Category Archives: Hall of Fame

Hall of Fame: Middle infielder dilemma

Other than infielder Kazuyoshi Tatsunami, every player remaining on the ballot from the 2017 election picked up fewer votes in 2018, when Hideki Matsui and Tomoaki Kanemoto were both voted in on the first ballot.

After Tatsunami, who was named on 65.8 percent of last year’s ballots, and reliever Shingo Takatsu, who was named on 45.9 percent, Yomiuri Giants shortstop Masahiro Kawai’s 35.9 percent is the third highest of players remaining on the ballot from 2018’s election.

Kawai was celebrated for his baseball smarts, leadership, team play and defense at shortstop. He was the master of the sacrifice bunt, getting down an NPB-record 533, and thus spent most of his career batting second.

He would have been better suited to batting leadoff since he generally had better OBPs than the leadoff guys the Giants often employed ahead of him.

Kawai was a six-time Golden Glove-winner, but it is hard to see how he compares favorably with Tatsunami. His rival with the Dragons is an intriguing pick in a Hall of Fame that has favored big-hitting corner infielders and outfielders, but while Kawai was a decent offensive player, he was not on the same level with Tatsunami, and it’s hard to see where he fits.

For the books, there are 38 position players in the Hall of Fame were voted in primarily on their merit as players. This list does not include Tatsunori Hara. The Giants skipper missed being elected as a player by the tiniest of margins (73.2 percent in his final year of eligibility) but needed just two ballots in the expert division — where voters could consider his seven pennants as manager.

Of those 38, the breakdown is:
Catcher: 3
First Base: 7
Second Base: 2
Third Base: 4
Shortstop: 3
Outfield: 19

Primarily, selection to the Hall of Fame has been a comparison of batting numbers with some tiny recognition for fielding. The question then, is will this trend continue, or will voters find space in the hall for above-average run producers with extreme defensive value?

But even if it is the latter, it’s hard to see how Kawai finds a spot.

Next time, a look at the other middle infielders on the new ballot.

Ramirez, Miyamoto, Ishii added to Hall ballot

The ballot for next year’s Japan’s baseball Hall of Fame inductions were announced Wednesday. With pitcher Yoshinori Sato dropping off the players’ division ballot after his eligibility ran out, and six new players added, the voters, members of Japan’s baseball media for over 15 years, will have 18 players to select from.

The six new candidates are left-handed pitcher Kazuhisa Ishii, shortstop Shinya Miyamoto, and outfielders Tomonori Maeda, Shinjiro Hiyama, Takeshi Yamasaki and Alex Ramirez.

Ramirez joins Tuffy Rhodes, putting two foreigners on the players’ division ballot. He’s also one of four former Yakult Swallows on the ballot, along with Miyamoto, Ishii and reliever Shingo Takatsu, who was named on 45.9 percent of the ballots last year.

Infielder Kazuyoshi Tatsunami received the most votes a year ago (65.8 percent) among players who failed to reach the 75 percent needed for induction.

Three candidates were also added to the experts division ballot, longtime pitching coach Takao Obana, former Hanshin Tigers slugger Masayuki Kakefu and former Rakuten Eagles manager Masataka Nashida, who won Pacific League pennants with both the Kintetsu Buffaloes and Nippon Ham Fighters.

Former Sawamura Award winner Hiroshi Gondo, a longtime pitching coach who had a brief but very successful run as manager with the DeNA BayStars’ franchise, received 65.6 percent of last year’s vote, with former Hanshin Tigers slugger Randy Bass second behind him with 46.7 percent.

The only foreign-registered player currently in the Hall of Fame is outfielder and manager Wally Yonamine.

The new ballot looks like this with the percent of total votes they received in last year’s vote:

Players’ Division
Kazuyoshi Tatsunami 65.8
Shingo Takatsu 45.9
Yoshinori Sato 38.0
Masahiro Kawai 35.9
Kenjiro Nomura 28.5
Tuffy Rhodes 22.8
Hiroki Kokubo 21.7
Masumi Kuwata 21.2
Takuro Ishii 19.3
Kenji Jojima 14.1
Shinji Sasaoka 9.5
So Taguchi 7.9
Norihiro Akahoshi 5.4
Kazuhisa Ishii new
Tomonori Maeda new
Takeshi Yamasaki new
Shinjiro Hiyama new
Alex Ramirez new

Experts Division
Hiroshi Gondo 65.6
Randy Bass 46.7
Koichi Tabuchi 41.0
Isao Shibata 24.6
Keishi Osawa 23.8
Mitsuhiro Adachi 23.0
Hideji Kato 23.0
Masayuki Dobashi 22.1
Tokuji Nagaike 19.7
Hiromu Matsuoka 13.1
Akinobu Okada 9.8
Kiyoshi Nakahata 9.0
Hiromasa Arai 8.2
Takao Obana new
Masayuki Kakefu new
Masataka Nashida new

Back in the day with Gondo

Hiroshi Gondo

On Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2019, former pitcher and manager Hiroshi Gondo was elected into Japan’s Baseball Hall of Fame. This is from a chat I had with him last year and includes his game logs from historic 1961 season.Hiroshi Gondo is famous in Japan for a number of things, including being one of only two men to manage NPB’s Taiyo-Yokohama-DeNA franchise to a pennant. But most of all, he’s famous for his historic 1961 season, when the 22-year-old Chunichi Dragons rookie led Japan’s Central League in wins and strikeouts and won the Sawamura Award, as the CL’s most impressive pitcher, and the Rookie of the Year Award.

Considering that season, one who is used to today’s game where NPB starters typically throw two bullpens during their six days between starts, how often Gondo went to the pen to freshen up.

“Never,” he said Wednesday at Tokyo Dome. “I pitched every day!”

OK. That’s not exactly true, as you can see here: Gondo 1961 game log This is a look at what a 429-1/3 inning season looks like. Sorry for the Japanese characters in the team names.  The column “G order” indicates his appearance order for his team’s pitchers in that game.

“If I was in the bullpen and my fastball had great life, I don’t want to waste it there. I wanted that for a game.”

He was pitching in an era when managers didn’t hesitate to summon a reliever to the mound without having him go to the bullpen to warmup.

“That happened sometimes. The skipper would say, ‘Gon-chan, get in the game.’ And I’d throw my seven pitches on the mound and that was that. I had been an infielder until my second year in high school and it didn’t take me that long to get warm. Even if I was in the bullpen for a game, I’d throw five or six pitches, then seven on the mound and let’s go. But bullpens between starts? No. What was the point?”

He led the CL with 30 wins the following season, but his career was largely done after 1962. When did he know there was a problem?

“My mistake was in resting and not moving my arm after that (1962) season. After a month or so, I tried to throw and my shoulder was frozen. Lifting it was painful. It hurt all the time.