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Ichiro, Hopeful Mushroom Farmer

» 30 August 2012 » In mlb » Comments Off

This feels like the type of content more appropriately proffered on NotGraphs, but here we are. I was browsing a recent discovery, one of those 2ch-style blogs called Nannjoy, when I came across a survey form that Ichiro wrote for a newspaper company prior to playing in Koshien as a 3rd-year high school student.

This was way too interesting not to share, so I translated a couple of highlights from the survey, which appear… now.

Favorite baseball player: Tatsuo Komatsu (Komatsu was a pitcher for Chunichi; hit ctrl+f and search Komatsu on the link)

Poster hanging in his room: Giant Baba

Favorite subject: English

Least favorite subject: Physics

Favorite food: Arabian food

Personal strength: none

Personal weakness: not having a strength

I like Middle Eastern food too, so I have that in common with Ichiro. Cool.

Several of the questions are repeated on the survey. For a couple of them, Ichiro changed his answers.

Hobby: investigating the flavor of takoyaki

Hobby: digging holes

What he wants to become in the future: a mountain supervisor

Goal or dream for the future: managing a mushroom patch

Looks like Ichiro’s quirky sense of humor is nothing new.

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A Midsummer Night’s Blog Post

» 18 August 2012 » In mlb, nichibei, npb » 2 Comments

While my baseball consumption has not returned to it’s previous levels, my itch to write has returned, so tonight I’m taking a hiatus from my hiatus to share a few thoughts on the season so far.

  • After years of anticipation, Yu Darvish, has made his Major League debut. The results have been mixed — lots of strikeouts, lots of walks. The walks are a surprise to me; the mid-season struggles are not. I must admit that fate has conspired against me, and I haven’t seen a single Darvish start all the way through this year.
  • Nippon Ham has carried on without Darvish, currently leading the Pacific League by a game over Seibu. 24 year-old lefty Mitsuo Yoshikawa took advantage of the hole left by Darvish, and is enjoyed a breakout season. While he lacks Darvish’s eye-popping dominance, a 10-4 record with a 1.91 ERA isn’t too shabby.
  • I never thought I’d see Ichiro traded, but last month it happened. It felt more like Ichiro was on the path to retirement this season, but his bat has woken up a bit with the Yankees. Perhaps playing for a winning time will revive his career.
  • The Japanese Players Association is threatening to sit out next year’s World Baseball Classic if WBC Inc doesn’t give them a bigger share of the revenue. So far neither side is willing to budge. I hope they can work out some sort of agreement because a Japanese boycott would be bad for both sides.
  • I didn’t get to finish my predictions this spring, but every year I think that Chunichi is going to stumble and that Seibu is going to be good. And, every year I’m wrong, at least about the Chunichi side of the prediction. This year was no exception. I thought Chunichi was set for a big step backwards, but they’re comfortably in second place in the Central, and had been in the hunt for first until Yomiuri started to pull away. Seibu got off to a rough start and appeared to be headed for a disappointing season, but has righted the ship and is now in the hunt for a league title.
  • I was going to write something about Brad Penny here but I don’t think I’ll bother.
  • Softbank veteran Hiroki Kokubo announced his retirement last week. Otsukare-sama.
  • Yomiuri veteran and personal favorite Yoshinobu Takahashi slugged his 300th career home run last week. Jason Coskrey has more.
  • The two young players I’ve enjoyed watching the most this year? Hiroshima’s Yusuke Nomura and Yokohama DeNA’s Sho Aranami.
  • While it doesn’t stack up to MLB’s three perfect games this season, NPB has seen a pair of no-hitters this year: Toshiya Sugiuchi’s against Rakuten on May 30, and Kenta Maeda’s against DeNA on April 6. Although, I did not witness either of these games, I did catch a pair of near no-hitters. Another personal favorite, Daisuke Miura, took a no-no into the 9th against Hanshin on May 12, but pinch-hitter Shinjiro Hiyama put up a veteran at-bat, working a full count before finally hitting a long single. Hanshin eventually scored and Miura lost his shutout, but won the game. The other was another Sugiuchi gem, thrown on May 4 against Hanshin. The only solid contact I recall Sugiuchi surrendering happened to be the only hit Hanshin managed, a sharp single, hit mid-game by Takashi Toritani. The game lacked the drama of a late-innings no-hit bid, but was a dominant performance nonetheless.

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Darvish to Debut on the 7th

» 27 February 2012 » In mlb » 3 Comments

According to Sanspo, Yu Darvish will make his Texas Rangers spring debut on March 7, against the Padres in Peoria. The plan is for Darvish start the game and to throw up to two innings.

Alas, I won’t be in Arizona for spring training this year, so I won’t be able to attend.

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Darvish’s Japanese Press Conference

» 09 February 2012 » In mlb, mlb prospects, nichibei » Comments Off

Yu Darvish’s farewell press conference took place about two weeks ago. I really wanted to translate this while it was still fresh, but I didn’t manage to find the time or motivation until today. It’s been long enough that the link that I got this text from is expired. It looks like Nikkan Sports has a better transcription, but we’ll go with this for now.

So, here we have it, my unofficial translation of Darvish’s farewell press conference. The original Japanese text follows below.

–the reason he decided to move to MLB

 

“The number one reason was that before games, I would hear from my opponents ‘don’t throw that pitch’, ‘I can’t hit that’, and eventually the thought that ‘I’m not having fair matchups’ stuck. The environment in Japan suits me the best. I was really torn about it, but I felt that I had to move to play baseball at a higher level.”

 

–his goal

 

“I want to become a pitcher that anyone in the world can call number one.”

 

–his impression of the Rangers

 

“Starting with the front office, the manager and players, and the fans are all tremendous warm, and I think it’s a team that resembles Nippon Ham.”

 

–on his enthusiasm for the Rangers’ drive to another World Series appearance

 

“I don’t know how the games progress in the Majors, so I can’t just say we’ll win, but if I do what I have to do and put up my best results, I’ll be happy.”

 

–message to the (Nippon Ham) fans

 

“When I joined the team in 2005, I immediately did that thing (the underaged smoking incident during his camp in his rookie season) but the fans welcomed m warmly, and I renewed my efforts. I’m grateful to have had your constant support for seven years. If it wasn’t for everyone I wouldn’t be here today. I’ll never forget these seven years, and do my best, and I’ll be happy if I can come back here in the end.”

And here’s the original text, in case I made any translation mistakes.

--メジャー挑戦を決めた理由は。

◆一番の要因は、相手から試合前に「この球投げないでよ」「もう打てない」と聞いて、だんだん「フェアな対戦をしていないのではないか」と引っかかった。日本の環境は一番合ってる。だいぶ悩んだが、野球をやる上で場所は変えなきゃいけないと思った。

--目指す投手は。

◆世界中の誰もにナンバーワンと言ってもらえる投手になりたい。

--レンジャーズの印象は。

◆フロントの方をはじめ、監督や選手、ファンの方々もすごく温かくて、日本ハムに似ているチームだと思った。

--悲願のワールドシリーズ制覇への意気込みは。

◆メジャーの試合がどう進んでいくかもわからないので簡単に優勝とは言えないが、やることをやって一番いい結果になればうれしい。

--ファンにメッセージは。

◆2005年に入団して、いきなりやっちゃいまして(1年目のキャンプで未成年ながら喫煙が発覚)、温かく迎えてくれたことで頑張りに変えられた。7年間、支えられっぱなしでありがたい限り。皆さんがいなければ今日僕はここにいない。この7年間を忘れず頑張って、最終的にここに戻って来られたらうれしい。

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Remaining Free Agents

» 17 January 2012 » In mlb, nichibei, npb » 13 Comments

With spring training a mere two weeks away, NPB teams are largely done making offseason roster moves. But Buster Olney’s observation that there are a number of established MLB players that are still available on the free agent market got me wondering if any would be fits in Japan. Here’s what I came up with:

  • Kosuke Fukudome – There has been surprisingly little discussion of a Fukudome return in the Japanese media, the only rumor of note being that Hanshin was considering him as a replacement for Matt Murton, who they successfully re-signed.
  • Kenshin Kawakami — Kawakami’s name has been similarly absent in the Japanese media this offseason. The only news I’ve seen on him is from his personal blog, saying he’s begun working out and hasn’t decided on a team for 2012 yet. It’s reasonable to assume that most NPB rotations would benefit from having him around.
  • Dan Johnson — Johnson played for Yokohama in 2009, and was solid aside from a .215 batting average. Since then, he’s returned to US with the Rays organization, where he’s played well in Durham but been overmatched in Tampa Bay, and developed a penchant for clutch home runs. He does enough things well to be of value to an NPB team.
  • Derrek Lee – Had they not already signed Josh Whitesell, Lee might have been a first base match for Lotte, an organization that once employed his father and uncle (Leon Lee and Leron Lee). Derrek spent part of his youth in Japan.
  • Marcus Thames — Thames has appeared on NPB team’s foreign player candidate lists in the past, but surprising he’s only gotten one previous mention on this site. Power was the rarest skill in Japan last year, and Thames has shown plenty at both the 3A and MLB level.
  • Bill Hall — Hall is something of a personal favorite; I thought he would have a better MLB career than he’s had. He still has at least two solid strengths – a power bat and a strong throwing arm – that match up with teams in need of third base help (Yokohama?).

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Kuroda to Remain in MLB

» 09 January 2012 » In mlb, npb » 3 Comments

The Jiji Press (among others) is reporting that pitcher Hiroki Kuroda has informed the Hiroshima Carp that he intends to pitch in the Major Leagues in 2012.

Masatoshi Kimura of the Chugoku Shimbun reports that Kuroda is expected to decide on a destination within the next couple of days.

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Kuroda’s Decision

» 02 January 2012 » In mlb » Comments Off

Hiroki Kuroda will not be wearing a Dodgers uniform on opening day 2012. I don’t have any special insight into where he might wind up, but I do have a couple of quotes from Kuroda and his agent to pass along.

Here’s a one from Kuroda that appeared in Sponichi on December 30th:

“It’s an important offseason in that I’m taking another look at my life in baseball. I’d like to take as much time as is permissible and carefully make a decision.”

 

「野球人生を見つめ直す意味で大事なオフ。時間の許す限り、じっくり決断を下したい」

And the second is from agent Steve Hilliard, and appeared in Sponichi the previous day:

“We’re steadily getting closer to decision time.”

 

「(去就)決断の時期は着々と近づいている」

 

“Currently he’s carefully considering all his options, including Hiroshima and MLB teams, but it’s a very difficult decision.”

 

「彼は現在、広島とメジャー球団、全ての選択肢を検討し熟考している段階だが、とても難しい決断になっている」

The quotes from Hilliard are translations of translations, and I couldn’t find the original quotes published in English, so we’ll have to live with them for now.

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NPB Bullet Points: Okajima, Pinto, Aoki, Whitesell

» 27 December 2011 » In mlb, nichibei, npb » 14 Comments

A couple of hot stove notes for the evening…

  • Sanspo reports that Milwaukee started negotiations with Norichika Aoki in in the backup player range, around $1-1.5m. Additionally, since the Brewers lack a scouting presence in Japan, they intend to work Aoki out at their Arizona facility before making a decision on him.
  • Sports Hochi reports that Hideki Okajima is in the final stages of negotiations with the Yankees on a minor league deal with a non-roster camp invite. Hochi cites a source familiar with situation as saying the two sides could “reach an agreement as soon as around the New Year.”
  • Sponichi reports that Softbank is working on acquiring lefty Reynel Pinto. Pinto would be a rotation candidate for the Hawks, who have said goodbye to starters Toshiya Sugiuchi, Tsuyoshi Wada and DJ Houlton this offseason.
  • Also via Sponichi, The Chiba Lotte Marines have announced that they have signed Josh Whitesell. Whitesell spent the last two seasons with Yakult.

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“No Comment”

» 15 December 2011 » In mlb, mlb prospects, nichibei, npb » 13 Comments

The current phase of the Yu Darvish posting saga has predictability opened with a round of “no comments”. Here’s what Nippon Ham Fighters representative Toshimasa Shimada said to the Japanese media:

“We don’t have anything we can talk about yet. The outlook for a decision? I think we want to make a decision within the extent of the rules”

When asked about what Nippon Ham would base an acceptance on, Shimada reponded,

“Starting now, we’re considering our options, including that.”

And that was all.

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My Prediction (Guess) For Darvish

» 14 December 2011 » In mlb, mlb prospects, nichibei » 11 Comments

Update December 19: Nailed it.

No inside information, no sources, nothing but a pure guess here… I think the two top bids will be the Yankees and the Rangers, with the Rangers coming out ahead.

I thought that MLB clubs would be a little more cautious with Darvish than they were with Daisuke Matsuzaka, but that doesn’t seem to have been the case. The real drama, however, begins next week.

Edit: the Rangers fans on Twitter seem to be enjoying this. Remember, it’s a guess guys.

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