All posts by Jim Allen

sports editor for a wire service in Tokyo

NPB news: Oct. 2, 2023

I don’t know if Kensuke Kondo is actually pursuing the Pacific League Triple Crown or not, given that his SoftBank Hawks are struggling every day to secure their postseason position, but if he is, his chances are gradually slipping.

On a PL-only Monday, there was one meaningless game, or at least meaningless except for Yoshihisa Hirano and perhaps Yoshinobu Yamamoto, and one game where two of the three playoff contenders, the Hawks faced off against the Rakuten Eagles, who sent Masahiro Tanaka to the mound in Fukuoka.

Monday’s games

Hawks 6, Eagles 0: At Fukuoka Dome, Tomohisa Ozeki (5-7), who started the season like gang-busters, left after allowing a first-inning leadoff single, but earned his first win since May 30. Masahiro Tanaka (7-11) allowed three runs on five hits and a walk over five innings to take the loss.

Yuki Yanagita and Akira Nakamura each had RBI singles in a two-run first inning. Kondo had an infield single and two walks while scoring twice.

Continue reading NPB news: Oct. 2, 2023

NPB toys with expansion

Nippon Professional Baseball, or rather the 12 companies who control its baseball teams, approved a pair of new minor league teams for 2024 on Friday, Shizuoka’s Hayate 223, and Albirex Niigata. Atsushi Ihara, the NPB’s secretary general, said the teams would invigorate the game, while definitely not being a precursor to major league expansion.

On this week’s Japan Baseball Weekly Podcast, recorded Saturday, John E. Gibson said those two were mutually exclusive, but I’m not so sure. We won’t have any idea of where it might go until we learn how the two teams will fit into the existing system.

Will they have access to the NPB draft? Will their players be on standard NPB contracts? Will they actually be precursors to expansion? Let’s talk about those possibilities, by starting with the whole topic of expansion.

Of the 12 Japanese teams, only one, the SoftBank Hawks, has any interest in doing the work needed to build Japanese pro baseball into an elite competition that might rival or surpass what MLB puts on the field.

Continue reading NPB toys with expansion