Category Archives: News

Darvish provides 2nd opinion

Two days after Masahiro Tanaka revealed that “incidents in Florida aside from the coronavirus threat” made him fear for his personal safety, Yu Darvish, said on Youtube Saturday that he was aware of an increase in racial harassment against Asians since the coronavirus outbreak although he hadn’t been the target of any in Arizona.

“The problem is that in regards to Asians and Asian Americans, there have been reports of an increase in racially motivated things going on,” Darvish said. “Since President Trump started calling it the ‘Chinese Virus’ there has been an uptick. There has always been a little discrimination against Asians before this and of course against blacks, too, but it seems like there is more now.”

The section translated starts at 4:10.

“What really concerns me is that here there is a gun culture. It’s no worry at the moment, but what about a year from now or two, if there is not enough food or people are out of work and don’t have money, that’s a scary thought.”

“As far as racial incidents go, I’m 196 centimeters and weigh 102 or 103 kilograms and I don’t know but I might not appear to by your typical Asian. If I’m at the supermarket, people might look at me funny but if they do, I haven’t noticed, so I don’t feel right now there are any issues. But my kids have Asian faces and down the road, the thought of that is a little scary.”

The Kyodo News story is HERE.

Going viral: NPB looking at May start

Although Central League executives on Thursday were mum on postponing Nippon Professional Baseball’s Opening Day for the third time in response to the coronavirus pandemic, that appears to be where the league is heading prior to Friday’s NPB conference according to Kyodo News.

The new prospective start date should be announced Friday but it will probably come toward the end of May.

Here is a link to my coronavirus-NPB timeline

Tanaka returns to Japan for safety

New York Yankees pitcher Masahiro Tanaka has returned to Japan the Nikkan Sports reported Thursday, because of the spread of the coronavirus but also out of concern for his personal safety.

“As has been reported, I returned to Japan at the end of March,” Tanaka said. “I have no symptoms now, but even so I could be infected by someone without knowing it. And my family could, too.”

According to an FBI report obtained by ABC News, the agency expects a surge of anti-Asian hate crime in the United States.

“The FBI assesses hate crime incidents against Asian Americans likely will surge across the United States, due to the spread of coronavirus disease … endangering Asian American communities,” the report said according to ABC.

According to NHK, a center opened by a civil rights group in America on March 19, recorded 670 instances of harassment of Asian Americans in its first week.

Tanaka said he is going through a two-week self-quarantine period as instructed by the Japanese government.

Pandemic causes WBC Déjà vu

The year 2020 has been so bad that NPB is ready to reset the clock to 2009, the last year its union threatened to boycott the WBC — partly over its March scheduling.

On Wednesday, Nippon Professional Baseball questioned whether it would be able to have the Olympic break in its schedule AND play in a March World Baseball Classic. So it may be no surprise that like it did in 2006, 2009 and 2012, NPB and its union are now preparing to hold their breaths until they either turn blue or get their way.

A March WBC in 2021 runs smack into two Japanese sporting obsessions: the volume of practice, and the primacy of the Olympics.

In 2017, when NPB announced Atsunori Inaba would be the national team manager on a four-year deal, everything, and I mean everything was about winning a gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics.

When a reporter asked about the 2021 WBC and if that was not also an important goal, everyone on the dais treated his question as shot as if he had jumped on a table, broken wind and shouted hallelujah!

In Japan, the WBC is a poor substitute for the Olympics, and NPB and its players would probably rather spend their time in March building up for the season and preparing for the Olympics than playing in the WBC.

Of course, the coronavirus, which forced the postponements of the first round of qualifiers in March may have something to say about whether there is a 20-team WBC next March or no WBC at all.

But if there is a WBC it’s going to come as a tug of war between Japan’s priority on the Olympics — which is forcing two teams out of their ballparks and messing big time with the schedule — and MLB’s complete and total lack of interest in the summer games.

2-time PL champion manager Nashida tests positive for coronavirus

Masataka Nashida, who won Pacific League pennants with the Kintetsu Buffaloes and Nippon Ham Fighters and finished his managing career with the Rakuten Eagles, has tested positive for the new coronavirus, his management agency revealed Wednesday according to Kyodo News.

Here is a link to my coronavirus-NPB timeline

The 66-year-old former catcher had been resting since complaining of fatigue on March 25 and developed a fever three days later. On Monday he had trouble breathing and saw a doctor. He was admitted to a hospital on Tuesday, where he was diagnosed with severe pneumonia.

After a 17-year career with the Buffaloes, Nashida coached for the club and after winning the Western League pennant as their minor league manager in 1999, was promoted to manage the first team in 2000. In 2001, the Buffaloes went from last place to first but lost in the Japan Series to the Yakult Swallows.

He managed Kintetsu until the club was disbanded after the strife-torn 2004 season and merged with the Orix BlueWave. He went on to manage Nippon Ham in 2008 following the departure of Trey Hillman, and won the 2009 pennant, only to lose in the Japan Series to the Yomiuri Giants.

He managed the Fighters until 2011 and ran the Eagles from 2016 to 2018.

NPB April start date springs leaks

Despite the teams’ chant of full-speed ahead toward an April 24 start to the season despite the coronavirus pandemic, Sports Nippon on Tuesday morning provided the first inkling that anyone in Nippon Professional Baseball is willing to consider anything else as they move forward.

Later in the day, the six Pacific League presidents met online and agreed that with infections on the rise, April 24 was probably out of the question, Sports Nippon reported.

“We started by setting an Opening Day target and teams have been counting backward from then to figure out when to resume practicing. But first of all, you wait until the epidemic settles down, then you resume practice and then you ask when Opening Day should be. That should be the normal order…”

Pacific League official cited by Sports Nippon.

NPB has now met three times with Japan’s J-League pro soccer executives to discuss how to proceed with their season and after meeting with a panel of experts, have twice pushed back the start of their season.

Here is a link to my coronavirus-NPB timeline

The story quoted secretary general Atsushi Ihara, as saying, “We are taking in the panel of experts’ evaluation, analysis and projection of the infection situation, and of course, we have to consider that.”

In addition to April 24, which NPB revealed in March was the last day their simulations suggested they could complete a full 143-game schedule, they have also run simulations for seasons that start on May 8 and May 15.

NPB starts brief shutdown

Japan baseball halted minor league practice games for a seven-day period from March 31 to April 6, Nippon Professional Baseball announced Monday.

When Opening Day was pushed back to its current target date of April 24, the leagues suspended the first-team practice games that had been taking the place of regular-season games.

Here is a link to my coronavirus-NPB timeline

Three Pacific League teams, the SoftBank Hawks, Lotte Marines and Rakuten Eagles had already suspended baseball activities and ordered their people to refrain from going out except on essential business, while the Central League’s Yomiuri Giants and DeNA BayStars followed suit on Monday.


2 infected women in Osaka linked to dinner with Tigers pitcher Fujinami

Two of the 15 newly discovered coronavirus infections announced by the Osaka government on Saturday, were recently in contact with Hanshin Tigers pitcher Shintaro Fujinami, Sankei Sports reported Saturday night.

The two women in their 20s were among 12 people who dined together on March 14 at the home of one of Fujinami’s friends. The dinner took place after Hanshin’s practice game that afternoon with the Orix Buffaloes and seven of those present were Tigers players.

Here is a link to my coronavirus-NPB timeline

The women reported similar symptoms to Fujinami, who reported a diminished sense of smell to one of the Tigers trainers. Because Fujinami allowed his name to be reported, the women were able to be tested and diagnosed.

Two of Fujinami’s Tigers teammates, outfielder Hayata Ito and catcher Kenya Saka also tested positive for the new coronavirus. Like Fujinami and the two women, they did not develop any of the symptoms Japan health authorities have used as a guideline for testing: a fever of 37.5 C or higher, coughing, difficulty breathing or extreme fatigue.

NPB unsprung

How does one count where baseball activities sit in relation to the regular season when Opening Day is a moving target? Are we at projected OD1 (March 20) + 7 days or OD3 (April 24) minus 28 days?

Between the coronavirus pandemic AND the sudden postponement of the Tokyo Olympics, the national government’s finger on the trigger of a national emergency, a three-week lock-down. Into that mix, NPB had its first positive tests for coronavirus, three players from the Hanshin Tigers, forcing that entire team to go into self-quarantine.

When the April 24 Opening Day was announced, both the Central and Pacific leagues announced they would suspend their practice games until the middle of April. That may be so, but their minor league clubs are still playing practice games, and many of the CL and PL regulars are taking part.

On Friday, Zach Neal pitched for the Seibu Lions at Seibu’s minor league facility, essentially a back field behind MetLife Dome, in a game against the Lotte Marines, who also threw one of their first-line starters, Ayumu Ishikawa.

But with the news of the Tigers infections, many teams are even suspending their farm team games for the time being.

Sasaki throws 2nd BP

18-year-old flame-thrower Roki Sasaki threw his second live BP of the spring at the Marines’ home park, QVC Marine Stadium in Chiba on Friday and touched 156 kph (96.9 mph) on the radar gun.

“I wasn’t able to command some balls, and I want to increase the number of quality pitches,” he told reporters.

Here’s a video of Sasaki’s effort on Friday.

He was unable to locate his fork ball early on, but in the later stages of the session, he was able to pepper the bottom of the zone with his pitches, including his slider.

“This is a world that doesn’t tolerate poorly executed pitches, so I want to be able to execute as close as I can to 100 percent,” he said.

Matsui gets lit up

Rakuten Eagles lefty Yuki Matsui, who failed to make it as a starter straight out of high school but became a hit as their closer, has been working all spring toward a return to the starting rotation.

It’s been a rocky road so far, and on Friday his warm-up outing he allowed six runs in one inning.

“I had mediocre stuff,” he said. “Being a starter is tough.”

3 Tigers players hospitalized

The Hanshin Tigers of Japan’s Central League on Friday revealed that three players, pitcher Shintaro Fujinami, outfielder Hayata Ito and catcher Kenya Nagasaka have tested positive for the new coronavirus.

According to the Hochi Shimbun, all three have been hospitalized. All have complained of a diminished sense of taste and smell, but have not developed fevers or coughs.

Last week, Nippon Professional Baseball’s teams agreed to announce whenever a player was tested or tested positive, and the three are the first pro ballplayers in Japan known to have been infected.

Here is a link to my coronavirus-NPB timeline

On Thursday the team announced that Fujinami had been tested for the virus, had all its facilities sanitized by people wearing hazmat suits and canceled a farm-team practice game scheduled that day.

The Central and Pacific leagues were originally scheduled to open for business on March 20, but Opening Day has been pushed back twice on account of the pandemic, first to April 10 and now to April 24, although that latter date seems as unrealistic as the first.

The 25-year-old Fujinami was having a promising spring after four seasons in a tailspin that started when Tomoaki Kanemoto took over as Tigers manager in 2016 for three years. Prior to that he had been a reliable starting pitcher after being the 2012 draft’s top pitching prize. Shohei Ohtani also went in that draft in the second round, because he had announced he would turn pro with a big league club.