Aoki’s streak lost in Japan’s Opening Day myopia

If you’re lucky you learn something everyday.

On Monday, Norichika Aoki hit safely in his 16th straight game, with eight of those coming this season for the San Francisco Giants and eight last year for the Kansas City Royals. Thus it was perplexing that Kyodo News Japanese language stories coming to my desk made no mention of his new record — Aoki had hit safely in 15 games for the Brewers in 2012.

Our diligent MLB desk on the 19th floor surely had to know, so I ran up and was told that of course they knew, but that for them it seems odd to add the previous season’s accomplishments to this year’s streak. And this is coming from a culture that touts Sadaharu Oh’s home run total as the greatest in history and loves to measure career accomplishments by adding NPB totals to MLB totals — which seems odd to me.

This fascination with cutting the cord on Opening Day makes sense in Japan, where the next game is ALWAYS the biggest game of the season and sports editors  put five months of expectation into making Opening Day the biggest game of the season. When at the Daily Yomiuri I was tasked with translating a piece about Ichiro Suzuki opening the 2012 season at Tokyo Dome with the Mariners in which some “reporter” said, “Of course, Opening Day tells you a lot about how the season will turn out.” If my colleague John E. Gibson had written that I would have threatened to knock him upside the head.

So what happens after Opening Day? The hangover hits and everyone admits that it was just one game after all, but the next step is honoring records from the start of the season and that goes on for several weeks.

This season, Japanese readers were treated to the “knowledge” that the Yakult Swallows set a record (to start the season) by allowing three runs or less in 17 games to start the season, breaking the old mark of the 1956 Nishitetsu Lions, who Japan Baseball Weekly Podcast listeners will remember were in the news for having a record “season-opening” win streak — with no mention of how they finished at the end of 1955.

Author: jballa5_wp

sports editor for a wire service in Tokyo

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