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ondafarm
06-09-2005, 01:32 PM
A couple of friends of mine have asked me what most American baseball fans think of Japanese baseball and the fact that Bobby Valentine is managing the Chiba Lotte Marines at a .705 clip (43-18-1) and appears, in his second stint in Japan, to be totally outmanaging the rest of the league. Chiba's home park is as warm and comfy as Candlestick was and as pitcher friendly as the Oakland Coliseum (lots of foul territory, high outfield walls.)

Here's a good source for news on Japanese ball (in English)

http://www.japanball.com/news_list.phtml
I always get a kick out of reading the Japanese players in the major league summaries. Kind of like the Japanese calling Star Trek, "Mr. Sulu, Master Navigator".

Anyways opinions please.

Moderators please note: it's baseball, not White Sox so I'm posting it here. If you choose to move me to the Roadhouse please PM me.

Madvora
06-09-2005, 03:35 PM
You're asking what most Americans think of Japanese baseball? Most Americans don't think about it at all.
I would love to get into it and see some games, but I couldn't name one team in Japan.
It would be cool if the games were broadcast or the league was covered over here, but there doesn't seem to be any interest.

StepsInSC
06-09-2005, 03:53 PM
Agreed with the above. Most Americans don't care about it, and in all honesty, don't have a much of a reason to outside of expanding one's view of the game they love. Of course that's a great thing, but hey there's only so much time in a day.

That said, I am really fascinated by Japanese baseball. For my B.A. I researched and wrote a thesis about the Japanese game, specifically a comparative study of American and Japanese baseball and how the differences and similarities are reflective of society and cultural norms. In additon to some time spent studying and working in Japan, I was lucky enough to see many games in Fukuoka, speak with many Japanese fans, and even interview some players and officials from within the game itself.

Personally, once I learned how much the Japanese love baseball I knew that I would love their culture. For me personally, I can sum up Japanese baseball in the same general sense I can sum up Japanese society and Japan itself: It's incredibly and utterly fascinating, and an awesome experience, but it's nothing I could do (nor could I live in Japan) for an extended period of time.

I will add this: regardless of whether you care about Japan, every fan of baseball should read "You Gotta Have Wa" by Robert Whiting. It's incredibly outdated at this point, but it will give you a great sense of traditional Japanese baseball. It is very entertaining, and an easy read as well. I also recomend "The Meaning of Ichiro" (I think the title has been changed to something else) also by Robert Whiting, which profiles the recent players who've come to the States (including, albeit briefly, Takatsu). I havn't kept up with J-Ball in a couple of years, but the changes their game is going through are rather dramatic...but again, reflective of the incredible changes their society is undergoing as well.

Ondafarm: I've always enjoyed reading your comments and thoughts having played J-Ball first hand, so don't be shy to keep them coming. I especially remember your story re: Hurt and Lasorda on the set of Mr. Baseball, great story indeed!!

ondafarm
06-09-2005, 04:04 PM
Appreciate the supportive comments.

Let me re-focus.

Several Japanese organizations seem quite spooked by a) the loss of stars to the major leagues. In the 60s several players came over and they had pretty much minimal impact. The current crop have greatly affected the game. Their stars will continue to come here as they continue to be successful. b) Bobby Valentine, who I always liked as a manager, but seems pretty much disdained by most of the (New York centered, at least) media is whipping everybody in Japan. The Japanese are genuinely concerned about the status of 'their' game. One friend admitted to me, they think they've lost their 'Wa'.

As a Sox fan I was hugely excited by Iguchi coming over here. IMHO, just the kind of player we needed. Having seen him there, I knew he'd succeed here. But is Japan just a farm system for us?

Madvora
06-09-2005, 04:48 PM
But is Japan just a farm system for us?

I would hope so, if by "us" you mean the White Sox.

PAPChiSox729
06-09-2005, 07:58 PM
But is Japan just a farm system for us?

That is the way things are turning out to be. It seems that when Japanese players reach superstardom in Japan, they feel ready for the American version. I think the term "unofficial farm system" perfectly describes the Japanese baseball league.

Ol' No. 2
06-09-2005, 08:19 PM
Appreciate the supportive comments.

Let me re-focus.

Several Japanese organizations seem quite spooked by a) the loss of stars to the major leagues. In the 60s several players came over and they had pretty much minimal impact. The current crop have greatly affected the game. Their stars will continue to come here as they continue to be successful. b) Bobby Valentine, who I always liked as a manager, but seems pretty much disdained by most of the (New York centered, at least) media is whipping everybody in Japan. The Japanese are genuinely concerned about the status of 'their' game. One friend admitted to me, they think they've lost their 'Wa'.

As a Sox fan I was hugely excited by Iguchi coming over here. IMHO, just the kind of player we needed. Having seen him there, I knew he'd succeed here. But is Japan just a farm system for us?How much of Valentine's success is just from having a good team?

I want Mags back
06-09-2005, 09:05 PM
here is what i think of it

...43-18-1 ....


http://images.rottentomatoes.com/images/movie/coverv/87/210387_thumb.jpg "They're calling it a ****ing tie!"

Banix12
06-09-2005, 09:23 PM
Since the American major leagues is the elite pro baseball league in the world, any other league will essentially just feed it's best players into the MLB. That's just how it works, the best players seek out the best competition.

I have always like Japanese Baseball, even though mostly my experience with it has been through Mr. Baseball, seeing the occasional game over the years, and Tuffy Rhodes updates.

Hell i wish they would televise some of the japanese games here as overnight programming on ESPN.

FredManrique
06-09-2005, 10:37 PM
Appreciate the supportive comments.

Let me re-focus.

Several Japanese organizations seem quite spooked by a) the loss of stars to the major leagues. In the 60s several players came over and they had pretty much minimal impact. The current crop have greatly affected the game. Their stars will continue to come here as they continue to be successful. b) Bobby Valentine, who I always liked as a manager, but seems pretty much disdained by most of the (New York centered, at least) media is whipping everybody in Japan. The Japanese are genuinely concerned about the status of 'their' game. One friend admitted to me, they think they've lost their 'Wa'.

As a Sox fan I was hugely excited by Iguchi coming over here. IMHO, just the kind of player we needed. Having seen him there, I knew he'd succeed here. But is Japan just a farm system for us?

I don't agree with most of this:

1. One Japanese player played in the majors in the sixties. His name was Masashi Murakami, and he had a mediocre year as a reliever for the Giants in 1965. He was not a star in Japan -- rather a young player sent to the State by his team for seasoning. He went on to have a solid career in japan.

2. NO organization likes losing it's star players, but it's not as bad as you make it sound. I've heard the opinion that these teams would rather lose their guys to the Bigs than another Japanese team, where they could do damage against them. Yomiuri really didn't want to lose Hideki Matsui, but that was probably the worst case. Iguchi's team voluntarily let him out of his contract, and Otsuka's teams offered him to the majors twice before the Padres took him.

3. Bobby Valentine is tremendously popular in Japan. I saw him on TV from time to time, being interviewed via satellite about the major leaguers. He always goes out of his way for the fans, and a number of players have emerged in the last year under his leadership. I think the general opinion is that his energy is a nice change of pace from the usual, stiff Lotte manager.

A less dramatic example is Trey Hillman, who is in his third or fourth year as the Nippon Ham Fighters manager. He doesn't get as much attention as Bobby V, because he's not as flamboyent and the results haven't been as dramatic, but the Fighters have gotten steadily more competitive during his tenure, and made the playoffs last year.

4. I don't know how concerned the Japanese really are about 'their' game. I think a lot of people see it as a positive thing that the Japanese players are able to compete at such a high level in the bigs, and stars leaving opens up spots for hungry young players to compete for. I think it also levels the playing field a bit, so more teams have a chance to win, which is good for everyone. I also think the idea of 'wa' is totally overrated -- the fact is that teams still play against each other, and most of the Pacific Leagers are probably happy that Ichiro is gone.

I lived in Japan for a couple years, speak the language, and still follow the Japanese league closely. That doesn't make me an expert, but I believe my opinions are well informed.

ondafarm
06-10-2005, 09:50 AM
I don't agree with most of this:

1. One Japanese player played in the majors in the sixties. His name was Masashi Murakami, and he had a mediocre year as a reliever for the Giants in 1965. He was not a star in Japan -- rather a young player sent to the State by his team for seasoning. He went on to have a solid career in japan.

2. NO organization likes losing it's star players, but it's not as bad as you make it sound. I've heard the opinion that these teams would rather lose their guys to the Bigs than another Japanese team, where they could do damage against them. Yomiuri really didn't want to lose Hideki Matsui, but that was probably the worst case. Iguchi's team voluntarily let him out of his contract, and Otsuka's teams offered him to the majors twice before the Padres took him.

3. Bobby Valentine is tremendously popular in Japan. I saw him on TV from time to time, being interviewed via satellite about the major leaguers. He always goes out of his way for the fans, and a number of players have emerged in the last year under his leadership. I think the general opinion is that his energy is a nice change of pace from the usual, stiff Lotte manager.

A less dramatic example is Trey Hillman, who is in his third or fourth year as the Nippon Ham Fighters manager. He doesn't get as much attention as Bobby V, because he's not as flamboyent and the results haven't been as dramatic, but the Fighters have gotten steadily more competitive during his tenure, and made the playoffs last year.

4. I don't know how concerned the Japanese really are about 'their' game. I think a lot of people see it as a positive thing that the Japanese players are able to compete at such a high level in the bigs, and stars leaving opens up spots for hungry young players to compete for. I think it also levels the playing field a bit, so more teams have a chance to win, which is good for everyone. I also think the idea of 'wa' is totally overrated -- the fact is that teams still play against each other, and most of the Pacific Leagers are probably happy that Ichiro is gone.

I lived in Japan for a couple years, speak the language, and still follow the Japanese league closely. That doesn't make me an expert, but I believe my opinions are well informed.

Great to see more info coming in here. By Japanese, I was referring more to 'organized Japanese baseball' than the fans.

Honestly, for Japanese baseball fans, this is a golden age. Several of their star players are performing well here. American games are well televised there (as opposed to say, American football about which most Japanese announcers are clueless.) The ceiling for solid Japanese players has definately been raised. With a few American managers for Japanese teams the competition in the Central and Pacific leagues is now better. For example, Yomiuri is now an also ran instead of annual champion. The Chunichi fans I know are going absolutely nuts about this.

But for the organizations, no longer can you lock up a star player for a decade, he'll want to join Nomo in MLB if he's that good. That means more pressure to draft well, more pressure to teach well, more pressure to manage well and more pressure to let Americans into your organization. For an insular society like Japan, those are all difficult issues. Plus your fans are no longer automatic. In the Chubu region, where I lived, everybody was a Dragons fan (or a turncoat Giants fan.) On my last trip there, I was asked by a lot of people about the White Sox (I was wearing/carrying my Sox cap) Shingo and Iguchi. On one specific day, I was at the Dome and got into a taxi with Senichi Hoshino, the manager of the Dragons and a very recognizable figure in Nagoya. The taxi driver clearly did recognize him, but apart from "Where to Mac?" didn't say a word to him. When I chimed in in my flawed Japanese, that the place we were headed was 'right by Nagoya castle' the driver realized I spoke the language and kept peppering me with questions about Iguchi, Takatsu, USCF, Chicago, Godzilla (Japanese nickname for Matsui) and the Flubs. I feigned ignorance on the last one and then finally said "Oh, the minor league team on the north side of town." Even Hoshino-san, something of a taciturn individual, curtly smiled at that.

HebrewHammer
06-10-2005, 10:04 AM
Japanese baseball is on my radar much more after I was able to attend the Yomiuri Giants home opener this year. My opinion at the time was that 2/3 of the Giants OF is Gabe Kapler and Tuffy Rhodes and their top two relievers are Danny Miceli and someone named "Sikorski". If these four players had these roles on any major league club where do you think that club would be? Exactly. And their on the "Yankees" of Japan.

They have us beat as far as "extracurricular activities." Their between inning entertainment was hysterical. And their beer girls but our vendors beat, it's not even close.

As far as game play, I'd compare it to AAAA, not quite MLB level, but higher than AAA. I've also never seen more bunting in one game than I did here. I'm no Beaneiac, but I would have liked to have seen these guys swing the bat a little more.

ondafarm
06-10-2005, 10:25 AM
How much of Valentine's success is just from having a good team?

Bobby V's team was middle of the pack before he took over. Not much talent has been added.

He's done two things:
1) Knowing how most Japanese managers think, execute during games, he's moved to counteract that. If they expect the bunt, put the butcher boy on, etc.
2) Knowing how most Japanese managers interact with their players, he's totally changed direction and is utilizing a lot of talent on his team that just wasn't utilized before. He's nurtured his pitching a lot better and his hitters have definately responded, the defense is also more solid/ professional. Good decisions are being made, not the safe call.

Iguana775
06-10-2005, 11:47 AM
That is the way things are turning out to be. It seems that when Japanese players reach superstardom in Japan, they feel ready for the American version. I think the term "unofficial farm system" perfectly describes the Japanese baseball league.

That was my first thought too.

FredManrique
06-10-2005, 01:27 PM
Japanese baseball is on my radar much more after I was able to attend the Yomiuri Giants home opener this year. My opinion at the time was that 2/3 of the Giants OF is Gabe Kapler and Tuffy Rhodes and their top two relievers are Danny Miceli and someone named "Sikorski". If these four players had these roles on any major league club where do you think that club would be? Exactly. And their on the "Yankees" of Japan.

Err, Yomiuri is 24-32, tied for last in their division. Miceli and Kapler both have been released. Rhodes would probably benched if he hadn't been a star for 10 years already. Sikorski has been good, I think he'd survive in the Majors.