Tag Archives: Ichiro Suzuki

Camp fires: Feb. 2, 2024

On Friday, we were reminded of a fixture of NPB spring camps, reporters counting stuff that has little meaning to anybody and is simply a placeholder for real news.

In other news, we learned that some new dogs are learning old tricks, and we have a list of the former players who have qualified to teach student ballplayers.

Where’s the count when NPB needs him?

The 1st of many 1sts for Dickerson

This is not really about counting but about headlines. Apologies in advance for harping on this, but there is nothing Japan’s media loves than an accomplishment that is absolutely unremarkable being touted as the first of its kind.

Friday, new Chunichi Dragon Alex Dickerson cleared the fence in BP, which is good news if you were betting on that, but it was enough for the Chunichi Sports, not surprisingly the sports paper owned by the team’s parent company to put up a headline saying “Dickerson hits his first home run in Japan!

Continue reading Camp fires: Feb. 2, 2024

A lot has changed, Part 2

How Shohei Ohtani and Yoshinobu Yamamoto earned record MLB contracts this month is a story about the growth of Japanese pro baseball and the change of its players’ world view. It is a story that traces back through Hideo Nomo, Ichiro Suzuki and the miscalculations of Japanese pro baseball’s owners.

Ohtani and Yamamoto and a growing number of their compatriots have achieved extreme success by seeking their own unique solutions as individuals. How this happened in Japan is quite a story. For decades, pro baseball had mimicked Japanese industry by reinforcing a cultural bias toward conformity with a rigid belief that only uniform styles and methods could achieve perfection.

Part 1 outlined how NPB has continued to grow and thrive:

  • Through unintended consequences of owners trying to restructure the existing domestic balance of power
  • Through effort of individuals working on their own and eventually with others to create new paradigms within obsolete structures.
  • Through a collective effort by players to combat owners’ abuse of power

Although the belief in baseball quality control lingers, largely through youth baseball coaches raised in the 1970s and ‘80s, it slowly began reversing through the success of one iconic player, and has accelerated rapidly because of one owners’ effort to rig the system in his team’s favor.

Even though Nippon Professional Baseball’s business model remains almost comically rooted in the 1950s with owners controlling nearly every aspect of the game and a relatively powerless union, the game on the field has become more and more vibrant with each recent generation.

The draft

One place to start might be 1965, when NPB’s 12 teams, acted collectively to institute a draft in order to deprive amateurs the right to sell their services to the highest bidder. The first draft took place just days after the Central League’s Yomiuri Giants polished off the Pacific League’s Nankai Hawks in five games to win the first of nine straight Japan Series championships.

Continue reading A lot has changed, Part 2