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Showing posts with label Baseball. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Baseball. Show all posts

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Most Overrated Player in Major Leagues Ichiro


In Japan, Ichiro enjoys a status comparable to a Living God.

Criticism of Him is taboo, and would probably incur the wrath of rightists.

However, how good a player is Ichiro?

Partisans will point to 10 years in a row of 200 plus hits. His career average for the Mariners is .328, which is Hall of Fame territory. Kudos indeed.

However, as is often noted, Ichiro almost never walks, and rarely hits for anything but singles.

His career on base percentage (OBP) is just .373, which is 184th on the all time list. For someone who does not or cannot hit for power, he is therefore not getting into scoring position - which is the lead off hitter's raison d'etre.

Derek Jeter, another future Hall of Famer whose skills are fading, has a career OBP of .385. And Jeter hits for power.

Perhaps the greatest leadoff hitter of all time, Ricky Henderson, topped in at .401, and he was a run-producing machine.

Even compatriot Kosuke Fukudome of the Cubs has had a better OBP: .375 in 2010 and .386 this year. And, once again, unlike Ichiro, Fukudome has power.

Well, Ichiro fans point out, he is a defensive machine. Yes, 160-pound Ichiro has an arm to die for. However, if he is so good in the field, why is he relegated to right field? The best man with the glove would be at short. In the outfield, the most gifted person plays center. Right field sees the least action, and therefore is the place you play the guy - how can we say this delicately? - who will see the least action.

Partisans also point to the fact that the Mariners are a lousy team. True.

However, why then has Ichiro not made himself available to other teams where he might win a World Series and, second, improve on his run production? Ichiro haters say it is his obsession with stats - his stats. We don't know.

Ichiro is a great player. Kyoto's Nintendo Corporation, which owns the team, is paying him a lot of money and getting more than that in return.

But he is not now - and never was - the best player in the Major Leagues. Far from it. At his peak, he was an All Star rightfielder.

But don't ever say that out loud in Japan.

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Thursday, November 25, 2010

Nagoya Dome


Nagoya Dome near Ozone in Nagoya is the home stadium of the Chunichi Dragons baseball team and also plays hosts to music concerts, conferences and trade fairs.

The Rolling Stones played here back in 2006. Other bands to have performed at Nagoya Dome include Aerosmith, Backstreet Boys, Steve Barakatt, Bon Jovi, Celine Dion, Fuel, Billy Joel, Luciano Pavarotti, Queen + Paul Rodgers, and Wayne Shorter.

Nagoya Dome

Nagoya Dome opened in 1997 and has a capacity of around 38,000 people. The dome is opposite a huge Aeon shopping mall and is a popular spot for joggers running around the stadium.

Nagoya Dome, Nagoya

Nagoya Dome is best accessed by subway to the Nagaoya Dome-mae Yada Station on the Meijo line or Ozone Station on the JR, Meitetsu and subway lines.

Nagoya Dome home to the Chunichi Dragons

Nagoya Dome
Tel: 052 719 2121

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Thursday, November 11, 2010

Japan Baseball Season 2010


The 2010 Japanese baseball season ended last week with the Chiba Lotte Marines edging the Chunichi Dragons 4-2-1 in the Japan Series.

The Marines were led by series MVP Toshiaki Imae and rookie outfielder Ikuhiro Kiyota and won their first Japan Series title since 2005. They are also the first team to finish third in the league standings to reach and win the Japan Series.

The sixth game of the series ended in a 2-2 tie after 15 innings and at 5 hours and 43 minutes was the longest Japan Series game in history.

The Dragons were the Central League champion this season while the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks won the PL. The season also featured three players who surpassed 200 hits, which prior to this season had happened just three times in the history of Japanese baseball.

Leading the way was Hanshin Tigers outfielder Matt Murton who set a new single-season record with 214 hits, Chiba Lotte Marines shortstop finished with 206 and Norichika Aoki recorded 204 hits for his second career 200-hit season.

Hiroshima Carp pitcher Kenta Maeda won the pitching triple crown and edged Yu Darvish and others for the 2010 Sawamura Award, becoming the first CL pitcher to win the award since Chunichi's Kenshin Kawakami won in 2004.

Individual title winners in the major categories for hitters were:

Batting average: CL, Norichika Aoki (Tokyo Yakult Swallows) .358 PL Tsuyoshi Nishioka (Chiba Lotte Marines) .346

Home runs CL, Alex Ramirez (Yomiuri Giants) 49 PL Takehiro Okada (Orix Buffaloes) 33

RBIs CL Alex Ramirez 129 PL Eiichi Koyano (Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters) 109

For pitchers the winners were: ERA: CL Kenta Maeda (Hiroshima Carp) 2.21 PL Yu Darvish (Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters 1.78

Wins CL Kenta Maeda 15 PL Chihiro Kaneko (Orix Buffaloes) Tsuyoshi Wada (Fukuoka Softbank Hawks) 17

Strikeouts CL Kenta Maeda 174 PL Yu Darvish 222

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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Fukuoka Dome


Sitting in a picturesque setting beside a river is Fukuoka Yahoo! Japan Dome, Japan's first multi-purpose stadium with a retractable roof, located in Fukuoka, Kyushu.

Fukuoka Dome Kyushu

Most commonly referred to as Fukuoka Dome, it's original name, or Yahoo Dome, the facility was opened on April 2, 1993.

The stadium has thousands of movable seats which allows it to host a variety of sporting events, such as American football games and has even hosted motor cross races.

Fukuoka Dome Kyushu Japan

Like the Tokyo Dome, a number of musicians, including the late Michael Jackson, have held concerts at Fukuoka Dome.

Mostly, the stadium is used as the home of the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks baseball team and also hosted the first game of the 2010 NPB All-Star series. Games are played with the roof closed, though it is opened on occasion following Hawks' wins.

Fukuoka Dome Kyushu Japan

As a baseball stadium, Fukuoka Dome has a capacity of 36,253. The facility is surrounded by Hawks Town, which is a resort style area in Fukuoka that also features a hotel, mall and restaurants.

Hawks Town, also offers a Dome Tour, which is a tour that takes attendees onto the field, locker rooms and dugouts.

Fukuoka Dome, 2丁目-2-2-2 地行浜 中央区 福岡市 福岡県 810-8660, Japan

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Saturday, July 24, 2010

Calbee Japanese Baseball Cards


Calbee is a major Japanese food company specializing in potato chip and various other snack foods. The company, established in 1949 as Matsuo Food Processing Co., Ltd. in Hiroshima, also dabbles in granola products among other types of food.

Calbee Japanese Baseball Cards

Oddly enough, it's also in the baseball card business. Each year Calbee releases it's series of Pro Yakyu Chips in groceries and convenience stores all across Japan.

The chips themselves are standard fare. But glued to the back of each bag is a gray foil wrapper containing two baseball cards featuring players and managers from the 12 Nippon Professional Baseball teams.

The cards are usually released in sets, with the first going on sale around the start of the season, with the others being released later in the year.

Calbee Japanese Baseball Cards

Two sets for the 2010 season are currently available. There are 192 "regular" player cards with a host of special cards to go out and find.

Calbee's website contains a database of all the cards from each set dating back to 1998.

The card database can be found here (in Japanese)

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Saturday, February 27, 2010

Japanese elementary school baseball


Baseball is just as popular in Japan as it is in the United States and, as in the US, Japanese baseball starts young. Wherever you go in Japan, you will see - and especially hear - baseball being practiced on school playgrounds.

But Japanese baseball has the typically Japanese twist of being team-oriented in the extreme, and being bound by conventions. When it comes to form, you will never see any moves made that are not strictly according to the textbook, and the element of ritual when it comes to in-team and inter-team interactions is very strong.

Check out aspects of the above in this video taken of Japanese elementary school teams having a match in Tokyo, not far from one of Japan's hallowed baseball venues, Tokyo Dome. Once the game is over, every bit as much energy is expended on the post-game rituals as on the game itself, and the hierarchy of (adult) trainers/managers and (student) players features very strongly.

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Saturday, November 21, 2009

Japanese Baseball 2009 Awards


Japanese baseball announced it's 2009 Awards this week in a ceremony at Akasaka Sacas in central Tokyo's Akasaka district.

Yomiuri Giants slugger Alex Ramirez was named the 2009 Central League MVP after leading the CL with a .322 average with 31 homers and 103 RBIs. Ramirez, who won last year as well, is the first back-to-back winner since Sadaharu Oh in 1976-1977.

His teammate Tetsuya Matsumoto walked away with he CL rookie of the year honors. Matsumoto became the second former ikusei player to win the award after teammate Tetsuya Yamaguchi was named ROY last season.

Matsumoto batted .293 with 15 RBIs and 16 stolen bases for the Giants this season.

The Central League Best Nine was also announced and consists of: Shinnosuke Abe (catcher, Yomiuri Giants), Tony Blanco (first base, Chunichi Dragons), Akihiro Higashide (second base, Hiroshima Carp), Michihiro Ogasawara (third base, Yomiuri Giants), Hayato Sakamoto (shortstop, Yomiuri Giants), Norichika Aoki (outfield Tokyo Yakult Swallows), Seiichi Uchikawa (outfield, Yokohama BayStars), Ramirez, Dicky Gonzalez (pitcher, Yomiuri Giants).

Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters Yu Darvish won the Pacific League's top honor, winning the MVP award for the second time in his five-year career. Darvish went 15-5 for the Fighters and posted a PL high 1.73 ERA in 23 starts before being sidelined with back problems and shoulder strain. Darvish struck out 167 batters this season.

He joins Ichiro Suzuki (Orix Buffaloes) and Kazuhisa Inao (Nishitetsu Lions) as the only players to win two MVPs in their first five seasons.

Hawks reliever Tadashi Settsu was the PL rookie of the year after leading the league with 70 appearances and posting a 1.47 ERA.

The Pacific League best nine is as follows: Hidenori Tanoue (catcher, Fukuoka Softbank Hawks), Shinji Takahashi (first base, Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters), Kensuke Tanaka (second baseman, Fighters), Takeya Nakamura (third base, Seibu Lions), Hiroyuki Nakajima (Lions, shortstop), Teppei Tsuchiya (outfield, Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles), Yoshio Itoi (outfield, Fighters), Atsunori Inaba (outfield, Fighters), Takeshi Yamasaki (designated hitter, Eagles), Darvish (pitcher, Fighters).

© Jason Coskrey & JapanVisitor.com

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Japan Olympic Baseball


Oh dear! In the eagerly awaited Olympic baseball match-up between Japan and arch-rivals South Korea, it was the Koreans who advanced to the gold medal game leaving Japan and their team of highly-paid pros with the prospect of either the bronze medal or going home with nothing.

Interest in the game was high and the score (6-2 to South Korea) was posted at the entrance to the elevators in this office building so that workers could keep up with the score as they sneaked out for a smoke or a drink from the vending machines.

Japan v S. Korea Olympic Baseball

Ironically, it was the South Korean slugger, Lee Seung Yeop, who plies his trade in Japan with the Yomiuri Giants, who sealed the match with a two-run homer.

Japan's women showed the men how to do it by winning the softball gold beating the USA in the final game.

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Friday, March 28, 2008

A's, Red Sox get MLB show on the road

Major League Baseball created a lot of buzz in Japan when it opened its 2008 season in Tokyo with two games between the World Series champion Boston Red Sox and the Oakland Athletics on March 25 and 26.
The teams split the series, Boston winning a dramatic encounter on opening day 6-5 in 10 innings and the A’s holding on to win Game 2 by a score of 5-1. Both games were played at Tokyo Dome.
Former Seibu Lion right-hander Daisuke Matsuzaka became just the second Japanese native to start a season opener following Hideo Nomo, who did it three times, once for the Detroit Tigers in 2000 and twice for the Los Angeles Dodgers (2003-2004).
Matsuzaka was also making his first appearance in Japan since joining Boston for 51 million dollars at the end of the 2006 season. Dice-K, as he is known stateside, went 15-12 with a 4.40 ERA in his rookie MLB season and topped that off with a World Series ring.
Matsuzaka’s homecoming was a bit of a letdown, however, as he struggled with his control early on and was yanked after five innings to avoid burnout later in the season.
“I didn’t feel that anxious in the early part of the game but I think I was overly cautious because of my tendency to start slow. From my next start on I’d like to be just a little more assertive, especially in the early innings.” Matsuzaka said afterward, adding that he didn’t approach the game any differently that he normally does.
“But given the opportunity to start on Opening Day I did feel a little nervous and excited and that may have shown a little bit. But comparing it to my first start last season I felt that I was able to approach it in the same way.”
Dice-K left the game with a 3-2 lead but the win eventually was awarded to compatriot Hideki Okajima, who has blossomed into one of the Major League’s best relievers.
Okajima struck out one and walked one in a scoreless ninth inning before Manny Ramirez rapped his second two-run double of the game in the top of the 10th to clinch the victory.
"It was an amazing feeling going out there and seeing all those flashbulbs. It was more like a retirement ceremony than a regular game,” said Okajima, before he too admitted to feeling butterflies. “I was a bit nervous taking the mound after being away for so long."
Okajima struck out 63 in 69 innings last season. He was 3-2 with a 2.22 ERA.
Canadian Rich Harden stole the show on Wednesday, holding Boston to three hits and one run over six innings and striking out nine for the win.
“Rich showed tonight against the world champions how good he is and how much we need him,” A’s manager Bob Geren said of the pitcher, whose been riddled with injuries the last few seasons. “I'm just pleased with his health. His entire spring training went perfectly, with no health issues.
“Tonight he pitched like we knew he could. So we’re hoping for 30-plus more of these.”
Emil Brown provided the offense with a three-run homer in the bottom of the third. Both games were considered home games for Oakland, despite a demonstrably pro Boston atmosphere at Tokyo Dome.

Copyright: Andrea Marcus and Japan Visitor

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Friday, November 02, 2007

Chunichi Dragons win Japan Series


Nagoya's Chunichi Dragons won the Japan Series yesterday ending a 53-year wait to win Japanese baseball's ultimate prize.

Dragons' manager Hiromitsu Ochiai is given the traditional toss.

Chunichi beat Nippon Ham Fighters 1-0 in a pitching duel at Nagoya Dome to win the series 4-1. The series was a rematch of last year's title showdown, which Chunichi lost to the same opponents.

The win sparked wild scenes around the city as supporters gathered in bars and outside outdoor video screens to watch the tense finish.

The win is expected to boost the local economy as many of Nagoya's major department put on "Victory Sales" to cash in on the feel-good factor.

Nippon Ham Fighters' American manager Trey Hillman will leave the Hokkaido-based team to become the new manager of MLB club Kansas City Royals.

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Sunday, July 16, 2006

Batting center

バッティング センター

Japanese batting center, Shinjuku, Tokyo.Central to Japanese culture is the idea of ‘kata’, or ‘form’. In the tea ceremony, for example, the actual drinking of the tea has been relegated to what seems like an almost disposable step in the rigmarole of correctly placing the bowl, correctly making the tea, correctly observing the bowl, correctly raising it to your lips, and correctly returning it.

Add to that the infamous lack of space in crowded Japan and the lack of free time its workforce is permitted, and in sport repetition of form, as opposed to actual play, becomes the rule. Old men practicing sidewalk golf swings are ubiquitous, school tennis club practice more often involves endless hours hitting balls thrown at you by the coach than actually playing your teammates, and in like manner baseball ends up being, in practice if not in spirit, more about practicing your hit than making homeruns.

Baseball is traditionally as close to a national religion as you will get in Japan. For the time- and space-pressed devotee, there is the batting center. Few, if any, areas in Japan are without one. They are at least as busy at night as during the day, full of men thwacking balls pitched at them mechanically at various speeds.

Listen to the sounds of a Japanese batting center here - the rhythm of wood on leather, accompanied by the whine of the ball-feed system and followed by the rattling of the surrounding wire netting as the ball hits it. This happens under fierce white night lights surrounded by the calls and caterwauls of the city streets.

This sound was recorded at a batting center in one of Tokyo’s busiest and most sleepless areas, the red-light Kabukicho area of Shinjuku ward.

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Saturday, July 08, 2006

Film Review: Kokoyakyu High School Baseball


Before watching the POV documentary on high school baseball in Japan, I had the usual sense of dread and foreboding. Namely, that when those not familiar with Japan or Japanese attempt to deconstruct some aspect of that country’s culture for an audience of American college students or movie-goers in a small urban art cinema house, they will completely screw it up. The director will miss linguistic and cultural clues. It will be more blue-eyed nonsense of the “Man, you won’t believe what I saw on my trip to Tokyo” variety. It will reduce Japanese to comfortable stereotypes. It will be shocking.

you gotta have waIn “Kokoyaku: High School Baseball,” however, Kenneth Eng really gets it right. This is a 57-minute documentary on the intense sporting and cultural phenomenon known as Koshien, which is the Yankee Stadium of Japanese baseball. It is also where the Hanshin Tigers, a professional team in Osaka, play their home games—and, perhaps most importantly, Koshien refers to the finals of the annual high school tournament.

Every year there is a round robin tournament of teams from all 49 Japanese prefectures, in which 4,000 teams compete. The games are single elimination: lose and you are out. The qualifying games are top news in the sports pages of local newspapers. To play for a team that makes it to Koshien—Japan’s National High School Baseball Tournament, which is nearing its 91st year—is to virtually guarantee success in life. Companies assume that if a young man has the mental and physical toughness and stamina to endure the training, he will be a valued asset. All games, moreover, are broadcast nationally for the two-week period of the tournament; if a team goes reasonably far, all of the starting members will become household names throughout Japan.

In this documentary, Eng follows the fortunes of two teams, powerhouse Chiben Wakayama and a minor public high school team from Osaka city, Tennoji High School. Qualification is brutal and capricious; training is militaristic and never-ending. Chiben, a well-endowed private school, is one of many schools in Japan that recruit nationwide for players. It is led by a legendary coach—Hitoshi Takahashi—who is known for beating his players. Tennoji is many notches down the baseball food chain, but its practice regimen is no less rigorous (the players get several days off for the the New Year’s holidays; otherwise they have morning practice before school begins, and then afternoon practice that will often continue until 9 pm). Its coach is the emotional Hideshi Masa.

Using a fly-on-the wall approach, Eng takes us through the practices, the limited home life (for those who do live at home) of the players, all the way up to the games that will decide if the two schools qualify. He also highlights several players from each school. With their shaved heads and starched-white uniforms, the players are young samurai ready to give all for their daimyo coach.

The tournament and schools eschew all advertising in the name of purity. The gladiators march in and out of the stadium with military precision. At the beginning of each game, one player steps up to a mike, raises his right hand, and pledges to play fairly and give his all. They dive headfirst into first base on easy ground-outs. At the end, players on the losing side openly weep. Hundreds and hundreds of fans are bused in from the provinces, and attendance of 50,000 is standard. And all in the blistering midday heat of an Osaka August—where temperatures will hit 100 degrees—and the time of year that coincides with Japan’s loss in World War II and the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Eng also introduces the pep band from Chiben, which is led by a high school thug who rolls his Rs in an old fashioned Kansai mobster accent. He berates his charges to give their all-and much, much more. And they do.

Part fascist nostalgia, part longing for a simpler, rural way of life, Koshien is an excellent window into modern, changing Japan. It is where Hideki Matsui and most Japanese stars cut their teeth. Kenneth Eng has done an excellent job of presenting the players, game, and tournament.

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Thursday, March 23, 2006

World Baseball Classic

ワールド ベースボール クラシク (WBC)

The Japanese media is still humming with national pride following Japan's win in the inaugural World Baseball Classic at Petco Park in San Diego on Monday night (Tuesday afternoon Japan time).

Chunichi Sports - Sekai Ichi - World No.1

Gushing editorials sing the praises of the victorious players and team coach Sadaharu Oh, after Japan's exciting 10-6 triumph against Cuba in the final. The Japanese government plans to honor the players for their contributions to sport and for making the general public feel a little better about themselves after a disappointing Winter Olympics, when Japan won only one medal (albeit gold in women's figure skating).

Expectations have risen so high following Japan's unexpected win, that national soccer coach Zico has had to downplay his team's chances of doing something similar at this summer's World Cup in Germany.

Chunichi Sports - Japan's winning baseball team give it the finger

The are high hopes that Japan's win in California will boost interest in the domestic game. Baseball has been in the doldrums recently with teams forced into bankruptcy and amalgamation, a resulting players' strike and declining attendances and TV audiences.

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Saturday, October 22, 2005

Frumpy, grumpy & gray Osaka


Osaka Dome, Taisho ward, Osaka.The streets of Tokyo without doubt have their share of overcompensating thousand-yard glarers, shuffling embittered mumblers, perpetual accusing-eyed indignants, pants hitched nipple-high white-socked dimwits. They are, however, an endangered breed who cling insignificantly grimly to their grimness in a well-dressed and balanced sea of citizens at least ostensibly content.

I was, however, down in Osaka today. I was there with a friend from Nagoya, having come up from Tokyo to stay with him last night, making the day trip to western Japan's biggest city together. The trip was for a brief mix of business and pleasure, but, Osaka being Osaka, business got the upper hand.

The pleasure was solely in each other's company: in other words, B.Y.O. In terms of scenery and atmosphere, Osaka makes of by no means effusive Tokyo a capital of bonhomie, charm and esprit. Osakans have their reputation for warmth and lack of pretension. And, sure enough, shop assistants are much more likely to chat, and passers by will give directions readily and with a smile. But acts of individual kindness are powerless beneath the dead weight of parts of the city's general ugliness and ineluctable gloom. The easy manner goes - nicely - so far, and ends in a blank easy parting. Hope for more is lost in the now empty air. Walk back out onto the street with your purchase, or continue on, newly oriented, and the rust, the debris, the caked on grime, the tunelessness, the oil drum, the worn out brittle tat alone all ask you with a grimace what the hell you're looking at. The people: styleless, drab, out of fashion, dressed and decorated with unspun, overspun and tawd. Men approaching a hundred meters down the oily treeless streets: you can already feel the barbed wire tighten. The long sidelong follow throughs of hard-eyed tracksuited couples spinning in surly undertones their suspicion. In balmy Tokyo a sparkle in the eye, a friendly smile in passing, is like a kiss to the proverbial frog. Puffs of white magic really happen. What knee-numbing, sleepless sorcery would it take to similarly transform a hardening Osakan scowl?

The business. A hungover acquaintance in Tsuruhashi with nothing special to say. An old friend in Taisho who greets me wanly, sees me off glumly.

I'm taking an unsatisfying shit in a place called Gryndom Mall, an all but empty shopping space in cheaply built, now bankrupted, Osaka Dome. 'We built this city' in processed synthed cheese echoes in the painted whiteness. It changes to tinny 'Walk Like an Egyptian' as I wipe my arse. We did our deadpan business. It's time to flush and get the hell home.

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