Archive > September 2008

Site Update

» 29 September 2008 » In NPB Tracker » 4 Comments

Occasionally life gets in the way of hobbies, and last week was one of those times for me. A hellish week at the office and a planned home move have placed writing NPB Tracker squarely on the back burner. It’s been a busy week in pro yakyu too — from Oh’s retirement, to Seibu clinching the Pacific League crown, to Hisashi Iwakuma winning his 20th — and I’m hoping to get caught up on it in a couple days.

A look at what’s ahead on NPB Tracker:

  • Recent events
  • Sawamura Race: Darvish vs Iwakuma
  • Pacific League playoff match-ups

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Oh Announces Retirement

» 23 September 2008 » In npb » 2 Comments

It’s official: Oh has announced that he’s stepping down at the end of the season. Unfortunately, Oh’s Hawks are 10 games under .500 with 9 remaining to play, so we won’t see an inspired run to the playoffs down the stretch.

Oh’s announcement doesn’t come as much of a surprise. As I mentioned in last night’s post, he’d suffered from stomach cancer in 2006. Although this is likely the end of his time in professional baseball in Japan, he left the door open for future involvement in Japan baseball during his press conference: “If there is a need in Japan baseball and I’m asked, I think I should cooperate”.

Sanspo has a photo retrospective looking at Oh’s 14-year career managing the Hawks.

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Sadaharu Oh to Resign

» 23 September 2008 » In npb » Comments Off on Sadaharu Oh to Resign

Japanese baseball legend Sadaharu Oh is expected to announce his resignation as manager of the SoftBank Hawks following today’s game against Rakuten. I’ll have more details tomorrow morning (California time).

Oh has run the Hawks’ field operations for 14 years, an unusually long time for a manger in any league. Although his style is sometimes unorthodox, he made the Hawks perennial contenders and took Japan Series Championships in 1999 and 2003. After a prolonged slump, the Hawks uncharacteristically fallen to 5th place for the season.

Oh has battled health issues in recent years, most notably a bout with stomach cancer in 2006. Oh is widely considered to be the best player in Japanese baseball history, pounding 868 home runs in his distinguished career with the Yomiuri Giants.

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Pro Yakyu This Week: Sayonara Hanshin

» 17 September 2008 » In npb » 2 Comments has released a new podcast for the week of Sept 9-14. Check out the text or audio.

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The Tazawa Problem

» 15 September 2008 » In mlb prospects, nichibei » 14 Comments

By now it’s common knowledge among baseball fans that Junichi Tazawa has elected to forego a career in Nippon Pro Baseball and jump right in to an MLB organization. The Red Sox, Pirates, Braves, Mariners and Cubs have been publicly linked with Tazawa, with Boston considered the front runner to land him. Based on the hype he’s getting I’d expect him to get a contract in the first round draft pick range.

Tazawa’s announcement has predictably send a shock wave through Japanese baseball. Meetings are underway — so far the 12 NPB have met amongst themselves and with three amateur baseball bodies; and NPB commissioner Ryozo Kato is meeting with Bud Selig on September 16 in New York (correction 9/16: representatives from the two commissioners offices are meeting today, a meeting between the actual commissioners is on the cards for later). My impression is that the Japanese baseball institution is more intent on preventing this development from setting a precedent than it is blocking this individual player’s move to the US.

Much of the discussion seems to be around the uneven playing field between NPB and MLB teams in pursuit of Tazawa. Tazawa is subject to the NPB draft, while he’s eligible to sign as a free agent with MLB teams. This puts NPB at a considerable disadvantage: NPB teams can only offer draft picks a maximum bonus of about $1M, while MLB teams aren’t bound to a limit; NPB scouts are limited in when they can talk to amateur players while MLB scouts don’t have to comply to such limits. Like MLB, NPB has a draft system to try and fairly distribute talent among the teams. It would be a shame to see that effort undermined, and it seems worthwhile to revisit the rules for teams scouting players subject to the NPB draft.

It’s important to note that the news here is not necessarily the MLB interest, but that Tazawa has chosen to forgo the NPB draft. NPB and MLB have had an unwritten agreement in place since 1962 that prohibits MLB teams from signing Japanese NPB draft candidates, but that hasn’t stopped MLB teams from trying to sign top Japanese amateurs in the past. Tazawa is the first to accept the overtures. So while MLB teams have mostly honored the letter of the gentleman’s agreement, they haven’t entirely honored the spirit of it. It’s only now that a top talent has been lured away that the NPB institution is getting upset.

Another thing to consider is that each year MLB teams sign much of the top young amateur players out of Taiwan and Korea, and no one bats an eye. Why is that? MLB’s interest in the players from these countries is a validation of the talent that’s there, but I think it impedes the development of local leagues and deprives fans of seeing some of their countries’ top players compete in international competition. Japan has managed to retain its top talent and making them stars at home, which is one of the reasons NPB is a strong league.

Tim Dierkes included my comments that a Japanese team could go after a guy like Aaron Crow or Pedro Alvarez in his most recent post on the Tazawa situation. At this point it would be an obvious retaliation move but under the right circumstances it would make sense for both sides. The player would get a viable alternative to MLB — playing in Japan in front of tens of thousands of fans every night, for millions of dollars. The team would get a talented player that they could eventually send back to MLB via the posting system (Ramon Ramirez is a non-Japanese player who was developed and posted by the Hiroshima Carp).

Obviously there is a lot left to happen before the situation is resolved, but Tazawa has already gotten his name in the history books just by announcing his decision. This development might bring about change to bring NPB and MLB together, or it might drive them apart. I’m hoping for the former.

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NPB Bullet Points (2008/09/14)

» 14 September 2008 » In npb » Comments Off on NPB Bullet Points (2008/09/14)

After a short break from writing, I’m back with a few highlights from my weekend reading. I’ve been enjoying Sanspo’s Baseball Photo Ranking lately.

The next big piece of content I have on tap for NPB Tracker is (surprise) an essay on the Junichi Tazawa situation. Look out for that in the next day or two.

Japanese Articles:

English Articles:

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NPB Bullet Points (2008/09/11)

» 11 September 2008 » In mlb, npb » 1 Comment

There’s been lots of news about Junichi Tazawa over the last day or two, but I could use a break for him so I’m going to write about other stuff. If you’re looking for info on Tazawa, check out the stuff I’ve posted over the last few days.

On to the bullet points…

English Articles:

Japanese Articles:

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Pro Yakyu Podcast

» 10 September 2008 » In npb » Comments Off on Pro Yakyu Podcast

Michael Westbay of fame has started up a weekly Pro Yakyu podcast. This posting has a transcript of the first podcast, and here’s a link to download the mp3 content.

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The Tazawa Watch Continues

» 10 September 2008 » In mlb prospects » 1 Comment

Well, Eneos has won the Industrial League’s Tokyo Intercity Championship, mostly behind the standout pitching of ace Junichi Tazawa. Tazawa dominated his competition and was presented with the Hashido Award as the tournament’s top player. According to reports, he only hit about 91 mph on the gun in the final game, which is almost certainly attributable to his high workload during the tournament.

With the tournament over, Tazawa is now free to think about his future. He’s scheduled a press conference for September 11 where he’s expected to announce his intent to sign with an MLB team. Sponichi quoted Tazawa as saying “It (the tournament) has just ended… I’ll think it over from now” and “I want to test my strength overseas”.

Needless to say, there’s been an explosion of coverage on this in the Japanese press. Several MLB teams have reportedly sent scouts to watch Tazawa, while the Braves have sent GM Frank Wren and the Tigers have sent Dick Egan, special assistant to GM Dave Dombrowski. The consensus favorite to land Tazawa still seems to be the Red Sox, but we’ll see what happens.

Don’t touch that dial…

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NPB Bullet Points (2008/09/09)

» 09 September 2008 » In npb » 2 Comments

Going with all Japanese articles for today’s bullet points, since I haven’t really read anything in English for the last couple of days.

Japanese Articles:

Question for bullet points readers: do you enjoy the Japanese content or the English content more? What topics do you find most interesting?

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