Tag Archives: Hisashi Iwakuma

Common sense

Tomoyuki Sugano is returning to the Yomiuri Giants instead of signing a deal with a major league team through the posting system.

Before Sugano announced his decision to seek a major league contract, the 31-year-old Yomiuri Giants ace expressed concern about the risk of playing the 2021 season where the coronavirus pandemic was far worse and where pro baseball was far less secure than back home. Indeed, in a comment released by the team, Sugano cited the effects of the pandemic on his decision-making process.

“I concluded I would play for the Giants this season, too, after assessing the trends in the majors due to the novel coronavirus,”

Tomoyuki Sugano, in a statement translated by Kyodo News

But the coronavirus is no longer the only shadow clouding Japanese players’ dreams of going to the majors.

The economics of MLB used to mean a huge pay raise for top stars coming from Japan’s two leagues, where salaries never exceed $10 million a year–We don’t really know what Japan’s highest salaries are or were, since teams and players tell reporters whatever figures they like.

MLB used to be about maximizing revenues from marketing entertaining baseball games with a healthy dose of civic extortion to leverage good sweet ballpark deals. But return on investment is now the goal rather than building a marketable baseball product.

At first, four teams were reported to be in on Sugano, but the New York Mets opted out of the fray, and this week it appeared the Boston Red Sox could not meet Sugano’s price.

It is not the first time a front-line Japanese starting pitcher’s salary expectations have not been met by the marketplace. In the winter of 2010-2011, Hisashi Iwakuma, able then to negotiate with only the winner of his posting bid, failed to find a middle ground between a figure he would accept and the A’s valuation of him.

The A’s were trying to exploiting market inefficiencies, and didn’t have to compete with other teams, but the new efficiency has less to do with getting baseball value at the best price than cutting out everything that might be a temporary drag on the budget.

But now the push to drive down salaries is at full throttle, fueled by anti-competitive situation where the U.S.’s pro baseball monopoly is using its leverage to suppress its labor market.

MLB’s pampered billionaire owners are pleading poverty as they fire already-poverty stricken minor leaguers as well as scouts, coaches and operations staff who represent the bones, tendons, ligaments and nervous system of the pro baseball bodies.

This is not an isolated event, but rather a symptom of the current Make America Gilded Again movement.

So was electing a crass transaction-driven self-described mogul president meant abandoning America’s pandemic prevention regime, including research presences in likely hot spots, such as Wuhan, China because they represented only budgetary costs but added nothing to the profit line.

America is now becoming a modern parody of the late 19th century, where oligarchs ratchet up exploitation of poor labor, while suppressing civil rights.

Wednesday’s storming of the U.S. Capital building by domestic terrorists, who chant “Blue Lives (marginalizing minorities) Matter” overran law enforcement officers, who responded to the whitebread assault with the kind of restraint unseen when BLM activists were caught in the open a minute after curfew and beaten.

It was an echo of reconstruction era America, where domestic terrorism was accepted and its enablers welcomed in the capital with rarely as much as a wringing of hands.

This is America now, where a large swath of the population has embraced the belief that they are being discriminated against because their white privilege is being called into question by the majority of their countrymen.

This is the America where a TV personality can be elected president through voter suppression and is allowed to encourage racist behavior against others. It is the America where his true believers use his calling the coronavirus the “Chinese flu” as an excuse to harass Asians in public.

It is the America from where Masahiro Tanaka abandoned training in Florida after spring training was canceled. He has a family and was rightly concerned about their well being in a country where a spiteful angry minority has been empowered by a demagog.

Even if the president is removed from office, he is a symptom of an environment where clever people in media make a living peddling lies and conspiracy theories to the insecure and the gullible, and where a two-party system locks out independents and is beholden to oligarchs.

Wednesday’s insurrection has woken a few to the current dangers, but if I were Sugano and Tanaka, who is currently a free agent, I’d consider myself lucky to have a route back to Japan.

NPB 2020 Oct. 19

Monday’s games

PL

  • Marines vs Fighters, postponed, rain

Other news

Iwakuma to call it quits

Right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma said Monday that this season will be his last. The 39-year-old turned pro out of high school after being taken in the fifth round of the 1999 draft by the now defunct Kintetsu Buffaloes.

Iwakuma went 107-69 in Japan and 63-39 in six seasons with the Seattle Mariners. He joined the Yomiuri Giants as a free agent in 2019, when he appeared in two Eastern League games. He has not played this year.

When the Buffaloes merged with the Pacific League rival Orix BlueWave in 2004, triggering Japanese baseball’s lone labor action, Iwakuma was sold to the Rakuten Eagles after a long dispute with Orix.

One of the key issues that summer was whether the owners could unilaterally remake NPB’s established format of two six-team leagues after the owners accepted a merger without any plan about how to move forward with 11 teams.

After players went on strike and forced the cancellation of two weekends worth of games, the owners agreed to expedite the creation of an expansion franchise. This was something they originally argued was possible — and in so doing honor an age-old pro baseball tradition of owners telling something is impossible only to turn around and do just that when they have the will to do so.

Another part of the agreement, although not written, but spoken at the Nagoya Castle Hotel press conference, was a statement from Orix’s official representative that no Kintetsu player would be taken by Orix in the merger if they refused to play for the new club.

Iwakuma along with Kintetsu players rep Koichi Isobe was the most vocal of the Buffaloes about refusing to sign with Orix. But when the distribution draft was held to allow the new Rakuten Eagles access to surplus talent on the Orix and Kintetsu rosters, Iwakuma was among those protected from selection.

Orix’s explained its decision “We promised but you can’t expect us to honor it when a player is actually important to us.”

Iwakuma, however, stuck to his guns and refused to go to Orix, eventually forcing the team to sell him to the fledgling Eagles.

After the 2010 season, the Rakuten Eagles posted Iwakuma, but he returned to the Eagles after failing to reach a deal with the Oakland Athletics, who won the sole right to negotiate with him in the bidding.

Ties can be thrillers, too

Although not enjoyable because of its see-saw nature, the Hanshin Tigers’ 10-inning 1-1 tie with the Yakult Swallows on a Monday makeup game at Koshien Stadium was just a terrific game.

It was well pitched, well played, some good swings on tough pitches, a personal speed record by one of Japan’s fastest pitchers, two brothers pitching on opposing sides and both teams seeing their 10th-inning rallies on nice catches.

Joe Gunkel started for the Tigers and went five innings. He did well to allow only a run after allowing four hits in the fourth inning, but a sharply hit grounder to third with the bases jammed was turned for an inning-ending double play.

The game also saw the Tigers’ Justin Bour bunt in attempt to beat the shift before smashing a pitch to the left of second for a single.

Albert Suarez allowed an unearned run over six innings when pinch-hitter Kento Itohara did well to put the bat on the ball for an RBI game-tying single. Shintaro Fujinami hit 162 kph on the radar gun as he struck out the side in the top of the seventh.

Scott McGough answered with a 1-2-3 inning in the home half for the Swallows and so it went. Suarez’s younger brother Robert struck out two in the top of the ninth for the Tigers, while Swallows closer Taishi Ishiyama worked around a Jerry Sands single in the home half.

Both teams put the potential go-ahead run on base in the 10th, but the Swallows’ rally died with the runner on second as shortstop Ryuhei Kobata made an outstanding catch to snare a liner. The Swallows returned the favor in the bottom of the inning, when second baseman Tetsuto Yamada caught a one-out liner with the runner going for an easy game-ending double play.

Active roster moves 10/19/2020

Deactivated players can be re-activated from 10/29

Central League

Activated

SwallowsP24Tomoya Hoshi

Dectivated

BayStarsP27Taiga Kamichatani
DragonsP50Tatsuya Shimizu
SwallowsOF51Taiki Hamada

Pacific League

Activated

None

Dectivated

MarinesP15Manabu Mima
MarinesIF40Koki Fukuda
MarinesOF10Shohei Kato
FightersP20Kenta Uehara
FightersP29Kazutomo Iguchi
FightersP39Ryo Akiyoshi
FightersP57Toshihiro Sugiura
BuffaloesP13Hiroya Miyagi
BuffaloesIF0Shoki Katsumata

Starting pitchers for Oct. 20, 2020

Pacific League

Fighters vs Hawks: Sapporo Dome 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Naoyuki Uwasawa (8-5, 2.54) vs Shunsuke Kasaya (3-3, 2.93)

Eagles vs Buffaloes: Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Takahiro Norimoto (5-5, 3.84) vs Yoshinobu Yamamoto (8-4, 2.18)

Lions vs Marines: MetLife Dome 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Kona Takahashi (7-8, 3.87) vs Ayumu Ishikawa (7-4, 4.15)

Central League

Swallows vs Giants: Jingu Stadium 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Hirotoshi Takanashi (3-5, 4.72) vs Shosei Togo (8-5, 2.76)

Dragons vs BayStars: Nagoya Dome 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Koji Fukutani (6-2, 2.78) vs Shinichi Onuki (9-4, 2.21)

Tigers vs Carp: Koshien Stadium 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Onelki Garcia (2-5, 4.11) vs Allen Kuri (6-5, 3.44)

NPB 2020 Sept. 29

Other news

Sugano improves to 12-0

Yomiuri Giants ace Tomoyuki Sugano surrendered a first-inning run, and then bossed the Hiroshima Carp for five more innings in a 6-1 win at Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium on Tuesday.

Speedy rookie Minoru Omori hustled a leadoff triple and scored on a sac fly but allowed four hits in total and a walk over six innings, hitting his spots in a virtuoso performance as he struck out nine.

“I gave up a run from the get-go, but then I think I was able to work diligently one inning at a time,” he said upon becoming the second Opening Day pitcher in NPB history to win his first 12 decisions.

Hisashi Iwakuma, now with the Giants’ farm team, started the 2004 final season of the Kintetsu Buffaloes 12-0.

No. 8 hitter Akihiro Wakabayashi took the reins of the Giants’ offense, starting Yomiuri’s two-run third with a leadoff walk against Atsushi Endo (2-4) was sacrificed to second by Sugano and scored the on a Seiya Matsubara single.

Wakabayashi tripled in a run in the fourth, and singled in a run and scored in the sixth.

Itoi, bullpen win it for Tigers

Yoshio Itoi broke a 3-3 tie with a two-run home run and the Hanshin Tigers bullpen threw three shutout innings to finish up a 7-3 win over the Chunichi Dragons at Koshien Stadium.

Itoi hit his fifth home run of the season with two outs in the fifth off Akiyoshi Katsuno (2-4). Tigers starter Haruto Takahashi allowed three runs, one earned, over six innings. Jon Edwards, Shintaro Fujinami and Robert Suarez each worked a scoreless inning with Fujinami earning his first career hold.

The Dragons tied it in the top of the fifth, when Zoilo Almonte reached on his second single and scored on a sacrifice fly. He made a good play in the outfield to end the sixth with a good catch in left to keep the game from getting control the damage.

BayStars club Ogawa

Yasuhiro Ogawa (9-4) returned to the site of his Aug. 15 no-hitter but blew a two-run lead as the Yakult Swallows lost 8-4 to the DeNA BayStars at Yokohama Stadium.

Cleanup hitter Keita Sano put the BayStars in front with this 14th home run after Takayuki Kajitani opened with a single and Neftali Soto drew a one-out walk.

Kajitani led off the BayStars’ two-run third with another single and hit his 16th home run in the fifth with two outs to make it a 7-4 game.

A quartet of BayStars relievers then slammed the door on the last-place Swallows as Yuki Kuniyoshi, Spencer Patton, Edwin Escobar and Kenta Ishida buried the visitors’ hopes.

Yamamoto strikes out career-high 14

Yoshinobu Yamamoto maintained his dominance in home games, striking out a career-high 14 batters over eight innings for the Orix Buffaloes in their 3-0 win over the Seibu Lions at Osaka’s Kyocera Dome.

The 22-year-old right-hander allowed two walks and four hits. With better than usual command of his splitter and curve, he just tortured the Lions hitters.

Lions starter Kona Takahashi (5-8) pitched a solid game but Buffaloes hitters were able to get enough barrels on his pitches to rack up six hits over six innings, while he walked two and hit one.

Masataka Yoshida singled in two runs and Torai Fushimi hit a solo homer for the Buffaloes, and closer Brandon Dickson worked a perfect inning against the heart of the Lions order to close out his 11th save.

Senga deals out Eagles

Kodai Senga (7-5) allowed a run over seven innings while striking out 10 and the SoftBank Hawks chased Takahiro Norimoto (5-4) in a five-run fifth and held on to beat the Rakuten Eagles 6-2 at Sendai’s Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi.

Pitching for the first time since he cut his hand in his Sept. 4 start, Norimoto pitched out of a bases-loaded fourth inning jam, but did allow the Hawks to tie it. Ryoya Kurihara’s three-run homer in the fifth put the Eagles away.

Senga allowed five hits and walked three, while Norimoto allowed six hits, walked four and hit a batter while striking out six over 4-1/3 innings.

1st inning costly to Fighters

Nippon Ham Fighters right-hander Naoyuki Uwasawa (7-4) continued his impressive run this season, but only after he allowed three first-inning runs in a 4-3 loss to the Lotte Marines at Sapporo Dome.

Uwasawa regrouped after allowing four hits and a walk in the first to go seven. Marines finesse artist Ayumu Ishikawa worked into the eighth, when he surrendered Wang Po-jung’s first homer of the season, a two-run shot.

Leonys Martin blasted another long home run, his 24th, with two outs in the ninth off Ryo Akiyoshi to score an insurance run that came in handy after Marine closer Naoya Masuda surrendered a run in the home half on three singles.

Giants sell catcher Tanaka to Eagles

The Giants said Tuesday they have assigned 28-year-old minor league catcher Takaya Tanaka to the Rakuten Eagles for cash consideration on Tuesday. Tanaka was taken in the third round of the 2014 developmental draft.

Tanaka has appeared in two first-team games. In the Eastern League, he has slashed .264/.340/.352. It is the third deal this season between the two clubs, starting with a June 29 trade that brought Zelous Wheeler to the Giants in exchange for pitcher Shun Ikeda.

Wednesday, Sept. 30 is this year’s non-waiver roster deadline.

Active roster moves 9/29/2020

Deactivated players can be re-activated from 10/9

Central League

Activated

GiantsP19Toyoki Tanaka
BayStarsC29Hikaru Ito
DragonsP13Yuki Hashimoto
DragonsOF45Moises Sierra

Dectivated

BayStarsP48Masaya Kyoyama
BayStarsC39Hiroki Minei
DragonsP53Luis Gonzalez

Pacific League

Activated

LionsP25Katsunori Hirai
HawksP40Kazuki Sugiyama
HawksIF8Kenji Akashi
HawksOF24Yuya Hasegawa
EaglesP14Takahiro Norimoto
EaglesIF24Fumiya Kurokawa
EaglesIF36Yasuhito Uchida
FightersP35Takahiro Nishimura
BuffaloesP58Kazuyuki Kaneda

Dectivated

None

Starting pitchers for Sept. 30, 2020

Pacific League

Fighters vs Marines: Sapporo Dome 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Drew VerHagen (6-4, 4.08) vs Kazuya Ojima (5-6, 3.76)

Eagles vs Hawks: Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Hideaki Wakui (9-3, 3.13) vs Shota Takeda (2-1, 4.64)

Buffaloes vs Lions: Kyocera Dome 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Hirotoshi Masui (0-2, 4.34) vs Shota Hamaya (2-0, 6.30)

Central League

BayStars vs Swallows: Yokohama Stadium 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Taiga Kamichatani (2-1, 3.00) vs Masanori Ishikawa (0-5, 4.84)

Tigers vs Dragons: Koshien Stadium 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Koyo Aoyagi (6-6, 3.76) vs Yudai Ono (6-5, 2.37)

Carp vs Giants: Mazda Stadium 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Yusuke Nomura (5-2, 4.14) vs Kazuto Taguchi (5-3, 4.35)

Iwakuma progressing in rehab

Hisashi Iwakuma, back in Japan for the first time since 2011, threw his third bullpen in a week on Sunday at the Yomiuri Giants’ minor league facility in Kawasaki, across the river from Tokyo.

The 38-year-old threw 40 pitches but not at full strength as he was focusing on his mechanics after having shoulder trouble in February. Iwakuma had shoulder surgery in September 2017

“I feel strong enough so I wanted to see how it felt throwing with a little less effort. My feel for my pitching form largely matched how I was throwing,” he said. “I think I’m moving forward, and now I need to take the next step.”

Iwakuma threw his first bullpen since camp on May 14.

You can see the original Japanese language Nikkan Sports report HERE.

Old Buffaloes club closes

The association of former Kintetsu Buffaloes players will cease activities, the organization’s president, Hall of Fame pitcher Keishi Suzuki announced Saturday.

“It’s sad, but we decided to bring it to a close,” Suzuki said. “There’s no one who can become a new member.”

“The team no longer exists. We persisted thinking we could accomplish something, but we’ve reached our limit.”

The Buffaloes, founded ahead of the 1950 season when Japan’s league expanded and split into the Central and Pacific leagues. The club ceased to exist after the 2004 season when it was merged into the PL rival Orix BlueWave. That merger, announced and essentially approved without the consent of the players sparked NPB’s only players strike, expansion, and wide-ranging changes to the business of baseball in Japan.

The only former Buffaloes players still active are Hisashi Iwakuma, who is joining the Yomiuri Giants from the Seattle Mariners this season, and two players now with the CL’s Yakult Swallows, pitcher Kazuki Kondo and outfielder-first baseman Tomotaka Sakaguchi.

At the time the Buffaloes folded, they were the only one of NPB teams at the time never to have won the Japan Series.