I really wanted a list of 11 things, but I could only think of ten things I wanted to include, so here we go… the top ten events from 2011.
10. Hideki Irabu commits suicide
Obviously a very sad event and something I wish didn’t have to be on this list.
9. The Central League MVP award goes to… a setup man
Chunichi’s Takuya Asao, to be specific.
8. Mass departure of veterans to MLB
Yu Darvish, Hisasahi Iwakuma, Tsuyoshi Wada, Wei-Yin Chen, Norichika Aoki, Hiroyuki Nakajima and Munenori Kawasaki are MLB-bound, though only Wada has signed so far. In with the new…
7. That whole thing with Yomiuri and former GM Hidetoshi Kiyotake
Shortly after the season, there was a bust-up between (now former) Yomiuri GM Kiyotake and chairman Tsuneo Watanabe, over Watanabe’s meddling in coaching personnel decisions. I didn’t write about this one at all, so I’ll rely on the Japan Times’ run down of it. The row eventually led to Kiyotake’s dismissal, which is a shame because he did a pretty good job with the Giants, setting up an effective development program and poaching mostly the right guys from other NPB teams.
6. Softbank wins its first Japan Series since buying the Hawks from Daiei, immediately suffers pitching exodus
Softbank’s years of consistent competitiveness were finally rewarded with its first Nippon-Ichi since 2003, when the team was still the Fukuoka Daiei Hawks. Then three-fourths of its core rotation hit the road, with Tsuyoshi Wada joining the Orioles and Toshiya Sugiuchi and DJ Houlton departing for Yomiuri.
5. Chunichi dismisses the manager that oversaw the most successful period in team history, Hiromitsu Ochiai
Apparently five Nippon Series appearances in eight years wasn’t good enough. Worst baseball decision in franchise history?
4. The new, standardized NPB ball renders wood cylinders known as baseball bats largely useless
I don’t think I did a post dedicated to the new ball, but it was a big enough story for the NY Times to cover. Six starting pitchers finished with sub-2.00 ERAs, plus Hirokazu Sawamura and Shohei Tateyama right behind at 2.03 and 2.04 respectively.
3. DeNA buys Yokohama, immediately injects some life into the franchise
I haven’t written about DeNA yet, but there is more buzz and excitement around the BayStars now than there has been since the Bobby Rose days. Hopefully it translates into competitive baseball at Yokohama Stadium.
2. Yu Darvish finally moves to MLB via the posting system
He has yet to sign, so it’s not a done deal, but Darvish is certainly the most widely-anticipated Japanese import in MLB history.
1. The Great Tohoku Earthquake
Hopefully this goes without saying, but like the Irabu item, I wish this one wasn’t on the list. While the earthquake was probably the single most devastating event in 2011, it was still only one of many significant events in a turbulent year. I hope 2012 will bring global recovery and a greater level of peace.