DeNA BayStars manager Alex Ramirez loves to be unconventional, and he also knows enough that the way to be unconventional in Japan is to make up conventional bullshit explanations reporters can then regurgitate as suitable explanations for unorthodox behavior.
On Sunday, new BayStars import Tyler Austin batted second in the team’s preseason opener against the Yomiuri Giants in Naha, Okinawa Prefecture. On Saturday, Ramirez explained he liked to have good hitters bat second, not because they were good hitters and putting lame guys who can bunt second is dumb, but rather because a power hitter there will see more fastballs after the leadoff man reaches base.
Of course, when your leadoff hitter is Kazuki Kamizato, career OBP .319, that’s kind of weak, but you get the point. In Japan, unorthodox behavior is only acceptable if it is wrapped in some kind of bullshit cover-your-ass excuse that won’t suggest that the orthodox ways are dumb.
Ramirez catches flak for batting his pitchers eighth, which makes perfect sense, and last year was roasted for batting new Tampa Bay Ray Yoshitomo Tsutsugo, the national team cleanup hitter, second. It was, one talking head on Fuji TV’s Pro Yakyu News said, “An insult to Japanese baseball,” and that one could do it in a DH league, “as the Angels do with Mike Trout, but not in the Central League,” because well, you can’t.
Austin homered in each of his first two spring at-bats, both with no one on base and then singled in his third, again after Kamizato failed to reach.
Batting 2nd: Lip Service
My favorite story about paying lip service to Japan’s cultural craving for punchless No.2 hitting defensive specialists was that of Hall of Famer Rikuo Nemoto, as manager of the Daiei Hawks in 1994, batted slugging outfielder Kazunori Yamamoto second. Yamamoto bunted once in 509 plate appearances.
Nemoto, who is in the Hall of Fame for his role as the architect of three dynasties — often through somewhat shady dealings to secure amateur talent, forestalled criticism by saying he had no punchless glove guys to bat second, so he just had to bite his lip and make do.
What happened was the perennial doormats’ best season in 18 years. The Hawks were fourth, with a .5348 winning percentage behind the Orix Blue Wave (Ichiro Suzuki‘s breakout season) and Kintetsu Buffaloes (Hideo Nomo) who tied for second at .5354
Of course, everyone knew Nemoto was full of shit, but it’s OK to be full of shit as long as you don’t imply that others who do dumb shit because dogma demands it are morons. OK, the late great Katsuya Nomura did that frequently when it suited his purposes, but for most mere mortals, like former BayStars manager Hiroshi Gondo, calling orthodoxy into question will get you fired.
Baby shark school
One of the other non-game highlights was Gerardo Parra instructing veteran Yomiuri Giants outfielder Yoshiyuki Kamei on the proper hand technique for “Baby Shark.”
Moore throws 1st pen for Hawks
New SoftBank Hawks import Matt Moore threw a 53-pitch bullpen on Sunday, his first since the start of spring training on Feb. 1, and left manager Kimiyasu Kudo suitably impressed, according to Fullcount.
The Hawks may be without 2019 rookie of the year, Rei Takahashi, at the start of the season due to a left-hamstring issue, and so could be in need of another starter to take his place.