Thursday, June 26, 2008

NPB Roundup: Rules Ramifications, Cheering Charges, and Senior SeaRex

There's a couple of interesting things going down this week despite having no top-team games to talk about.

Free Agency Changes

First, there are a bunch of reforms going down with respect to free agency and the draft over here. This Japanball article in English reports some of the major points:

- The draft this fall will be combined highschool and college and industry
- From this year onwards, college/industry draftees will need 7 years of service for free agency within Japan.
- All other players will need 8 years. This includes high school draftees, and those signed outside the draft.
- However, players all still need 9 years before being allowed to try to move overseas as free agents.

One very big detail that is being overlooked by a lot of people in this is that another effect of shortening the free agency requirement is that foreigners ALSO need one less year to be free agents. A foreign player who acquires enough service time in Japan to be a free agent doesn't count as a foreign player for team roster limits, meaning a team can effectively sign extra foreigners. The ramification of this policy -- pun intended -- is that as of next year, Alex Ramirez will no longer be a foreign player by the rules here. He started his NPB career in 2001 with the Yakult Swallows.

Dragons Ouendan Struggles Continue

2 Chunichi Dragons supporters groups sue baseball clubs over cheering ban

Way back at the start of the season there was a big to-do when a couple of Dragons cheering groups (白龍会, Hakuryukai/White Dragon Club, and 竜心連合, Ryushin Rengo/Dragon Spirit Club) got banned from attending games and from playing instruments such as trumpets and drums. They were banned for suspected yakuza ties, which in itself is not a bad thing -- there's a long history of yakuza problems with ouendan groups in various teams in various times, though I think most of those problems are now in the past.

The problem is that many of the other cheering groups, as a measure of solidarity, decided they weren't going to lead cheers or play instruments either. So as a result, the cheering experience has been pretty strange this year. I don't entirely know who's in charge of leading stuff during games, but it's been anywhere from a guy or two with whistles (in Jingu) to a few people holding small flags (in Tokyo Dome) to, well, whatever. (Whoever was leading it in Gifu had a drum, though no trumpets. Maybe a regional group.) The fans, of course, are still cheering and singing, but it's kind of a strange experience trying to figure out what's going on and what we're supposed to be singing when, and keeping it all together without instruments.

(Plus they had to go and make up words for the mostly-instrumental chance themes like Nerai Uchi, and the lyrics are kind of stupid.)

So, these banned ouendan groups have gotten together and are suing the NPB organization about this. I'm not really sure what to think about the situation. On the one hand, I want normal cheering to resume. On the other hand, I don't see why the teams should give the group members any compensation money, which sort of reeks of yakuza to me. The only reason I could think of it would be is if these groups had spent money ordering plane tickets or other things in order to go cheer for the Dragons and were then banned from attending the games.

The Old Man and the SeaRex

(With apologies to Ernest Hemingway.)

Yesterday saw the triumphant return of Bancho and Oyaji!

Shonan SeaRex 1, Lotte Marines 0, June 25th farm team game at Yokosuka.

Daisuke "Hama no Bancho" Miura pitched 5 innings, struck out 4, walked 2, and gave up 2 hits and no runs. Then Kimiyasu Kudoh took over and pitched a quick 1-2-3 inning.

Kudoh, who turned 45 years old on May 5th, pitched only one game this year for the Baystars before going on the DL with a strained left elbow. He was working out with the farm team to rehab in the meantime, but this was his first real game appearance. According to Sankei Sports, this was actually the first time in 10 years that he'd pitched in a farm team game. The last time was during his Daiei days, on July 11th, 1998.

34-year-old Miura, on the other hand, has been suffering through the Baystars season for a while, until he injured his shoulder at the start of June and was sent down. The team could really, really, really use him back in the rotation, so it's encouraging that he is able to pitch a few innings again.

Other Stuff

In other random farm news, Hichori Morimoto played in the Swallows-Fighters farm game yesterday and is expected to re-join the top team on July 1st. I am really sad, because I wanted to go to the game yesterday but couldn't, and probably can go see the Fighters farm team next week, but he'll be gone by then. Sigh.

And, Jim Allen wrote a neat two-part article on Sadaharu Oh: Part 1 Part 2.

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