamond Club, but it was pretty much the exact same thing as last year, though Jason enjoyed seeing the history stuff. Also, I'm pretty damn sure I saw Dave Eskenazi hanging around there, and I probably should have said something to him, except that 1) I forgot his name at the time and 2) it would have probably freaked him out if I was like "I remember you from the SABR book reading!" But since most if not all of the collection was his, I bet I could have at least gotten a whole bunch of questions answered about it all. Sigh.

During the clubhouse tour, we noticed that they had Felix and JJ's lockers next to each other in the locker room. Johjima and Ichiro have lockers off in a corner, next to the... lost and found? And Hargrove appeared to have an Iraqi flag in his office, signed by some of the troops, I think. Also, John McLaren was just hanging around the clubhouse in the area between the weightroom and the locker room, I guess it was after his Q&A, so he was taking pictures with little kids and being all greeter-like, saying "Welcome to our clubhouse! Hi guys, how do you like the clubhouse? Isn't it awesome?"

A sampling of the random tables around the concourse of the stadium included the Aquasox and Rainiers, the SABR table, the Season Ticket booth, the Moyer Foundation (featuring Moyer jerseys from both Mariners and Phillies), the silent auction and memorabilia sale (featuring crazy things like a Dominic Woody jersey for $65 and autographed Bobby Madritsch 8x10's for $5, both of which I at least pondered for a few seconds before not buying them), and the Nintendo booths.

One of the Nintendo booths was a game center much like the one they usually have in the outfield area, and one was this newfangled Nintendo Fan Center demo. Apparently the Mariners will be the location test next year for a Nintendo DS feature, where you can use your DS during a game to get up-to-date stats and scores and even broadcast video of the games, and to order food, and to play trivia games and such. Jason commented that it'd make my Sidekick obsolete, until I asked about how much the service would cost, and then the guy's like "well... it'd have a fee per game... or per month... or something... for some of the features at least..." Yeah. Either way, I think it's a neat idea, but how many people actually bring their Nintendo DS to the stadium on a regular basis?

I got back to the Q&A area just in time to catch the last part of the Chuck Armstrong and Howard Lincoln talk.

Chuck Armstrong, Rick Rizzs, Howard Lincoln
Mariners president Chuck Armstrong, broadcaster extraordinaire Rick Rizzs, and Mariners CEO Howard Lincoln.

I guess the funniest one was an exchange that went something like this:

Fan: "I had a question for you guys -- now that he's available again, have you guys considered re-signing David Bell?"
Armstrong: "No."
Fan: "Err. Why not?"
Armstrong: "We have Adrian Beltre playing third base and we have the best utility player in the major leagues in Willie Bloomquist. Where would we put David Bell?"

(It might have actually been Lincoln, not Armstrong, I forget.)

Another one was like:

Fan: "Have you considered doing something like the Diamondbacks do, where there's a specific place before each game where a player or two will come out and sign stuff for fans?"
Rizzs: "Hey, let me tell you all about this great thing we do called the Mariners Caravan! We go barnstorming all over from Oregon to Canada to Spokane, with various players, talking to fans and signing stuff and all. It's great!"
Lincoln: "Yeah, Rick, and don't they make you drive the bus?"

JJ Putz
Mariners closer JJ Putz, being all ponderous.

JJ Putz
JJ Putz.

Yuniesky Betancourt
Yuniesky Betancourt.

Evil Rick Rizzs
It's the Rick Rizzs show!

They had Yuniesky Betancourt and JJ Putz do a Q&A session together at 2pm, which was pretty odd, to say the least. I was looking forward to it, because "well, Betancourt doesn't really speak English and Putz is pretty dumb, so this could turn into some fairly entertaining Rick Rizzs filler time," and sure enough, the sound guys had even cued up a few rimshots for the bad Rizzs jokes.

But it wasn't that bad. Unlike last year, when Putz unintentionally played the straight man to all of Jarrod Washburn's jokes, he actually had a few funny things to say on his own, and seemed to intentionally be going along with Rizzs's jokes. Betancourt got asked a bunch of questions about Cuba, mainly, and I'm really not sure he was all that into the entire thing (possibly because he couldn't understand a lot of what was going on, though I feel bad guessing that).

Rizzs asked Putz about the new contract. "And what's the best part of the deal for you?" Putz started at him blankly until Rizzs was like "The radio show, right?" and Putz was like "Oh yeah! Bullpen Banter is the most important part!"

Fan: "Were you afraid when you were facing Barry Bonds?"
Putz: "Nah, not really. I mean, he plays left field, we could see him from the bullpen all along. Though then I got out there on the mound and suddenly there's this giant guy at home plate practically holding a toothpick."
Rizzs: "But you sure got him, didn't you?"
Putz: "Yeah. Fastball inside."

Fan: "Is there any hitter that you really wouldn't want to face?"
Putz: "Duhh... uhh... uh, I don't know... Richie Sexson! Yeah."

Fan (a little girl): "Umm... where were you born?"
Putz: "Trenton, Michigan."
Betancourt, through translator: "Santa Clara, Cuba."
Putz: "And where were you born?"
Little girl: "Tacoma!"

Fan: "Who was your favorite player growing up?"
Betancourt: (something about how he was inspired by various stuff)
Rizzs: "My favorite player growing up was JJ Putz!"
Sound guy: [rimshot]
(the laughter and such drowned out Putz's response)

Rizzs: "What's it like having [Betancourt] in the field behind you?"
Putz: "It's great. When he's out there you just pray for ground balls."

Fan: "This one's for Yuniesky... do you have the green light to steal?"
Betancourt: (I didn't really understand the answer, even from the translator)
Rizzs [covering]: "Hey, JJ, do YOU have the green light to steal?"
Putz: "Oh yeah! Sure do!"
Sound guy: [rimshot]

So, oddly, most of the crowd dispersed after that interview, and then a little bit later, Rizzs came back out with Bill Bavasi. I don't think that was actually on the original schedule. So there weren't a ton of us out there at that point, but I have a feeling that over half the people there were blogizens, given the questions that were asked. I was sitting with PositivePaul (we spent the entire Putz/Betancourt Q&A snapping pictures on our dSLRs) and David J. Corcoran at this point as well as my friend Jason and Paul's brother-in-law Dave. I even actually asked a question over the microphone, though I'll get to that in a second.

Bill Bavasi
Bill Bavasi, the Mariners general manager

He got asked questions all over the board as well, though I thought he actually gave pretty good answers to a lot of them. Someone asked about Arthur Rhodes, and Bavasi said that Rhodes wanted to come back to Seattle, and that pitching in Citizens Bank Park was just a nightmare for him (though I think an exact quote was something like "Koufax would have gotten killed in this Philly park"). When asked about the Jeff Weaver signing, Bavasi explained that it was in this weird limbo of "pending a physical", which really means "we've essentially signed him but there's a whole bunch of stuff that needs to get settled first."

Fan: "Why did you get rid of Soriano for Ramirez?"
Bavasi: "Wait, we didn't 'get rid of him'. I'm an old GM, you know, compared to all these young guys in the business today, the GMs who just want to make deals and make an impact. We saw a starter with upside, and the Braves saw a reliever with upside, and that's how it went."

Fan: "If you could have any player for your team, who would it be?"
Bavasi: [paraphrased] "Well, if I can't build a time machine and get Babe Ruth, then I'd want a guy sort of like Derek Jeter. I mean, not Jeter obviously because we have a fantastic shortstop, but someone with a makeup like his, with the talent and the proven ability to go out there and win games. You want to build a team around a guy like him."

Fan: "Who was your favorite player growing up?"
Rizzs and Bavasi simultaneously: "BABE RUTH!"
Bavasi: "No, just kidding. It was Sandy Koufax."

(Deanna's note: You know how I grew up with Steve Carlton being my absolute hero when I was a kid because I was left-handed? Bill Bavasi is also left-handed and his dad was GM of the Dodgers through Koufax's career. So even though the latter might seem like the obvious reason, I'd actually bet more on the former. Wish I'd thought of asking about it at the time.)

Corco got up and tried to ask a question but he completely just started babbling about something about Broussard, and I didn't even try to take it down at all.

So I asked the girl with the microphone, "Can I ask him why the hell he traded Chris Snelling?"
She said "Sure, but phrase it a little more positively. What's your name?"

So I told her, and a bit later, the whole stadium could hear "Deanna from Seattle has a question. 'So um... what were you thinking with the Snelling trade?'"

I think Bavasi might have recognized me from the USSM feed, because he even said something like "Hey, I love the guy, and I know you do too. But we wanted to give him a chance to play, and we wanted some veteran experience, which is why we got Vidro." He went into comparing the '95 Mariners to the '95 Angels and saying how they had a great young team in Anaheim but not enough veteran experience, so they choked down the stretch, whereas the Mariners had these great experienced players, or something. I dunno. But he did spend a few minutes basically apologizing for the trade and just reaffirming that he thought it was a shame since he thought Snelling was such a great player and prospect. (Later after the actual Q&A he mentioned that Snelling had some problems swinging a bat with and without his knee brace, and that would also play into his ability to produce at the plate in the future. But he also admitted that there was a pretty good chance Snelling would succeed and we'd end up looking pretty dumb down the line.)

The funny part is, a question shortly after that was:
Fan: "How does fan opinion in general affect your trades?"
Bavasi: "I know you guys are going to hate this, but: NOT AT ALL. Seriously. You know, I go to, say, a Sonics game, and I'm definitely a fan of them, but do they want ME making THEIR rosters? No way. I do what I have to here in order to try to make the team better, to try to make them win."

One guy (I think it was the same one) said something like "You know, you get criticized a lot for your moves, and I just wanted to let you know that I think you don't deserve that," to which Bavasi replied, "Hey! Come on down here! You're my new best friend! No, just kidding."

One little kid got the microphone and said "I want to thank you for signing Richie Sexson because he's my favorite player."

There was a funny exchange about the posting system that led to Bavasi saying "Rick, it's just money!" but I forget the question exactly. And there was an exchange about Jeremy Reed, about how his spot now is basically being the fourth outfielder and he'll have to pretty much battle back from there, start his career over essentially.

After Bavasi was done officially talking, a whole bunch of people swamped him at the dugout and chatted more about other stuff. As suspected, several of them were other USSM/LL folks, though I only actually caught Bretticus's name because he was wearing a Shaun Alexander jersey and carrying a Chris Snelling jersey.

I forget exactly what he chatted about, it was mostly more stuff about Snelling, things like why couldn't Snelling DH instead of Vidro, some other questions, a bunch about Jeff Weaver and dealing with Scott Boras and the motivations behind the one-year deal, and so on. He made the particularly incisive comment that if players had only been treated better back in the days when his dad was a GM, then the market probably wouldn't be as completely ridiculous as it is today. We asked if he'd be coming back to any more USSM feeds and he said that he'd be at the one at Spring Training, but as for up here, hey, as long as they got some pizza for him, he'd be there, or something like that. He shook hands with everyone who'd been gathering around the dugout, even me, and then he walked off.

See, this is why I don't do the whole hating on the management thing. People who get all riled up like "Fire Hargrove!" "Fire Bavasi!" etc, I think if they went to one of these events and actually just talked to them, they wouldn't be the same way. Though maybe I'm wrong, I dunno. I have to say, I wouldn't want to be a GM.

After that, I had to leave to go to another appointment. I'm not really sure I missed much of anything; it's more a shame I wasn't there earlier, though to be honest, waiting in the autograph lines is dead boring as far as I'm concerned :)

Also, man, I really shouldn't have stayed up this late dumping this all out of my brain. Argh. I'll try to edit it down and/or correct things tomorrow sometime.

(edit> for the record, there's an article with these and other quotes from Fan Fest, might be truer versions of the quotes I posted, too)

Friday, January 26, 2007

Book Review: The Era, by Roger Kahn

The Era 1947-1957: When the Yankees, the Giants, and the Dodgers Ruled the World, by Roger Kahn

Roger Kahn is a fantastic writer. The 1950's were an awesome time to be around New York baseball. And if you agree with the previous sentences, you will thoroughly enjoy the book "The Era". If you don't, you probably won't. But that doesn't make the book itself any better or worse.

In the prologue, Kahn explains with conviction why he believes that this time and place were an "era" in baseball, and concludes by saying, "You should have been there. I mean to take you." In the rest of the book, he pretty much does exactly that.

It's hard to evaluate this book independently of his better-known book "The Boys of Summer"; and granted, almost any time you read anything by Kahn, there'll be shades of Boys of Summer in it. However, in context, it makes sense, as the 1952 Dodgers was his first real writing gig, and thus he lived and breathed Dodger Blue for two years. It'll sort of be like myself with the 2004-2006 Mariners -- these are the guys I started writing about on a daily basis, so these are the days and the players I'll really remember for the rest of my life. Long after the current generation of baseball players have retired, gone gray, managed, general managed, had kids of their own in the major leagues, and so on, I'll still probably still want to wax historic about the time when we had a young King Felix, a crazy Aussie named Doyle, the twilight of the great Gar, and exaggerate how fast Ichiro could beat out a bunt.

And thus you can't blame Roger Kahn for spending more page space talking about Carl Furillo than most other authors ever have, or for the chapters upon chapters about Jackie Robinson and Leo Durocher, or the way Pee Wee, Campy, Jackie, Oisk, Pistol Pete, Preacher, Skoonj and Newk are always sitting around chattering on the edge of all his pages. You'll feel like you were actually in Ebbets Field, or in the Yankee clubhouse, or at the Polo Grounds.

It really is pretty crazy if you think about it. In the "era" that Kahn writes about, an 11-year period, there was only one year where no New York team was in the World Series, 1948. The Yankees won 9 pennants in that time, the Dodgers 6, and the Giants 2. I was trying to come up with some sort of comparable time period and comparable locale, but there simply isn't one. No other metropolitan area with multiple baseball teams ever had such a long period of dominance with so many legendary and memorable characters playing a part in the saga. In one chapter Kahn is chatting with Dr. Bobby Brown, former Yankee player and AL president; Brown shows off a photograph of him getting a base hit in a World Series. The notable thing about the picture is not his line drive, though that is pretty cool in itself, but the fact that you can spot seven Hall of Famers standing on the field (as baserunners, fielders, and a coach).

I feel like it's really hard to capture exactly what it was that I loved about this book so much. It's not really a brilliantly architected work or anything. There's a timeline to it, of course, but the storylines of the various players and teams wander in and out as they become important to the particular time. It's engaging, it's wonderfully amusing, but it's also a little discombobulated. If anything, a lot of it reads the way you'd expect a bar conversation to go, if you sat down and asked Kahn to tell you about DiMaggio, Mantle, or Mays. About Jackie. About the time Larry MacPhail and Tom Yawkey almost traded The Dago for The Skinny Kid, straight up. The stories aren't white-washed, and the players are painted as they were, with Kahn several times using quotes that he had promised not to print at the time as a journalist, but has been released of that vow by outliving the sources.

To be honest, the Casey Stengel quotes alone are worth reading this book. Even if you've read Robert Creamer's Stengel book, which is fantastic in its own right, the way the Stengel quotes are worked into "The Era" with the absurdity of various situations is just hilarious. And at the same time, the serious discussion of how Stengel used various platoon matrices and other innovative managerial techniques -- such as warming up several relievers at a time, and bringing out appropriate players per leverage situations -- is fascinating to read when viewed through a modern-day telescope.

Basically, it's no Boys of Summer. But it's damn entertaining all along. I'd say that if you had to choose only one Kahn book to read, this isn't the one, but if you are looking for a good bus book, and a laugh, and perhaps, like me, to feel nostalgic for a time period that you never actually experienced, this book is well worth your time. If you see it in a used bookstore, by all means pick it up and give it a read.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

NPB Roundup: Lazy English Article Version

It occurs to me that I'm going to get even lazier about actually reading Japanese articles once Gary Garland starts up his news translations again in a week (my gosh! One week until spring training!), but we'll see. Maybe I'll just go nuts on Fighters stuff to compensate. Hmm, I've got a book review in my mental queue to write, and I'm planning to go to Mariners Fan Fest on Saturday to try to glimpse the newer, thinner Felix, so I'll have photos from that. But anyway.

Jim Allen's written a pretty good three-article set on how the NPB owners really need to get their acts together and unite to ensure that their teams and leagues survive the advancement of the MLB into Asia.

Part 1: The race to China
Part 2: The need for more minor leagues and TV rights
Part 3: A real World Series

Not to be completely outdone, Wayne Graczyk at the Japan Times wrote an awesome article about Marty Brown and the Hiroshima Carp, which actually pretty much covers the same thinking I had for why the Carp could be a pretty fun team to follow this year.

Also, Kosuke Fukudome is still holding out for more money. Funny how different things are in Japan -- essentially, he just rejected a raise from $2 million to $3 million. I guess that's a pretty good sign he's going to try to jump to the MLB for the money as soon as possible. Laaaaaame.

Shinji Mizushima, author of Dokaben, has been pulling together more stuff for the Hokushinetsu BCL "Baseball Challenge League", which is awesome. The four teams in this new independent league will consist of the Ishikawa Million Stars, the Toyama Thunderbirds, the Niigata Albirex, and the Shinano Grandserows. If you know the geography of Japan, this is basically sort of the north coast of central Honshu. Most of these places already have reasonable stadiums that are already used for annual NPB "regional barnstorming" games.

Last year two guys were drafted out of the Shikoku League during the college/industrial draft, and perhaps the same will happen with the Hokushinetsu league. It will be great for players to have another place to get playing experience besides the industrial leagues, and if the NPB teams were smart, some of them would come up with working agreements with the independent leagues along the lines of the way minor league teams used to work in the US in the old days.

Anyway, on one final silly note, Trey Hillman and Dave Owen arrived in Japan safely. We can tell, because otherwise they wouldn't be posing for goofy pictures in the Narita airport.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Japan Photos, Part 8 - Meiji Jingu (Tokyo Yakult)

Meiji Jingu is the other pro baseball stadium in Japan which predates professional baseball. As Koshien was opened in 1924 for the high school tournament, Meiji Jingu was opened in 1926 for the college leagues to play in. On the other hand, unlike Koshien, it's quite possible to buy general admission seats at Jingu and spread out around a bunch of seats. Unfortunately, though, unlike Koshien, it's nearly impossible to get a good angle to take pictures of the game without going up as high as possible, and even then it's tough. Stupid fences.

I don't really remember the game that well now. I remember being psyched to see Yokohama's best pitcher, Daisuke Miura, and of course ex-Dodger/Met Kazuhisa Ishii, and seeing ex-Mariners pitcher Masao Kida pitching again was neat. But I also remember the Bay Stars won and it was sort of anti-climactic, young hotshot Shuichi Murata getting a huge home run off Masao Kida. It was chilly out, and the wind was blowing all through the upper seats. It felt just like Seattle! I dunno, here's a blog entry from the day, here's a box score.

Full photoset with thumbnails and descriptions here:
Swallows vs. Bay Stars at Meiji Jingu Stadium, September 14, 2006

I'll throw up a few highlights just because it looks pretty neat when I use the Japan Trip Pictures tag to look at all these entries. But this is a fairly small set (60 pictures, only 5 pages of thumbnails) to look through, there's some scoreboard cartoons, and lots of BP pictures.

Meiji Jingu Stadium at twilight, from outside and in:

Yokohama starter Miura, a pack of cheerleader girls, and some Iwamura fans in the outfield:

Stadium staffers hustle, the infamous Yakult run-celebrating umbrella dance, the final game score:

Alex Ramirez high-fives fans, kids watching BP, a Kirin beer girl, Kazuhisa Ishii, Masao Kida:

Kazunari Tsuruoka, Ryuji Miyade, Masanao Ebana, Yuuki Yoshimura, Akinori Iwamura being intentionally walked:


Next up will either be Yokohama Stadium or some more Seibu pictures. It was dark and Orix is boring, so we'll see.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

2006 NPB Gaijin Tracker

I'm trying to figure out where all the non-Asian foreigners from the NPB 2006 season are playing in 2007, if anywhere. Help me hunt!

I'll edit in links to where I got the various info from when I get a chance. A lot of it was just from going through the MLB NRI lists and the forums.

Note: this is not the list of "which foreigners are playing in Japan in 2007?", but the list of "what happened to the ones who were playing in 2006?"

Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters
Jose Macias -- MLB Nationals, NRI [NRI roster]
Fernando Seguignol -- NPB Fighters 2007 [Japanball article]
Felix Diaz -- MLB Nationals, NRI [ article]
Corey Lee
Brad Thomas

Fukuoka Softbank Hawks
DJ Carrasco -- MLB Diamondbacks, NRI [Transactions]
Julio Zuleta -- NPB Marines 2007 [Japanball article]
Jolbert Cabrera -- MLB Cardinals, NRI [NRI roster]

Seibu Lions
Chris Gissel -- NPB Lions 2007 [Japan Times]
Alex Graman -- NPB Lions 2007 [Japan Times]
Jeff Liefer -- NPB Lions 2007 [Japan Times]
Alex Cabrera -- NPB Lions 2007 [Japan Times]
(also Lions Spring Camp list)

Chiba Lotte Marines
Benny Agbayani -- NPB Marines 2007 [Marines Spring Camp list]
Matt Watson -- NPB Marines 2007 [Lancaster Online]
Val Pascucci
Matt Franco
Kevin Beirne
Justin Miller

Orix Buffaloes
Tom Davey -- NPB Orix 2007 [Japanball article]
Dan Serafini -- NPB Orix 2007 [Japanball article]
Wes Obermueller -- MLB Marlins, NRI [NRI roster]
Jason Grabowski -- MLB Tampa Bay, NRI [NRI roster]
Cliff Brumbaugh -- KBO Hyundai Unicorns 2007 [Yonhap news]
Karim Garcia -- MLB Phillies, NRI [NRI roster]

Rakuten Golden Eagles
Ryan Glynn -- NPB Fighters 2007 [Japanball article]
Cedrick Bowers -- KBO Hanhwa Eagles 2007 [ article]
Jose Fernandez -- NPB Rakuten 2007 [Spring camp roster]
Rick Short -- NPB Rakuten 2007 [Japan Times]
Eric Valent

Chunichi Dragons
Luis Martinez -- MLB Nationals, NRI [NRI roster]
Tyrone Woods -- NPB Dragons 2007 [Japanball article]
Alex Ochoa -- MLB Red Sox, NRI [NRI roster]
Domingo Guzman
Claudio Galva

Hanshin Tigers
Jeff Williams -- NPB Hanshin 2007 [Nikkan Sports]
Darwin Cubillan -- NPB Hanshin 2007 [Nikkan Sports]
Chris Oxspring -- MLB Brewers, NRI [NRI roster]
Andy Sheets -- NPB Hanshin 2007 [Nikkan Sports]
Shane Spencer

Yakult Swallows
Rick Guttormson -- NPB Softbank 2007 [Japanball article]
Dicky Gonzalez -- NPB Swallows 2007 [Japanball article]
Greg LaRocca -- NPB Orix 2007 [Japanball article]
Adam Riggs -- NPB Swallows 2007 [Japanball article]
Alex Ramirez -- NPB Swallows 2007 [Swallows home page]
Alex Ramirez Jr -- NPB Swallows 2007 [Swallows home page]

Yomiuri Giants
Jeremy Powell -- NPB Yomiuri 2007 [Japan Times]
Gary Glover -- MLB Devil Rays, NRI [NRI roster]
Joe Dillon -- MLB Marlins, NRI [NRI roster]
George Arias

Hiroshima Carp
Mike Romano -- KBO SK Wyverns 2007 [Wyverns site news]
John Bale -- MLB Royals 2007 [ news]
Sean Douglass -- NPB Hiroshima 2007 [Japan Times]
Victor Marte -- NPB Hiroshima 2007 [Japan Times]
Juan Feliciano

Yokohama Bay Stars
Marc Kroon -- NPB Yokohama 2007 [Japan Times]
Jason Beverlin
Shawn Sonnier

All three of the gaijin managers from last year are keeping their jobs -- Bobby Valentine with the Chiba Lotte Marines, Trey Hillman with the Nippon Ham Fighters, and Marty Brown with the Hiroshima Carp. In an odd coincidence, it is Brown's birthday today.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Kazumi Saitoh in Arizona, Part 3

I've got a bunch of things going on such that I haven't had much time to work on the blogging things I wanted to. Sorry about that. I'm actually thinking of going to Mariners Fan Fest next Sunday (even though it'll make me sad that it's not as cool as Phillies fan events. Also, how about that Chase Utley contract?)

So instead, here's another translation installment of Kazumi Saitoh's blogging about training in Arizona. I forget if I explained this, but in Japan, spring training (aka "spring camp") starts on February 1st, but most players start what's called 自主トレ, or "independent training" around the beginning of January. Yeah, they're crazy, but at least it's something to read about besides contracts. Most guys just hang out in their local area -- the Fighters, for example, are training near Chiba -- but some go to various other places, and as previously mentioned, Softbank Hawks players Kokubo, Egawa, and Saitoh are in Arizona, along with Yokohama's Yoshimi.

Anyway, here's Saitoh's latest blog entry, and my translation, which is about their daily routine:
Well, I'm half done my independent training time in Arizona, and I feel like I'm almost ready to start our real spring training.
Here, let me tell everyone about the daily routine I have in Arizona. (I'm betting *some* people might wonder about it...)

First, we're all staying in separate rooms so we have slightly different schedules, but I get up at 5:30am:

5:30 AM: Wake up
6:00 AM: Breakfast
6:40 AM: Leave the hotel
7:00 AM: Arrive at the gym

Upon arriving at the gym, as soon as preparations are done, we start practice! (The coaches get there even earlier than we do.)

Each day's gym workout routine is a little different, but takes about the same amount of time, we're usually there until around 9 or 10am.
Once we're finished training in the gym, we head to the baseball stadium. It takes about 20 minutes to get there by car. And once we get to the stadium, we start our practice there!
First we do running, 12 times around the field, for lower body strengthening. Then we do 12 reps of sit-ups and other back stretches. Then once that's all over, we finally actually do something with a baseball!
We pitchers throw a baseball around, while the fielders also play catch and pepper (one guy throws the ball lightly and hits it back), and bat off a tee. We start practice so early that by the time the afternoon rolls around, we go back to the hotel and do things like playing golf for a few hours for a change of pace.
Since we get up so early in the morning, we also go to sleep early. I'm always asleep by 9pm, and before I know it, it's morning! (laughs)
This is what it's like to do "independent training".

This year, again just like last year, I'm training hard to be a new and different "Kazumi Saitoh" than before. I hope you're all looking forward to this season, I know I am!
So, "Good night!"

Nikkan Sports caught up with the guys in Arizona and put up a few pictures: Egawa hitting, Saitoh and Kokubo stretching, Saitoh and Kokubo reading off the day's routine, Kokubo hitting.

While I'm at it, there's plenty of other awesome independent training shots on Nikkan Sports:
Tigers: Spaceman Tomoaki Kanemoto, Gunner Okazaki, some new form of Torture the Rookie, Tatsuya Kojima competing for worst teeth on the team, and Mizuochi gets sent to the farm team on a cart. No, just kidding.

Fighters: A Hichori sighting!, Yagi and Takeda pose with some bored-looking kids, Naoto Inada does a DJ OZMA pose, Takahito Kudoh and "also, puppies", and outfielder Inaba is throwing in the bullpen? What?

Hawks: Tsuyoshi Wada practices archery, and uhhh, I have no idea what Matsunaka and Matsuda are doing in a picture captioned "I will make the opening day lineup". Also, this is what a coaches' meeting looks like, apparently.

Akinori Iwamura will apparently not have a Japanese teammate after all, as Shinji Mori was released on Thursday, supposedly. Well, unless Jason Grabowski counts, as a Devil Rays NRI who played (and sucked) last season with the Orix Buffaloes.

Also, the Yomiuri Giants signed Luis Gonzalez. No, not this one, this one. I hope *they* realize that, though...

Friday, January 19, 2007

Friday Foto: 1980 Phillies

When I was back east over the holidays, I went through some old photo albums and scanned in a few pictures. (It's funny, but almost every picture of me until I'm about five years old, I'm wearing a Phillies hat or shirt or something, no joke.) These are pictures from the 1980 NLCS and World Series. I'll put a few up here on the blog front page, and the rest are on a separate pictures page. Check 'em out!

All of these pictures (as far as I know) were taken by my father, Mike Rubin, who taught me at a young age the value of a good telephoto lens over the cost of tickets in the 700 level at Veterans Stadium.

October 7, 1980, NLCS, Phillies line up on the first-base line. Check out Bobby Boone and Larry Bowa all the way on the left, and the hair of Garry Maddox and Bake McBride.

NLCS, Astros lining up on the third-base line.

October 21, 1980. Final game of the World Series.

Royals line up on the third-base line.

Tug McGraw replaces Steve Carlton on the mound in the 8th inning.

Willie Wilson at bat, the famous last at-bat of the 1980 World Series.

I think everyone was too excited to get any pictures of the game ending, see.

Bonus picture: this is me, mid-summer 1980. I'm three years old, left-handed, and I want to be Steve Carlton when I grow up.

We're at a neighborhood Phillies event, and the Phanatic won't give me back to my mom. I'm perfectly fine with that.

I figured it's been a pretty Phillies week around this blog, so I might as well finish it off that way. I'll have my next set of Japanese baseball photos up pretty soon.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Happy Scot Shields Day!

I was mostly kidding about it, but yeah, the Angels avoided arbitration with all of their players. Scot Shields will make $3.4 million in 2007, and considering how he's a better pitcher than several closers, it seems like a reasonable deal. I've been a Shields fan for a while. He's an oddball, that's to be sure, but he's also the nicest player on the Angels by far now that Tim Salmon's retired. Shields always seemed to have time to throw a baseball to a kid after BP, or stop by to sign stuff or chat, even in the midst of quietly becoming one of the best relievers in baseball.

The list of 2007 Salary Arbitration Figures is up on It really freaked me out for a second because they have Lew Ford listed as being with the Nats. It's a typo, I think, but since I'd just read on Bat-Girl how Matthew LeCroy just signed a minor-league deal with the Twins, I suddenly got confused in my brain and thought there was some weird trade going on. It's annoying, though, because there are several players listed there where I seriously hadn't noticed them move to another team, and several where I was thinking that, but it's just typos. (They have Alexis Rios listed with Pittsburgh, too.)

Also, it seems like JJ Putz might actually go to arbitration with the Mariners. Crazy. Nevermind, JJ Putz signed a 3-year deal with the M's. Crisis avoided. Thanks, msb.

Teddy Beardado signed a minor-league deal with the Reds. I hope he's recovering well from surgery. Maybe he'll have a couple of years left in his arm after all.

The St. Louis Cardinals were invited to the White House yesterday. I first saw this posted on the Griddle, where he also posted a link to the transcript of the ceremony. Strangely, when seeing the picture of Eckstein presenting president Bush with a jersey in this article, I was suddenly totally reminded of David Wright presenting Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe with a Mets jersey before the MLB-NPB All Star series this past fall.

Apparently we can blame the current snowstorms here on Jose Vidro coming to visit Seattle.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Happy Ryan Madson Day!

EDIT> This just in: Pat Gillick ruins Ryan Madson Day by claiming Greg Dobbs off waivers. We'll have to see if I can spread the nickname "Dobby The Bench Elf" to the Phlogosphere.

I realize that today is actually Albert Pujols's birthday (and also another famous Cardinal, Dizzy Dean), and Ryan Madson's birthday is actually August 28th, but after Monday's thread on USSM about, among other things, Ryan Madson avoiding arbitration and signing a $1.1 million one-year contract, and Laurie and I both simultaneously declaring our undying love for the charming and talented Phillies pitcher, I've decided to arbitrarily declare today to be Ryan Madson Day. Hooray! I even bothered fixing my scanner so I could scan in the January 2007 page from the 2006-2007 charities calendar, aka Phillies Phashion.

And then, of course, I found this page of Phillies desktop wallpapers on their official site with the casual-clothes calendar shots of Burrell, Gordon, Madson, Myers, Rowand, and Utley.

No, that's not a fashion model, that's a pitcher for the Philadelphia Phillies.

(That's a re-sized version of the image from the Phillies' site; the calendar scan didn't line up that well)

Actually, to be fair, all of the Phillies wallpapers on that page are awesome. The Ryan Howard MVP one is both super-goofy and super-awesome all at once, really -- he's totally doing the Manny Ramirez 2004-World-Series-postgame gesture, but so what?

The point is, Ryan Madson is awesome, no matter what his 2006 numbers might indicate. For a few quick hits, back in the middle of the 2005 season, Jason Weitzel at Beerleaguer wrote a little retrospective on why it's easy to like Mad Dog. Tom Goyne started the Madson For 2006 Rotation campaign almost exactly a year ago, even making up buttons -- which I never did remember to order off Cafepress. Oops.

Then I drafted Madson to my fantasy team, sniping Tom G for him in the 13th round -- I still can't believe I got Nick Swisher in the 14th round, but hey, this was a Phillies Bloggers league (which, by the way, I eventually placed 3rd out of 14th in, barely edging out the Beerleaguer himself in the finals), where Chase Utley was the 6th overall pick. Anyway, Madson was great for a bit, then the starter role started to wear on him, and when Cole Hamels was called up at the end of May, I dropped Madson from my team for the Phillies' greater good, and he immediately went on a tear, including May 28th, which I was in Philly for, and watched as my newly-dropped wonder boy struck out 7 in 5 innings, giving up 2 runs and batting in 2 runs himself to get the win.

But, the shuffling between starting and relieving wore on him through the year, plus it didn't help that they kept putting him into the game immediately following Cole Hamels, the guy who had replaced him in the rotation. It seemed like Mad Dog was on his way to being sent to the doghouse.

Eventually, though, he got back into the swing of things again, and Mike Berquist wrote the Ryan Madson Reclamation Project, which ended up being irrelevant as Madson reclaimed himself. When Tom Gordon went down with an injury late in the season, Madson and Arthur Rhodes took over the closing duties, as Jason Weitzel had foreseen in saying that perhaps we should think of Madson more as a Trevor Hoffman type.

Of course, the first time I ever saw Ryan Madson pitch in person was the series when the Phillies came to Seattle in 2005, and he gave up a particularly memorable home run -- Mike Morse's first ever big-league home run. But I noticed that despite that, Madson really handled it well, and the day after that he ended up striking out Richie Sexson with the bases loaded, holding the Phillies together in order to stage a comeback in extra innings.

Laurie, however, has a much cooler account of that series, including dissing Billy Wagner in order to get Madson's signature.

In searching for Madson pictures in my collection, I realized I'd cropped and resized a whole bunch of pictures from my trip to Philly this past May, but I'd never actually put them online, so this gave me an excuse to finish those up. These are mostly from May 28th when Ryan Madson got a start against the Brewers, and a few from the Nationals game the next day, May 29th. It has fun pictures of Madson warming up, but also of various things like Hamels and Utley and Howard and all coming out to sign stuff, of Sal Fasano back when he was still the Italian Superhero of Sal's Pals, and some other fun shots around Citizens Bank Park, including Steve Carlton punching the Phanatic. No, just kidding. Anyway:

Deanna Visits Citizens Bank Park May 2006, Photo Set

What the heck, might as well end the post with a Madson photo.

Here's to Ryan Madson becoming the best setup man in the National League in 2007. Or at least having bigger fish to fry.

(Just watch, later this week I'll have a Scot Shields Day if/when the Angels avoid arbitration with him. Maybe I should just declare it Tall Skinny Right-Handed Awesome Setup Men Week or something.)

Monday, January 15, 2007

Kazumi Saitoh in Arizona, Part 2

Yes, I'm still a big dork. Yes, this is what I feel like translating today.

Saitoh, Kokubo, Egawa and Yoshimi spent Sunday going to the Grand Canyon, and Saitoh wrote about it on his blog:
On the 14th, we finally had our first off-day since coming to Arizona, so everyone went to the Grand Canyon.

I had actually been there two years ago when I trained in Arizona, and this was Kokubo's fourth time there, but since Egawa and Yoshimi had never been there, we went for their sake.
So even though I'd been there before, we took a different route there this time, and I got just as excited as the other two.
We arrived at the Grand Canyon around 4pm. Along the way I saw sand that looked like the most pure white snow. Seeing that "snow" along one side as we went through the desert area, it was just the most beautiful scenery, so peaceful and relaxing!
After two years, all I could say about the Grand Canyon this time was still just "Awesome!" "Amazing!"
The power of nature is so amazing that it just makes your worries and even your own existence seem so small in comparison.
It's usually a difficult thing to comprehend, but when you're in front of the Grand Canyon, you know that it's the truth.
Everyone, if you ever have the chance, by all means try to come here. I'm sure it's been a life-changing experience for people who have.
Thanks to the beauty and peace of the Grand Canyon, I feel refreshed and ready to work hard at training from tomorrow onward!

PS - when I return to Japan, I'll put the pictures I took at the Grand Canyon and of our training workouts in general up on the home page, so, please wait until then to enjoy them!

Wheeee, sounds like they're having fun, and I am looking forward to seeing pictures, that's for sure! It's really a shame I sort of feel like rooting for every team in the Pacific League except Orix this year for one reason or another -- despite that being a Fighters fan is supposed to make me anti-Hawks, I'm such a Saitoh fangirl, and I'm hoping Kokubo really does come back from this in good shape, and I wonder if Egawa is still doing his "Post-Kokubo" training by following him around, heh. At least he's having more fun than the Hawks rookies, who are going through new member orientation (no, really) and all.

Oh yeah, and in other news, the song "Sorafune" by TOKIO is going to be the opening theme for the Spring Koshien high school invitational tournament. Which is funny to me, since I've had that song going through my head for a few weeks now. (Yes, I watched "My Boss My Hero". Yes, I like Tomoya Nagase. Shut up.)

And FINALLY some news about Seguignol! Sounds like a 1-year, 2-oku contract with incentives bringing it to 2.5-oku (about $2 million), and they're hoping to have it all settled in time for spring camp. Woohoo! I am a lot less worried now about our lack of bats, even though Andy Green could still be a big question mark. GANBARE FIGHTERS!

Sunday, January 14, 2007

NPB Roundup: Papa Yagi

I was originally going to write something about the whole latest "Ichiro is unhappy and everyone's making a big to-do about it" escapade, but my only role in it was to point out that there actually was a Sankei Sports article behind the whole rumor, and I'll be honest: Ichiro wanting to win more games is just not all that interesting.

ESPECIALLY when I went to Nikkan Sports to start collating the "New Face" articles on the Fighters rookies -- now that the last three, Youhei Kaneko, Takahiro Imanami, and Yuusuke Uchiyama are done -- but instead, the top headline was Tomoya Yagi announces that he's both a husband and a father-to-be! Eek! That explains the bad haircut!

No, just kidding. So, apparently Yagi got married back in November officially, to a girl whose name is 徳留知佳 -- Tokudome Chika, I'm guessing, though I know there's several other ways to read that first name. It sounds like they were introduced by the manager of a jewelry store during their senior year at Soka University, and immediately fell in love, and are infact, pretty much leading the life of happy newlyweds -- except for, yes, that one small detail -- Yagi's wife is due to give birth in June, so that wedding in November was indeed a bit of a "dekichatta kekkon" -- a shotgun wedding. (I wanted to make a Ryoko Hirosue joke here, but it wasn't really worth the effort.)

Yagi says that his biggest goal for next year is to avoid the second-year jinx, while also trying to assume the responsibilities of being a father and husband. I wish the best for both goals there. He had a lot to celebrate this past year, obviously, but maintained poise and maturity through everything he faced -- even the time halfway through the year where Yu Darvish forgot his jersey and borrowed one of Yagi's to win the 11th game in a winning streak, only for Yagi to lose the 12th game the next day wearing his own jersey and facing that Matsuzaka guy.

Speaking of amusing Darvishisms, the headline right after the "Papa Yagi" headline is one of Darvish doesn't want to get married yet. I love the Japanese press. In the juicy details of the article, Darvish, "most popular guy in the Fighters bachelor club", mentions that he doesn't even currently have a girlfriend. "Yagi's what, 23 years old? I'm just going to take things at my pace, maybe get married 4 or 5 years from now?" he says. For the Mariners fans, a perspective: Darvish is 4 months younger than our Felix Hernandez, who already has a year-and-a-half-old daughter. But never fear, Darvish keeps himself plenty busy, what with various ad campaigns or speaking to youth baseball clubs or training. And whoa, I just found his official site, which is even more Darvish than I can handle right now. Though, he has a link to an Iranian Baseball site -- I had no idea such a thing existed.

Romash Tasuku Dass, the tall half-Indian half Japanese guy the Fighters drafted this year, apparently has a plan to outdo the Handkerchief Prince, Saito Yuki by becoming the "Turban Prince" and starting a fashion craze for turbans. How exactly he plans to do this -- especially since I'm pretty sure you can't wear a baseball cap over a turban -- is beyond me, but it should be pretty funny to see what comes out of it. Dass also wants to run a 100k marathon or something. I dunno.

By the way, at the end of the Papa Yagi article, they also mentioned the last few months' worth of Fighters family announcements. I've probably got some of the wife names wrong, but took my best guess at the kanji:

11/22/06: 24-year-old Teppei Komai (farm team catcher) married 24-year-old Marimo Abe (安倍まりも) from Tokyo (Hachioji).
12/11/06: 23-year-old Keizo Kawashima (utility) married 21-year-old Saya Nozawa (野沢沙耶) from Tokyo (Kunitachi).
12/24/06: 22-year-old Masaya Ozaki (farm team IF) married 22-year-old Miho Hayashi (林美歩) from Hyogo (Amagasaki).

If I understand correctly, Masaru Takeda registered his marriage (to 28-year-old Yoko (陽子)) in 2005 but actually had the wedding reception on 12/16/2006.

1/18/06: to Takeshi Itoh, a boy, the second child but first son
7/21/06: to Yuuji Iiyama, twins -- boys -- now he has three sons
9/20/06: to Naoto Inada, his first child, a daughter
10/14/06: to Fernando Seguignol, his second son
12/22/06: to Hisashi Takeda, his first child, a son

Speaking of Seguignol, I really wish I knew what his contract status is! The Fighters certainly have the money to sign him, since they ended up taking the 456 million yen from the Giants as compensation for signing Ogasawara, rather than a player, since the Bay Stars took Kimiyasu Kudoh, who the Fighters also supposedly wanted (though I can't for the life of me figure out why).

I was reading through a bunch of Fighters blogs a few days ago and came across a photo blog, which I thought had a rather nice Ogasawara post. Mostly, I just liked the picture of the jersey in the drawer, being retired. I know I certainly felt that way at the time. The bobbleheads of Ogasawara, Takahashi, and Tani are pretty funny too.

I suppose that unless I actually mention things about some teams that aren't the Fighters, this isn't really an NPB roundup per se...

Tomoya Satozaki gave the Lotte administration a bit of Hanshin treatment, if I understand this article properly -- he went in for his contract renewal and basically sat around yawning and playing with his cellphone and such, accusing the team of leaking (contract assessment?) information about him. My guess is that there will be furious apologies all around and he'll sign before the team goes off to Geelong for spring training in Australia -- but still, that's pretty funny. I can just imagine him leaving the contract talks like "'kay guys, I gotta go. Gimme a call when you're either willing to not screw things up or when you find another catcher in the Pacific League who can bat cleanup or DH every game as well and do all of the stupid extra exhibition events and... oh wait! I think Kenji Johjima's in America now! Ha!"

Takao Kajimoto and Reiichi Matsunaga were elected to the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame last week. It's sad that it happened this year instead of earlier -- Kajimoto, who was with Tetsuya Yoneda the Hankyu Braves's version of Spahn and Sain, died in September. His widow, Kyoko, spoke on his behalf at the press conference.

The Seibu Lions signed Jason Johnson to a 350 million yen contract for the 2007 season. That's pretty insane -- more than Matsuzaka was making in his last year -- but, I guess they needed someone to eat up all those innings. Johnson's minor league numbers actually look to me like they'll transfer to Japan okay though, so we'll see. What I'm most curious about is how they'll handle his health issues -- Johnson is diabetic and was the first person to wear an insulin pump while pitching in the MLB, and will undoubtedly be the first in Japan as well. I have to wonder whether the Seibu press will play that up or down. It might depend on how Johnson pitches, really.

Nori Nakamura really just doesn't want to play baseball in Osaka, apparently. Last time he pulled his "I hate you guys, I'm leaving" he ended up playing in Las Vegas for a year, though this time it seems more likely that he'll end up with some other NPB team willing to overpay for a declining third baseman. We'll see.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Holiday Interviews Around The Majors 2006

I had this post 90% written up over the holiday break and somehow completely forgot to finish and post it. Oops. Despite that it's two weeks late, I figure that since I did this last year too, I might as well continue with tradition. did a summary of their own, but I had a different opinion on which ones were the best.

Basically, they go around and each team's beat reporter interviews someone associated with the team, asking various questions about the holiday season, which vary from team to team. Overall, the 30 teams were represented by 10 infielders, 4 outfielders, 9 pitchers, 4 managers, and 3 broadcasters. Yes, oddly, no catchers. I don't think it was on purpose.

This year's were on average a little bit more fun than last year's, but there weren't quite as many standout moments. Still, let's see:

Funny Ones

As usual, I think the best ones are when they pick on their teammates:

First Place: Aaron Rowand, Philadelphia Phillies If Santa added a 10th reindeer, what should its name be?

Rowand: Phanatic. What gift would you get for Jimmy Rollins?

Rowand: You can't get him jewelry or anything baseball-related, because he already owns everything. He's a tough guy to shop for. You know what? I'd make my own rap CD and give it to him, because he's into music and he can market it. It'd be called "MC-Row-dog." That would be my label. Is there one teammate you really want to get something for?

Rowand: I'd get Cole Hamels a Flowbee. I mean, just look at his hair.

Second place: Nick Punto, Minnesota Twins Next on your list is Torii Hunter.

Punto: I think I'd have to give Torii three hours of sit-down advice on how to play cards. He's just awful. OK, last one and this should be good. What would you get the man whose locker is right next to yours -- Mike Redmond?

Punto: Geez, Red Dog is easy. There are so many things I could get him. But if I had to give one, I think it would be my green Speedo. He really seems to love that thing. You mean the one that has become almost a good luck charm of sorts around the club?

Punto: Yeah, I think I'd actually frame that green Speedo and let him put in on the wall of his game room. I know he wants it because every time I put it on, he's always saying just how awesome it is.

Third Place: Jeff Francoeur, Atlanta Braves If you were getting a gift for Chipper Jones, what would it be?

Francoeur: From a serious perspective, I'd probably get him a new gun or something that he could use on his ranch. From a joking perspective, I'd give him a new foot so that he could stay in the lineup all year. How about for Andruw Jones?

Francoeur: Andruw has everything. He'd be impossible to shop for. I wouldn't even know what to get him. I guess I'd just get him a free car wash for all of his cars. And for John Smoltz?

Francoeur: I'd get him tickets for a Michigan State football game so that he and I could go up together, and I could just sit there and make fun of him the whole time.

Honorable Mention: Dave Raymond, Houston Astros Broadcast Team You were hired a year ago, just six days before Christmas. Describe how you felt when they told you they were hiring you, and just how merry was that Christmas?

Dave Raymond: Let's just say that I wasn't terribly concerned as to whether or not I'd get a Rubik's cube on Christmas morning. It changed Christmas dramatically, of course. It was more like a five- or six-day celebration. It was fun and a surprise.

That day was surreal. We came to the office. They went to give Roy Oswalt his bulldozer. I was just watching two grown men exchanging bulldozers. What's at the top of your baseball Christmas list?

Dave Raymond: I just want to hang out more with Brad Ausmus and Mike Lamb. That's really all I want. I just want them once to acknowledge the fact that when we're out somewhere other than the ballpark and I'm within 20 feet of them, we're technically "hanging out." I want them to acknowledge that. They don't even have to speak to me. Like at the baseball dinner in January, Brad will be there and I will be there. Technically, absolutely, we're hanging out.

Also, I want more 18-inning games.

I am looking forward to the Astros getting back to the playoffs in their rightful spot at the top of the division. Especially should it come at the expense of the Cubs, who spared no expense in the offseason.

Honorable Mention: Scott Proctor, New York Yankees What do you want for Christmas this year?

Proctor: To not get traded. I also told my wife I wanted an ATV, but she told me I couldn't have one until Camden, my 3-year-old son, could ride it. I've got about three or four years to go, I guess. Who's more popular, Derek Jeter or Santa Claus?

Proctor: No offense to Derek, but I've got to go with Santa Claus.

Interesting ones

These interviews were put online on December 23rd. Ironically, that's the same day Brandon McCarthy got traded. What's the best individual baseball gift you could get during the 2007 season?

McCarthy: Twenty wins and a Cy Young, I guess. Less than 50 home runs allowed? Something like that. I'll stick with 20 wins -- that would be nice to get.

I found this one to be particularly insightful, though I had initially been disappointed that the Indians interviewed broadcaster Matt Underwood instead of a player: Well, we talked a little about shopping. What have you thought of the Indians' holiday shopping this winter?

Underwood: It's interesting. Mark Shapiro is like the guy who waited until the last minute to go shopping, and the store is kind of picked clean already. And I don't say that Mark's done anything wrong. It's just that there's just not a lot available. So he's looking at what's on the shelf to buy, and he's got to make do with what's available. I think he's done a good job with what's available. We knew they weren't going to go out and spend crazy on an Alfonso Soriano or Carlos Lee. That's not their style, and not many teams can afford to do that. Based on what's available, he's done a great job. You can say, "Maybe he could have done better on the trade route." But the asking prices on trades have been astronomical.

Everything they've done has been economically sound and operationally sound. You know, Mark's always been hesitant to give multiyear contracts to the bullpen guys because of the volatility from year to year. So what do you do? You sign Joe Borowski to one year with an option. Roberto Hernandez and Aaron Fultz were the same situation. It's very consistent. And the David Dellucci signing is a great move. It's a veteran with experience, and the guy adds some presence. It can't do anything but help.

This is a kinda cool story along with something weird. I mean, are baseball players allowed to admit they like Star Trek? Reds pitcher Todd Coffey thinks so: Although you're not much into receiving, was there a favorite gift you remember getting when you were young?

Coffey: When I was 13 one Christmas, Mom and Dad got me a special gift. My mom wrapped it 10 times with different colored paper so she would know if I opened it. When I did open it, it was a 1994 baseball from the World Series that wasn't. It was a baseball made for the World Series (stamped), and it was the baseball game that wasn't. I don't know how they got it, but it's still on the mantle at my house. Do you have a favorite holiday movie?

Coffey: One of my favorite movies is "A Christmas Carol," with Ebenezer Scrooge. I like the one that has Patrick Stewart playing Ebenezer Scrooge, because I'm a big "Star Trek" and Patrick Stewart fan. I love that story. It's a great story.

Other ones I found interesting were:
Freddy Sanchez, Pirates
Eric Gagne, Rangers
Buddy Bell, Royals
Ben Zobrist, Devil Rays
Randy Wolf, Dodgers
John Maine, Mets


This is the list of ones where I'd see the player name and think "Oh cool," then read the interview and thought it was a letdown:
Brandon Webb, Diamondbacks
Chone Figgins, Angels
Mike Cameron, Padres
Brian Roberts, Orioles
Sean Casey, Tigers

In Seattle There's Plenty of Rain, Dear

And on one final note, of course, the Mariners contribution came from none other than Dobby The Bench Elf: What would be the best present the Mariners could find under their Christmas tree?

Greg Dobbs: I think the best Christmas present they could get now would be the one that's under the tree, but they can't open it until the end of the season. That would be us being in position to win the American League West.

Obviously, they couldn't open it now, so I guess it would be a gift for next Christmas.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Kazumi Saitoh in Arizona

He's such a dork, he arrived and almost immediately updated his blog on his website :) And because I'm such a dork I figured I'd write out a blog translation.

Today's entry will be here once it becomes backnumbered. He's apparently in Phoenix with fellow Hawks Hiroki Kokubo and Tomoaki Egawa (and Yokohama's Yoshimi). 43-year-old veteran pitcher Kimiyasu Kudoh, who just got taken by the Bay Stars as compensation for the Giants signing away FA Ken Kadokura, has also been in Phoenix for a while. Anyway, Saitoh writes:

Yay! My computer's up and I've got a net connection! (though I didn't set it up.)
From today onwards (it's now 9:30pm on the 8th in Arizona) we've started our independent training!
Honestly, starting training has me thinking a bunch of mixed feelings, from "I'm nervous", to "Okay, I've started training again" to "Geez... it's already started...?"
But, in order to feel less uneasy in spring training amidst the shouts of "run!" "throw!" etc, I think I want to get back into a serious workout routine while I'm here.
Arizona has some crazy awesome weather!
It's like Hawaii or Guam, really high temperature (hot like summertime), but the humidity is low, it's a really great environment to be in.
Only catch is that I have to be careful of the low temperatures in the morning and evening. Except for that, this is the best place ever!

Anyway, I'm going to go to sleep to prepare for tomorrow's workout. I want to get up early for training camp.
I'll write more about it again later.
So, goodnight...
I've thought it might be fun to translate some Japanese player blogs here from time to time, we'll see. I should go back and translate the one where Saitoh was like, "51 million dollars?!?! Holy crap!"

Also, alert Jeff Shaw! Ex-Hawk Tadahito Iguchi is hanging out in Nago, Okinawa, trying to teach Hawks catcher Naoki Matoba how to hit. Given that catcher is the main hole in the lineup offense-wise for the Hawks next year, this could be a great service Iguchi is providing for his former team.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

No Goose, No Juice

2007 HOF Inductees Announced.

The two shoe-ins were elected, and that was it -- Ripken Jr, Gwynn Sr. No Mac, no Bert, no Rice, no dice.

I honestly don't have much of an opinion on the McGwire issue. I'm surprised by the low number of votes, but not surprised that he didn't make it in, I guess.

Jay Buhner got one token vote, but the real close shave here went to Goose Gossage, who fell only 21 votes short of election this year with 71.2% of the vote. I'll take this opportunity as a baseball book nerd to plug his autobiography The Goose Is Loose, which earned him a spot in the Baseball Books Wall of Fame as far as I'm concerned -- it's pretty damn entertaining stuff.

Also, yesterday was 2006 inductee Bruce Sutter's birthday. It would have been much funnier if the results were announced then.

In completely unrelated news, but I don't feel like making a separate post yet, Esteban Yan will be playing for the Hanshin Tigers next year. Whoa.

Japan Photos, Part 7b - Chiba

This is the second half of my Chiba pictures, from September 13th. I had basically gone to the Monday game on a whim, but the Wednesday game I went to with Tokyo Sam, a guy from the Mariners blogosphere. It was pretty fun, and we hung out in Makuhari for a while and got to the stadium early and explored the Marines Museum and team store. I even got to play the Konami arcade game Baseball Heroes while we were in Makuhari, which was pretty neat.

The bad part about the day was that it was raining for the entire game. Wackier, that didn't actually stop both teams from playing a full game. Shingo Ono pitched a complete game shutout for the Marines, winning 7-0. Kanehisa Arime started for Rakuten, and while I think he's actually a pretty good pitcher, he had sort of wrecked his arm pitching a 12-inning 17-strikeout 188-pitch complete game only a week or two before this game, so. He did later end up kicking butt in the Hawaii Winter League, so I was redeemed for thinking highly of him.

You can read my blog entry of the day, or check out the score page on Lotte's site.

So, this photo set starts with a lot of Marines museum pictures and then goes into a rainy batting/fielding practice, and then has a bunch of game photos. Despite the crappy weather I took a surprising number of pictures. If it hadn't been raining, it would have been pretty awesome, but alas.

Full photoset with thumbnails and descriptions here:
Marines vs. Eagles at Chiba Marine Stadium, September 13, 2006

As usual I'll throw up a few highlights. I had to cut a lot of Satozaki pictures out of this set. Yeah, I know I'm hopeless.

Chiba Marine Stadium, the Marines Museum, and a tarp-covered rainy field.

Baseball Heroes arcade game, player roster in the museum, mock outfield in the museum

Mock clubhouse, Marines Wall of Fame, some cool old game posters from the 70's and 80's

1950's history, Choji Murata display, Nishioka corner in the team store, gratuitous pet clothes, me with Ma-Kun, one of the Marines mascots

Catchers Tsuji and Satozaki, Katsunori Nomura, Kenshi Kawaguchi, Tsuyoshi Nishioka, Rakuten starter Kanehisa Arime

Lotte starter Shingo Ono, Hisanori Nishitani taking a mighty swing, Benny lunging back into first base

Rainy dugout and Imae signing stuff, rainy balloon inflating, people avoiding the rain

Benny Agbayani!, Val Pascucci, Tomoya Satozaki breaking a bat, Satozaki, Jose Fernandez

Man, going through my pictures is taking me forever. I still have a few more sets -- next up is Meiji Jingu Stadium and the Yakult Swallows game... then maybe more Seibu, then definitely Yokohama, then the Japanese Baseball hall of fame, and by the time I finish all that I'll be ready to head back to Japan and take more pictures, I'm sure!

I think I had originally figured my last set -- the Japanese hall of fame -- would be finished in time to coincide with the announcing of the american HOF inductees, which should be in approximately 8 hours. Oh well...