Tag Archives: Chicago White Sox

Japanese Baseball Hall of Popularity: 2020 version

The Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame on Tuesday announced the winners of its annual ballots, and the hall’s reputation as a popularity contest was confirmed for another year.

For the first time since it was created in 2008, the player’s division voters failed to elect anyone as last year’s runner-up, Shingo Takatsu, fell seven votes short of selection. Popular DeNA BayStars manager Alex Ramirez, the only imported player with 2,000 hits shot up the leaderboard to finish second in the ballot with 233 of the 266 votes needed for selection.

Tuffy Rhodes, easily the best player on the player’s division ballot, took a slight step backward. A year ago, he was named on 29.6 percent of the ballots, this year on 28.8 percent.

Ramirez is a deserving candidate and this is not a slur on his reputation, but as a player, he didn’t have as big an impact as Rhodes. Ramirez was a popular player with the Giants, while Rhodes’ time with the Giants was curtailed by injury and marred by an argument with a coach.

HOF Players Division results 2020

NameVotes2020 Pct2019 pctCareer Win Shares
Shingo Takatsu25973.360.6120
Alex Ramirez23365.840.4248
Masahiro Kawai21861.650.7148
Shinya Miyamoto20658.241.2201
Kenjiro Nomura12735.937.2244
Masumi Kuwata12134.231.5191
Hiroki Kokubo10429.432.1311
Tuffy Rhodes10228.829.6320
Tomonori Maeda10228.829.6262
Takuro Ishii8724.624.8299
Atsunori Inaba7220.3NA302
Kenji Jojima6117.215.1294
Takeshi Yamasaki4111.611.3241
Shinji Sasaoka3911.010.5172
So Taguchi349.610.2170
Norihiro Akahoshi329.08.9146
Norihiro Nakamura287.9NA305
Shinjiro Hiyama164.53.2138
Kazuhisa Ishii144.07.5166
Akinori Iwamura41.1NA222
Makoto Kaneko30.8NA180

Two longtime inoffensive shortstops Masahiro Kawai and Shinya Miyamoto continued to build support, being named on 61.6 percent of the ballots and 58.2, respectively.

At the other end, Akinori Iwamura and Makoto Kaneko both dropped off the ballot on their first try, having failed to be named on 2 percent of the ballots.

HOF Experts Division Results 2020

NameVotes2020 Pct2019 pctCareer Win Shares
Koichi Tabuchi10980.764.7292
Randy Bass8965.963.2133
Masayuki Kakefu6245.930.8303
Keishi Osawa4936.330.1
Isao Shibata4029.626.3261
Tokuji Nagaike3727.417.3216
Hideji Kato2820.719.5286
Masayuki Dobashi2720.024.1155
Mitsuhiro Adachi2115.614.3204
Shigeru Takada1712.6NA167
Masataka Nashida1712.619.5103
Akinobu Okada1611.910.5208
Kiyoshi Nakahata1511.110.5148
Yoshinori Sato1410.4NA175
Hiromu Matsuoka128.97.5233
Mitsuo Tatsukawa118.1NA110

In the expert’s division, slugging catcher Koichi Tabuchi got his overdue reward, while another popular former Hanshin Tiger, two-time triple crown winner Randy Bass, moved to the top of the division’s pecking order with 65.9 percent of the vote.

The good news from Japan’s equivalent of the veteran’s committee was that Masayuki Kakefu moved up from an embarrassing 30.8 percent of the vote last year to 45.9 percent and will be poised to go in after Bass is elected a year from now.

The kotatsu league: Tigers in on KBO RBI leader Sands: Report

Sports Hochi reported Wednesday, citing official sources, that the Hanshin Tigers of Japan’s Central League are in basic agreement on a contract with 32-year-old outfielder Jerry Sands, who led the Korean Baseball Organization with 113 RBIs this year for the Kiwoom Heroes.

Sands failed to stick with the Los Angeles Dodgers as a 23-year-old corner outfielder / first baseman after playing 61 games in 2011. He put together a solid if unspectacular Triple-A career before ending up in South Korea in 2018. This year, the 1.93-meter Sands hit 28 home runs, while batting .305, drawing 77 walks and scoring 100 runs with very small home-road splits.

In his Triple-A career, Sands posted a .362 on-base percentage in 1,576 career at-bats with the bulk of that coming as a youngster in Albuquerque in 2011 and 2012.

In addition to the Dodgers, Sands played in the majors for the Tampa Bay Rays, Cleveland Indians and Chicago White Sox. He also played one winter in Puerto Rico.

According to the Hochi report, his deal is expected to be completed this month.

According to Bill James‘ Win Shares formulas, the Tigers’ offense was 10th among 12 NPB teams in 2019, while their pitching was 3rd. The club has since signed former major leaguer Justin Bour.

The kotatsu league: Axe and Jackson

March 15 in Japan may be tax day, but Dec. 2 was this year’s NPB axe day.

Few surprises on cut day

NPB teams published their offseason reserve lists on Monday when the only real surprise was that Yurisbel Gracial and Alfredo Despaigne were both released by the SoftBank Hawks, ostensibly because the team had yet to conclude its negotiations with the Cuban government’s sports authorities.

The bigger they are the softer they fall

The big local news was that Xavier Batista, who is under suspension for banned substances, was reserved by the Hiroshima Carp. This wasn’t really news since the Carp could have voided his contract for cause during the summer, and most certainly would have if he didn’t have value.

The severity of punishment in Japanese sports tends to decrease as the player’s value increases. Kento Momota, the world No. 2 men’s singles badminton player missed a year and the Rio Olympics after participating in illegal gambling. Kyosuke Takagi one of four Yomiuri Giants pitchers who admitted to betting on baseball, and the only one of the four who had any value, was fired and then re-hired a year after receiving a fairly lenient suspension. So Batista’s remaining with the Carp shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone.

Big Jay to join Marines

Jay Jackson said Tuesday he has completed his agreement to play for the Lotte Marines, while Lotte said their talks were moving in a good direction. I’m going to attribute that disparity to Japanese teams’ history of trying to control the timing of news about their team, and having other business to attend to — the introduction of free agent pitcher Manabu Mima.

The Kyodo News story is HERE.

Jackson, who has a child with his Japanese partner, had hoped to stay in NPB last season and was disappointed in the lack of offers. When nothing materialized he signed a minor league deal with the Brewers and pitched in 28 games with them and spoke about that situation in March and about his adjustments to Japanese ball.

His NPB page (Japanese language only) is HERE.

In the U.S. he struck out about 1.5 batters per inning this year — a vast improvement over his norm before he came to Japan in 2016, suggesting he learned how to get more strikeouts in Japan. It will be interesting to see how his re-acquaintance with American-style ball will affect his play here the second time around.

Yamaguchi, Kikuchi posting applications complete

The Hiroshima Carp have completed the posting application for second base glove wizard Ryosuke Kikuchi, while the Yomiuri Giants said they also completed the necessary paperwork on pitcher Shun Yamaguchi, meaning their 30-day posting period will commence on Tuesday, Dec. 3 at 8 a.m. Eastern time.

Here are Kyodo News’ English stories on Kikuchi and Yamaguchi.

Here’s my page for analysis and backstory on all the guys heading to the majors this winter and in winters to come.

Giants sign Brazilian flame thrower Vieiera

The Yomiuri Giants announced Tuesday they have signed 26-year-old Brazilian and White Sox farm hand Thyago Vieira, who has saved 14 Triple-A games over the past two seasons and pitched in 23 major league games.

Here’s Vieira’s MLB debut:

Iguchi eyes ‘Sweet Home Chicago’

When he retired as a pro in 2017, Tadahito Iguchi, the second baseman for the Chicago White Sox’s 2005 World Series champs, said he someday hopes to be back in a Sox uniform.

“Yes. That’s my dream,” the second-year Lotte Marines manager said in March.

Iguchi returned to Japanese baseball in 2009 after four years in the majors, and though his career appeared all but over at the time, he went on to play 10 more seasons before retiring in 2017. From there, he moved straight into the manager’s chair at Zozo Marine Stadium. He said it was not an easy decision to make that jump, but didn’t want to throw away the edge of knowing what his players were capable of by having been on the front lines with them.

Remembering Ozzie Guillen

Iguchi said the biggest skill he takes into managing is communication and cited his former Sox skipper Ozzie Guillen as his biggest influence.

“In some sense, he (Guillen) is kind of crazy,” Iguchi said. “But he communicates well and is charismatic.”

“Having been with the players here as a teammate when I was still playing and speaking with them on the bench, I think I’d established good communication with them.”

How about the motivation side?

“He (Guillen) has the ability to motivate people. That’s something I think I lack,” Iguchi said.

One of just a handful of Japanese position players to go to the majors, Iguchi said he gained some insight into the differences between Japan’s game and America’s.

Coaching in Japan and America

“I could understand how the internal conditions differed between organizations here and there,” he said. “Japanese coaches are always teaching you how to do things. Over there, they are more like advisers, taking a supporting role. Japanese players generally wait for what a coach has to say. Over there, you do things on your own and when you don’t understand, you might seek advice.”

“In Japan, the coach does all the talking. So, I think there are a lot of Japanese players who don’t really understand their own strengths.”

As part of his plan to revitalize the Marines and build a foundation for the future, Iguchi wants to adopt a more hands-off approach to young players from this season, although one expects it won’t be easy.

“There is something about Japanese baseball that makes coaches want to teach too much,” he said, although he will have a willing ally in the form of pitching coach Masato Yoshii, also a former big leaguer.

In his final year as a player, the Marines finished dead last in Japan’s Pacific League. in 2018, they escaped the cellar by two games. Iguchi said that as a rookie manager, he may have hurt his win total by sticking too long with less proven players, but he hoped those investments pay dividends down the road.

For someone who played 21 years, perhaps it’s natural for Iguchi to have a long-term vision, one that contrasts with the win-now mentality that some here see as a cancer in Japan’s beloved sport.

Changes are coming

Activists trying to protect the arms of elementary and junior high school kids believe that teaching the youngest kids that winning is the only thing that matters encourages abusive excessive practice and leads to burnout and arm injuries. They are calling for pitch and practice limits, and Iguchi said such rules are inevitable.

“That’s the era we’re in,” he said. “These days we are concerned with how many days a guy throws. It’s the same in America. That’s where we are headed so I don’t think there’s any going back.

“When I was in elementary school, I hit off a tee at home all the time. I think long practice hours just for the sake of winning might be a problem. If the purpose is to learn teamwork and communication with others, then long hours are well spent I think.”

“We do have to be concerned about kids’ health. I played rubber ball baseball when I was in elementary school. So many players never went on to play at a higher level because they ruined their shoulders or elbows. I think was lucky I wasn’t a pitcher. For the coaches to coerce the kids is something I am not sure about, but I want people to strive more and more to be No. 1.”

That’s something Iguchi has ample experience with, having won three PL pennants with the Hawks a Japan Series title with the Marines and, of course, the 2005 World Series win in Chicago.

2005, making it look easy

Oddly enough, that championship kind of snuck up on Iguchi, who was simply too busy playing hard to see the bigger picture going on around him.

“I was just going as hard as I could for the whole season, and it was more a feeling that I did all I could rather than a sense of accomplishment,” he said. “Perhaps had we not won the first year and then won the second, then I would have been happier. But I was just going from start to finish, and didn’t really have a grasp for what was happening.”

And after he accomplishes his mission in Chiba, east of Tokyo, Iguchi may turn his gaze again to the south side.

On being disciplined and flexible in Japan and in life

Mr. Brown comes to town

Outfielder Roosevelt Brown only played in Japan for two seasons, and it didn’t provide a spring board to a longer career in the States, but the experience, he said recently, wasn’t wasted on him.

Brown joined the Orix Blue Wave in 2003, roughly three years before he went 0-for-1 as a pinch hitter at Tokyo Dome for the Chicago Cubs against the New York Mets. In Las Vegas last December at the baseball winter meetings, Brown spoke about his experiences and impressions of Japan’s game.

“Guys here now really want to go over there. They’re starting to hear how good the baseball is over there,” said Brown, who upon his retirement built homes and still owns that construction company, while working as an advisor with sports training business, Vizual Edge.

The stories and the reality

“All the nightmares that I heard about, I did not seen none of those. The Japanese people took care of me and I really appreciate the hospitality of the people of Japan.”

After an excellent debut season at the age of 27, Brown could see himself finishing his career in Nippon Professional Baseball, but it didn’t happen.

Players are now turning to Japan not for their final playing paychecks from an inferior league, but as an opportunity to realize more of their potential than they had shown in the States. Often, the time spent in Japan makes them better players.

“And better people, too. You learn a lot and you improve your game,” Brown said.

“The difference with Japanese baseball is the strength. You have more stronger guys at the big league level than you do in Japan. That’s the only difference. The command of the fastball, offspeed stuff, they can command all three pitches. The players here are a lot bigger, but they just don’t have the body control that most Japanese have.”

“They (Japanese) do a lot of body weight stuff. When they take their shirts off, they look like they’ve been lifting weights. The body tissue, because of the diet with a lot of seafood, their tendons are softer so their muscles expand more than an American player who eats a lot of beef. They eat a lot of protein but with lots of seafood, so the flexibility of Japanese players is ahead of a lot of American players.”

A new approach

A frequent passenger on the Triple-A, major league shuttle, Brown began studying martial arts, to increase his flexibility and fitness. The process opened his eyes to some of the things about Japan’s game that are not readily apparent in the numbers.

“It started in 1999,” Brown said. “I wanted to increase my flexibility, because I found out that flexibility creates strength. The longer the muscles are, the more agile you can be. When I got into martial arts, I just started liking it. I put my kids in it. I took private lessons. Before I worked out I would go in about 5 am and train with my master, and after that I would go to the gym and work out with my trainer.”

“It helped me tie in the biomechanics of the swing and how to tie in my energy and put the most energy into one area. I noticed a lot of the Japanese guys at the plate had the same ability. They got the most out of their bodies.”

An audience with the king

And in Japan he had the chance to meet with a man whose practice of aikido and other martial arts had helped turn him into one of the greatest power hitters the world has ever seen.

“I had a conversation with Sadaharu Oh,” Brown said. “I was trying to figure out what was his secret to hit so many home runs because he’s so small.”

“He used his body probably better than anybody in the history of the game. He was small. The only other hitter who had that power and that size when I played was Michihiro Ogasawara. Those guys’ weight transformation through the baseball was probably better than some guys in the States. I learned a lot. It was an awesome experience.”

Two years provides just an introduction to Japan’s whys and wherefores. Although Brown gained insight into swings, training and diet, some mysteries remained unsolved. Keen to earn the respect of his teammates, he tried to be the best at whatever the BlueWave players were doing, but when it came to Japan’s training grist mill, he had to raise his hand and take a time out.

“They were overworking and I had to talk to the team and say, ‘Look, if you want me to be 100 percent in August, we need to find a better way to buffer the work,’” he said. “Because I was accustomed to training hard in the offseason and maintaining during the regular season, but those guys train in season and offseason.”

“That amazed me how well those guys stayed in shape, because they were heavy smokers. Those guys would run forever despite the fact that they smoked. I saw myself as not being able to do something like that.”

A way of life

What he could relate to were elements of the culture that meshed with his own values, the importance of craftsmanship in Japanese society that is manifested in the discipline and respect the players are nurtured in. To some Latin players, Japanese baseball can at times seem joyless, but Brown discovered learning points on and off the field.

“I learned a lot about discipline,” he said. “The culture of Japan is built on discipline and respect. I knew about respect. I was raised that way, but Japan made me take it to the next level.”

“You’ve got to embrace change when you go there. It’s their way of living and you’re going over there, and you’ve got to make those adjustments to succeed. If I hadn’t got injured, I probably would have played the rest of my career over there.”

After he got hurt in 2004, his career ended all too quickly following a good 2005 season in Triple A with the White Sox.

Endings and beginnings

“It was tough because I had to leave the game earlier than I anticipated because of injury,” he said. “It was tough, but I dealt with it. It’s part of life, and I live not through my kids, but my kids all play baseball, my family members all play baseball. It’s something I won’t ever be able to get away from. I understand that. I thought about if I would be a bitter guy, but I look back on my career and I hit .300 nine years straight. Most people don’t do that. Instead of being bitter about it, I decided I was going to take the time God gave me to better my knowledge for my kids. So I know that’s starting to translate with my kids and the people I train. I talked to a couple of people here at the winter meetings about jobs. I didn’t realize how much respect I had earned as a player.”

“Hitting a baseball is something I had a gift at. I broke my wrist in 1997 and that was the most miserable season that I had. I had a bad season. That was the first bad season I had, and I didn’t understand how to deal with failure at the plate. It helped me grow into a better hitter. Never experiencing a failure like that was difficult.”

“I had a gift and I couldn’t use it. Now I want to pass it on. What’s a gift if you can’t pass it on? That’s why I understand gifts. That’s where my heart and conviction are now.”