Time for good old-fashioned witch hunt

Kyosuke Takagi speaks to the press on March 9

OK. Saying the Yomiuri Giants should change their game-starting theme music at Tokyo Dome to the Who’s “You Better You Bet” was seriously in bad taste.

The thought occurred when a new story on Tuesday suggested Giants players were betting on their games after a fashion. But the more one learns about, the less one is inclined to lump it together under the rubric of the same gambling scandal that has haunted the Giants since the autumn.

The news was that for the past three-plus seasons, a Giants player giving a pre-game pep talk to his peers would be rewarded by a 5,000 yen gift from each teammate after a win. Should the team lose, the would-be motivational speaker would pay his colleagues 1,000 yen apiece. Both NPB and the Giants organization were aware of this practice last autumn but determined it wasn’t of any importance to the critical issue of whether players were gambling on baseball (the correct decision) and decided not to make it public (the wrong decision).

Since Kyosuke Takagi last week became the fourth Giants pitcher to admit to losing some serious money with gamblers from betting on pro games, every thing that remotely seems like somehow it might smell of controversy is being held up as an example of evil wrongdoing.

Former prosecutor Katsuhiko Kumazaki, the person currently occupying NPB’s commissioners office, said: “Even though this does not qualify as a violation of the baseball charter, we cannot permit it, and it was one of the root causes of the gambling scandal involving Giants pitchers.”

How’s that for logic? And Kumazaki was a really, really famous prosecutor.

Now in the hysteria to root any connection between money and pro baseball players, the custom of fining players small amounts for messing up in practice has come under scrutiny.

The media is acting as if this kind of thing was a deep, dark secret, a skeleton in NPB’s 12 closets. But once those are all rooted out, how long will it be before the media expresses outrage at the practice of “fight money,” the cash payments teams pay to contributing players after a win. Virtually every reporter knows about the custom, but when it does become public — as it just might in the current hysteria — the media can be guaranteed to act with sufficient self righteous fury.

NPB officially enters 19th century

Hiroshima’s Ryuhei Matsuyama slides into Swallows catcher Yuhei Nakamura on Tuesday at Jingu Stadium.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016, is a date we can remember as the day Japanese baseball caught up with one of baseball’s oldest rules — the obstruction rule that prohibits blocking a base without the ball and dates back to at least 1857. The rule is older than the Yomiuri Giants, older than pro baseball in Japan — which despite Yomiuri propaganda predates the Giants by more than a decade, older than the first game ever played here.

Yet since it was systematically ignored here, the decision over the winter to enforce the existing statutes have led to obstruction being called a “new rule.”

On Tuesday, Yakult Swallows catcher Nakamura was set to block home plate with the ball, but he dropped it. While in the process of picking it up, he was obstructing the base. Hiroshima Carp base runner Ryuhei Matsuyama slid home and was tagged out. After Carp skipper Koichi Ogata protested on the grounds of Nakamura violating the novel 150-year-old rule, the umpire crew chief called for a video review. Upon review Matsuyama was safe, a run was in and Nakamura was warned that another violation of Japan’s suddenly sacred sanction against obstructing home plate would result in his ejection.

writing & research on Japanese baseball