WBC Update (May 18, 2016)

It’s time for a WBC update!

Taiwan has abandoned plans to bid for a WBC pool, likely ensuring that Korea will host something.

Aroldis Chapman is now a US Citizen and says he’d play for Team USA if asked.

And if he is going to take part in the WBC, it’s going to have to be on Team USA, since Cuba has announced that, despite some negotiations to make it happen, defectors will not be allowed on the Cuban national team.

Bryce Harper is in so long as some of the other top US players are going to be playing.

Manny Machado is now on record as being on Team Dominican Republic next year.

And, finally, in what I believe is the first appearance of the WBC in a English-language fictional work, Japanese-American author Naomi Hirahara’s latest book involves a amateur detective trying to solve a murder that takes place at the 2009 WBC finals between Japan and Korea.

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WBC Update for 4-25-16: Rule changes, Team USA, Puerto Rico, and what Asian Countries will get WBC Pools?

It’s been awhile, but it’s time for a World Baseball Classic update!

General News:

A possible change in the WBC rules will be introduced in order to entice more pitchers to play. It would allow teams to add extra players the further they advance, so it could be possible, for example, for Clayton Kershaw or David Price (who both have passed on the tournament in the past because they didn’t want to rush their throwing schedule) to join later in the tournament.

At least two pools will take place in Asia during the 2017 Classic, with one in Japan and one in either Korea or Taiwan.

Connected to that: earlier this year, Twins broadcaster, Hall of Famer, and occasional Netherlands pitching coach Bert Blyleven said that the Dutch were expected to start their WBC campaign in Korea. Apparently that isn’t official yet, but definitely possible. This is mainly because Korea has a domed stadium and Taiwan does not.

While I can’t find the exact tweet/article about it, apparently the locations of the first round of the “main” World Baseball Classic will be revealed on May 10, so presumably all these questions will be put to rest then.

Pakistani coaches have attended a clinic in China in preparation for their qualifying pool.

Players on possibility of WBC play:

Mike Trout says it’s too early to say whether he’ll play in the WBC, although it sounds like he does want to do it, it’ll depend on how he feels.

Staying on Team USA, the dream of a Team USA Madison BumgarnerBuster Posey battery apparently isn’t a pipe-dream. Although neither of them have said definitively, both of them said they were open to it.

Sonny Gray, meanwhile, thinks it’d be “awesome” to be on Team USA.

Francisco Lindor is excited to play for the Puerto Rican national team.

Look later this week as I make another projection for Team USA! And if you see any WBC news I missed, let me know by tweeting me at @DanJGlickman or e-mailing me at Djgwriter@yahoo.com!

World Baseball Classic Update For March 7, 2016

It’s been a fairly quiet week in WBC news, as we await the official release of the rosters for the next round of qualifiers. Still, there has been some news:

 

Jon Morosi on the Czech Republic’s WBC team and how the country’s hockey heritage has led to a lot of left-handed hitters.

The Japanese National Team swept Taiwan in a 3-game early warm-up for next year’s WBC.

Nicaragua leads Panama 2-1 in a warm-up series.

Alex Rodriguez, who famously has hemmed and hawed between playing for the USA (the land of his birth) and the Dominican (the land where he spent significant parts of his childhood), has said if he takes part in 2017 it’ll be for the Dominican.

Alex Cora will be the General Manager of Team Puerto Rico for the 2017 WBC.

ESPN Deportes will be showing the Mexicali qualifying round this month for any Spanish-speaking fans in the USA.

As expected, Max Kepler will not be playing for Germany in the qualifiers, as he will be staying in camp. It was thought that it was unlikely anyway given how he has an outside chance at making the opening day roster, but this is further confirmation.

…And that’s it for now. More soon, hopefully.

 

World Baseball Classic News for March 1, 2016

Here’s the latest WBC news as of March 1, 2016:

 

Team Germany will play exhibition games against three different Mexican League teams, as well as a team from the Brewers organization.

“Samurai Japan” has teamed up with the Anime series Mr. Osomatsu to help raise awareness for the team, both in the WBC and in other tournaments (where they generally don’t draw as well).

George Springer, who’s mother is from Puerto Rico, has apparently been recruited by Carlos Correa to play for Team Puerto Rico in the main tournament next year.

News on who will and will not be in the WBC qualifiers:

First off, the Mexican League will be allowing their players to play for Team Mexico.

Jake Sanchez of the Athletics organization will play for Mexico

Jose Quinanta of the White Sox is in for Colombia.

Sadly for Colombia, Julio Teheran will not be pitching for them.

The official rosters apparently come out tomorrow, so that’s something to keep an eye out for.

 

(Blogathon ’16) Kazuto Yamazaki: NPB Bat-Flip Juggernauts to Watch For

This guest-post is part of the 2016 Baseball Continuum Blogathon For Charity, benefiting the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation. The Roswell Park Alliance Foundation is the charitable arm of Roswell Park Cancer Institute and funds raised will be “put to immediate use to increase the pace from research trials into improved clinical care, to ensure state-of-the-art facilities, and to help improve the quality of life for patients and their families.” Please donate through the Blogathon’s GoFundMe page. Also, please note that the opinions and statements of the writer are not necessarily those of the Baseball Continuum or it’s webmaster.

Baseball in Asia offers so many obscurities to the fans on the other side of the sea; Relentless, boisterous chants throughout a game. Incomprehensible, yet fascinating amount of pitches in bullpen sessions. Towering eephus pitches. And, of course,  glorious bat flips that make rounds on the Internet every now and then.

Lately, it’s the KBO who usually demonstrate those mind-boggling pieces of fine art. However, while getting its thunder stolen by the neighbor league, the NPB remains a goldmine of awesome bat flips.  In this post, I’ll introduce some bat-flip extraordinaires to keep an eye for the upcoming 2016 season.

Yoshio Itoi

Despite the down year he had in 2015, in which he slashed .262/.366/.413 – pedestrian for his standards with the worst average and on-base percentage in a full season -, Itoi is still considered one of,  if not the most, talented players in the NPB. At thirty-four, he’s stepping into the decline phase of his career. But if he recovers from the knee problems that bothered him for the entire 2015 season, he’s on track to display some more of these magnificent flips in 2016.

Takahiro Arai

Some bat flips are not like the others. And when it comes to bat flip inordinateness, Takahiro Arai is the one excelles. Every single time he knows he got it, bar none, he finishes his swing two-handed, takes a step or two towards to first base, then gently jettisons the bat, as if he’s putting  it on the top of a Jenga tower made of bats.

Alas, he just turned thirty-nine on January 30th, the 17-year NPB veteran’s peak is far behind in the rearview mirror, and the clock for him as a player is about strike midnight. Yet he may have gotten just enough in the tank to reach the 300 career home runs plateau, which he’s just 13 more trips around the diamond away.

Ryota Arai

Unlike his brother, the younger Arai does it in a more traditional way. Unlike his brother, Ryota has smashed just thirty-two long balls in his ten-year career. But on most of them, he’s display the iconic, sky-high bat flips that seem to be in the air as long as the ball.

Norihiro Nakamura

The Bat Flip Emperor, Nakamura clubbed 404 dingers – 382 in twenty-two years in Japan and twenty-two more in his one-year stint in the States, in which he spent more of the season at Triple-A. In his heyday, both his power and flips were prodigious. Sadly, at forty-two, his career is likely to be over. But his legacy lives forever. Watch the video above. It captures some Crème de la crème flips the human race ever seen.

 

Taiga Egoshi

After reading about the four players  I mentioned above, you may be thinking all the spectacular flippers in the NPB are either old or not good enough to secure a full-time role. No worries. We’ve got some young, up-and-coming potential stars with magnificent bat-flip ability.

Taiga Egoshi is the one whom I believe will become the next big thing in the bat flip industry. In 2015, his rookie campaign, the twenty-two year-old unleashed five homers with sumptuous flips, like the one captured in the video, on all of them.

Entering his sophomore year, Egoshi is seen as the frontrunner for the Hanshin Tigers’ starting centerfielder job. If he does win the position, we could count on him to flourish.

 

Yuto Takahama (Click for video)

Takahama is another rookie who made debut in 2015. Though he had just two plate appearances with the ichi-gun (top level) squad. But down on the farm, he flipped the heck outta the bat here and there, every now and then. He doesn’t give a damn if it actually clears the wall or not. Ladies and gentlemen, we might be witnessing the dawn of the career of a legendary bat flipper.

And here are compilations of the rest of bat flippers in the NPB. Enjoy:


Kaz is a Tokyo-based baseball fanatic. He contributes to multiple websites in multiple languages. You can follow him on Twitter @Kazuto_Yamazaki.

This guest-post has been part of the 2016 Baseball Continuum Blogathon For Charity, benefiting the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation. The Roswell Park Alliance Foundation is the charitable arm of Roswell Park Cancer Institute and funds raised will be “put to immediate use to increase the pace from research trials into improved clinical care, to ensure state-of-the-art facilities, and to help improve the quality of life for patients and their families.” Please donate through the Blogathon’s GoFundMe page. Also, please note that the opinions and statements of the writer are not necessarily those of the Baseball Continuum or it’s webmaster.

(Blogathon ’16) Graveyard Baseball- Your guide to adopting an NPB team Part 12: Saitama Seibu Lions (埼玉西武ライオンズ)

This guest-post is part of the 2016 Baseball Continuum Blogathon For Charity, benefiting the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation. The Roswell Park Alliance Foundation is the charitable arm of Roswell Park Cancer Institute and funds raised will be “put to immediate use to increase the pace from research trials into improved clinical care, to ensure state-of-the-art facilities, and to help improve the quality of life for patients and their families.” Please donate through the Blogathon’s GoFundMe page. Also, please note that the opinions and statements of the writer are not necessarily those of the Baseball Continuum or it’s webmaster.

Who are we?: We are an English blog writing about one of 12 teams in the Japanese professional baseball league known as Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB). While the Saitama Seibu Lions are the primary team we cover, we will write anything that connects MLB and NPB, such as the recent signing of Kenta Maeda to the Los Angeles Dodgers. You can follow us on Twitter @GraveyardBall for any instant updates.

Part 12?  What?: This is the final piece in a 12-part series on a guide with who to adopt as your NPB team. We connected with some history, trivia and showing who played on each team with MLB on their resume.  You can see all posts at the bottom which covers each team.

Saitama Seibu Lions (埼玉西武ライオンズ)

The Saitama Seibu (西武) Lions were originally in Fukuoka (Kyushu island) as the Nishitetsu Clippers in 1950 for one season. Nishitetsu is an electric railway in Fukuoka which still operates today. After a merger with another team, they became Nishitetsu Lions one year later in 1951.

There would be a Black Mist scandal involving players fixing games from 1969-1971, similar to the Black Sox scandal from 1919. Nishitetsu would sell the team and they would be Taiheiyo Club Lions from 1973-1976, which is named after a golf course and resort developer. They would then be sold to Crown Lighter Gas, to be called the Crown Lighter Lions from 1977-1978.

Eventually, they were sold to Seibu Group and they moved to Tokorozawa in 1979, a place they still hold today. Their title would be Seibu Lions until 2008, where they added the prefecture name “Saitama” to the front.

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Ownership: Seibu Holdings

Seibu is a conglomerate which owns several businesses. The most well-known one is the Seibu Railway as it operates in greater Tokyo. The trains are one of the best ways to get to a game in Tokorozawa. Seibu also owns hotels, real estate, resorts and more.

Train stations in the area will often be decorated with Lions related colors. The name “Seibu” (西武) derives as an abbreviation from it’s kanji title of west Musashi, which was the old title of where present day Saitama prefecture was located. 西 (Nishi) means West in Japanese.

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League: Pacific

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Payroll rank in 2015: 9

The Lions are a team with a tight budget as they won’t spend a lot. However, they will pay players who prove their worth and this ranking can go up with multiple pay raises happening. Usually they are in the “pack”.

Location/Stadium: Seibu Dome in Tokorozawa, Saitama prefecture

Tokorozawa is a suburb in greater Tokyo. It’s quite a distance from the capital itself, but the Lions represent Saitama prefecture, which is in the North. Saitama prefecture is known for some mountains in their scenery, with plenty of room to go hiking.

The most famous spot in the area, would be Hachikokuyama, which is a park right on the border of Saitama and Tokyo prefectures.  The park was used as an inspiration as the scenery for the movie My Neighbor Totoro


Side note: I recommend everyone sees this short movie, which is nearly 30 years old now.

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Seibu Dome was originally an outdoor stadium when the Lions moved there in 1979. It was then known as Seibu Stadium. While there is a roof, you can see that in the outfield and all around the building that it can be exposed to wind and hot temperatures with the open face.  The domed roof was added in 1998. Due to one player being sold, the place underwent renovations after 2007.

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Mascots: Leo (right) and Lyna (left)

Leo is based off the character Kimba the White Lion in the Japanese Anime known as “Jungle Emperor Leo.” The Lions used to have this as their main logo and still use it for flags (such as what’s in centerfield near the country’s flag. That flag is also seen during the NPB Draft.

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Uniforms: The Lions have switched to Majestic in 2016, and had a ceremonial “kick-off” for them last Friday morning:

QnvleipjNote: The Lions used to wear a bright blue design with the Kimba logo since their move to Tokorozawa. However, a scandal in the 00s by then-owner Yoshiaki Tsutsumi made them want to move on from it and rebranded to a dark blue design beginning in 2009.

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Cheer song:  Hoero Lions (吠えろライオンズ) “Roar Lions”

Instead of a 7th inning stretch of “Take me out to the ballgame”, Fans pull out balloons in 9 out of 12 stadiums and sing a cheer song as an alternative.  A video of this can be found here.

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Ōendan (Cheerleading) Songs: 2015 Player songs at 00:00, Hoero Lions at 7:03, Special Chance themes at 8:27, [ソリャセ] (Soryase, an equivalent of “Let’s Go”) at 10:42, Regular chance themes at 11:18, Scoring song at 15:08

Notes:

Every player has their own “song” to hear when they’re batting. Whether home or away, a portion of the crowd will always be singing. A Chance song is a special song when usually runners are in scoring position, hence drawing a “Chance” opportunity.

The regular chance songs for the Lions have similar tunes to “Cotton Eye Joe”, “Do you know the Muffin man?”, but notice how Chance #4 near the end has women and men singing separate lines. You can hear a cleaner version here. (Scoring song featured too)

The Lions are the only Oendan in Japan to wave flags as a group. They do this when scoring and well as during the [ソリャセ], which is almost like saying “We want more runs”.

The scoring song title translates into “I saw a Lion running on the Horizon”.  An up close version of the song can be heard in the video below starting at 2:41. They also sing “Happy Birthday” to players on their birthday, which you can see in the video as well.

Here is a link to a full version of the song as sung by a person. Lastly, here’s an instrumental version from a commemorative 1986 Nippon Series Champions box.


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MLB Comparison: Oakland Athletics

The Lions have found ways to be competitive with a low payroll more times than not. Since their move to Tokorozawa in 1979, the Lions have finished in the Bottom 3 of the Pacific League only three times.

Only difference is, the Lions have won a crucial elimination game multiple times in the 21st Century, including a Game 7 of the Japan Series. They’ve been competitive and avoided the cellar for the most part, which is good for a team that hasn’t been a high spender in recent years. Playing in what is viewed as the “ugliest” stadium in NPB also draws this comparison to the Oakland A’s, who play in the Oakland Coliseum.

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Notable former MiLB and MLB players to play for the Lions:


Ryan Spilborghs, Esmerling Vasquez, Matty Alou, Terry Whitfield, George Vukovich, Kazuhisa Ishii

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Notable players who played in MLB: 

Daisuke Matsuzaka, Kazuo Matsui

Note: The Lions used a portion of the $51.1 million they acquired for Matsuzaka on renovations to the Seibu Dome. You can see the original look of the Dome prior to renovations here. Matsuzaka paid for restroom upgrades, an HD scoreboard, renovated field turf as well as adding bullpen box seats on the side.

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Verdict


Why you root for them: 


Because you’re used to being in a big market, but rooting for a team with less fans in numbers. The Lions are far from the city, which is a long train ride away to get to the Seibu Dome. Yes, they’re in greater Tokyo, but forgotten due to teams like the Yomiuri Giants controlling the market.

It could also be that you’re an Oakland A’s fan know what it’s like to compete on a lower budget. The Lions have benefited from their ballpark and developed pitching over the years. Like the A’s, they have a strong amount of success in their team’s history with 13 Japan Series championships overall when combining their time in Fukuoka with the Seibu era.

The Lions had a “Golden Age” where they won 11 pennants from 1982-1994 and took eight Japan Series titles in that timeframe. This dynasty gets overlooked, similar to how the A’s had a three-peat from 1972-1974, due to being in the Pacific League.

Here at Graveyard Baseball, we can provide exclusive coverage of the team and insight in English for anyone. As of the time of this writing, we’re the only blog to write about the Lions in the English language.

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Why you don’t root for them:


Like the A’s, the Lions have had their share of disappointing postseason exits. They were a strong team in both 2012 and 2013, but lost in the opening round when they were favored. You also dislike ugly stadiums if not teams from a suburb away from the city.

Crowds are also half empty on week nights due to the proximity from the heart of Tokyo. The average person who works in the city would not be able to attend a game on a week night at first pitch. Assuming the game begins at 6:00 PM local time, it takes 90 minutes by train to arrive at the Seibu Dome from Tokyo, meaning it wouldn’t be worth it for a worker (known as salarymen in Japan) to attend a game late.

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Other NPB Teams in the series: 

Yomiuri Giants (巨人)

Hiroshima Toyo Carp (広島)

Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters (日本) 

Orix Buffaloes (オリックス)

Hanshin Tigers (阪神) 

Chunichi Dragons (中日)

Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles (楽天)

Softbank Hawks (ソフトバンク) 

Yokohama (DeNA) Baystars

Chiba Lotte Marines (ロッテ)

Tokyo Yakult Swallows (ヤクルトス)

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Follow us on Twitter @GraveyardBall

This guest-post has been part of the 2016 Baseball Continuum Blogathon For Charity, benefiting the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation. The Roswell Park Alliance Foundation is the charitable arm of Roswell Park Cancer Institute and funds raised will be “put to immediate use to increase the pace from research trials into improved clinical care, to ensure state-of-the-art facilities, and to help improve the quality of life for patients and their families.” Please donate through the Blogathon’s GoFundMe page. Also, please note that the opinions and statements of the writer were not necessarily those of the Baseball Continuum or it’s webmaster.

(BLOGATHON ’16!) International Baseball Culture: Mitsuru Adachi’s “Touch”, Part 1, which ironically doesn’t have much baseball in it

This post is part of the 2016 Baseball Continuum Blogathon For Charity, benefiting the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation. The Roswell Park Alliance Foundation is the charitable arm of Roswell Park Cancer Institute and funds raised will be “put to immediate use to increase the pace from research trials into improved clinical care, to ensure state-of-the-art facilities, and to help improve the quality of life for patients and their families.” Please donate through the Blogathon’s GoFundMe page.

In International Baseball Culture, I look at baseball-related entertainment from outside the USA that isn’t bizarre, but is interesting, perhaps learning some new things along the way!

In 2005, the Japanese television station TV Asahi held a special on the 100 most popular anime (animation) in history, as voted on by Japanese viewers. While many of the most popular programs were fantasy, adventure or science fiction, such as the Gundam series of giant robot programs (at number two) or Dragon Ball (at number three), the top ten also had a baseball anime: Touch, which was seventh.

What is Touch? Well, to put it in simple terms, it’s a tale of two stories: the baseball one and the off-the-field one. It’s about three teenagers (twin boys and their girl-next-door neighbor) who navigate high-school, relationships and their pitfalls while trying to bring their school glory on the diamond as they try to reach Koshien, Japan’s national high school baseball tournament, which is like March Madness and a Friday night in Texas combined.

Needless to say, it struck a nerve with Japanese audiences, and the 2005 program’s polling was not that out of the ordinary: A follow-up list that included votes from after the TV Asahi special was aired also had Touch in the top ten, at number nine. Nor was this a recent phenomena, either: during it’s original run in the 1980s, it was, according to some sources, the most watched anime in the history of Japan. Ever.

The series was, in itself, adapted from a manga (comic) of the same name, written and illustrated by Mitsuru Adachi, that saw it’s volumes sell over an estimated 100 million copies. Just to put that in perspective, in 2010 the population of Japan was around 128 million. Of course, that doesn’t mean over three out of four Japanese people owned at least one copy of a volume of Touch… but it does mean that those who did liked it very much, buying every volume.

From what I’ve read about the series, it’s not hard to see why it would have such broad appeal, as it apparently has something for everyone. It has baseball action (and also some detours into boxing and other sports) for the boys, romance for the girls, and drama and comedy for everyone. And apparently all of those things are done well enough where even people who normally can’t stand stuff like that seem to like it- I’ve come across several reviews that include lines like “I don’t even like baseball but I was enthralled by the game episodes” or “the romance plot is actually realistic and well-handled.”

And yet, despite the fact that Touch is one of the most successful anime and manga in the history of Japan, it has never seen official release in the United States, and it’s unlikely that it will anytime soon, either (the anime and manga import market is mainly focused on recent releases, and what old ones that do happen are usually Sci-Fi or Fantasy). However, there is apparently a unspoken agreement between the Japanese entertainment industry and it’s English-speaking fans that they won’t sue anybody who translates and distributes translated versions of the show/book, so long as they stop doing it if an actual agreement to distribute them in the USA is made, so I was able to find copies of both the anime and manga online.

But anyway: a baseball-centric story that is one of the most popular and well-regarded anime/manga in Japanese history, and it’s almost completely unknown to American audiences? What better way to start International Baseball Culture? (after the jump)

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