Masahiro Yamamoto, who set numerous age-related record as a front-line starter, and Shingo Takatsu, who is second on Japan’s all-time saves list have been elected to the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame, the hall announced Friday.
Both Yamamoto, who pitched his entire career for the Chunichi Dragons, and Takatsu, spent most of playing years with the Yakult Swallows, were elected from the Players Division ballot. They were joined by the late founder of Tokai University, Shigeyoshi Matsumae, who was elected by the special committee for his role in promoting baseball internationally.
For the second straight year, no new inductees were elected from the Experts Division, which considers other achievements in addition to what individuals accomplish during their playing career.
Yamamoto was one of about 11 guys on the ballot who in my opinion fit in well the previous players selected for the Hall of Fame. I didn’t consider him among my top seven and so didn’t vote for him, but am happy he got in nonetheless.
Takatsu is not in that group, but like Yamamoto, who pitched until he was 50, did things few others did. Takatsu was one of the two best closers of the 1990s, when Japanese teams hadn’t yet figured out how to keep their closers healthy.
He and Kazuhiro Sasaki are in the Hall of Fame because unlike their contemporaries, their arms didn’t die after a couple of seasons spent warming up two to three times a game, and frequently pitching in three or four straight games.
Players division vote 2022
Takatsu, who was named on the highest number of ballots since Hideki Matsui was named on 91.3 percent ballots cast, was one of just three players on last year’s ballot to get more support. The others were Yamamoto and Motonobu Tanishige.
Former DeNA ace Daisuke Miura, whose career was vastly underrated, did not survive the 2-1/2 percent minimum threshold to remain on the ballot, nor did second-year candidate Yoshitomo Tani.
I don’t know what to think when I see an extremely good player like Kenji Jojima named on 7.5 percent of the ballots. This guy was arguably the third best catcher in Japanese baseball history behind Katsuya Nomura and Atsuya Furuta.
Kazuhiro Wada survived the cut, barely. Wada was a six-time Best Nine winner, and an MVP with 2,050 career hits and 319 home runs who didn’t turn pro until after playing university and corporate league ball. He was then blocked as a pro behind a future Hall of Famer and didn’t get a regular job until he was 30.
He’s not a tremendous candidate, but he’s far more worthy than most of the guys ahead of him in the voting, and I bet that there have been few players who were better in NPB history between the ages of 30 and 41.
For the second straight year, Randy Bass came just short of winning election through the Experts Division ballot, which failed to elect anyone for the second straight year.
In 2021, Bass was named on 95 of the 134 ballots collected, missing the 75 percent mark by six votes. This year, he took a baby step forward, receiving 106 of the 110 votes needed. His Tigers teammate, Masayuki Kakefu was named on 58.9 percent of the ballots cast.