As we celebrate Shohei Ohtani’s unanimous selection as the 2021 American League MVP, we should realize that this is a celebration of how badly baseball professionals get things wrong.
Baseball people in Japan and the United States are today jumping up and down celebrating Ohtani’s success, the way MLB now celebrates Jackie Robinson breaking the racist color barrier MLB itself imposed.
A day after arriving at the Rakuten Eagles spring camp in Kin, Okinawa Prefecture, and admitting to some nerves in his old crimson getup, Masahiro Tanaka threw his first NPB bullpen in eight years on Sunday.
Throwing to third-year player Hikaru Ota, whose 67 games last year were the most of the Eagles’ catching staff, Tanaka said it was his job to take the lead, Full-count reported.
“Even me, I didn’t feel I had done enough to establish that communication (with my catcher) when I was young, so it’s on me to go to him and establish an atmosphere where he can easily ask me things,” said Tanaka, who admitted it was a little different throwing NPB’s ball.
“I was a little off with this (NPB) ball, but nothing major.”
If it’s Sunday, it’s time for Isao Harimoto’s Curmudgeon Corner, his sports section on TBS Network’s Sunday Morning. This morning, he was joined by fellow traveler and former Yomiuri Giants teammate Tsuneo Horiuchi.
Both Horiuchi and Harimoto said Tanaka’s return is a chance to boost Japan’s game, implying that there is something to be learned from playing abroad.
Horiuchi said, however, that it was proper for Tanaka to return to Japan and for Giants ace Tomoyuki Sugano to stay here for 2021. To be honest, I can only assume he meant individual Japanese players should stay home to improve the quality of the domestic game. But if Tanaka hadn’t gone abroad, he wouldn’t be the pitcher he now is, so that’s a problematic argument.
Moving on to other things about camp, the segment’s announcer showed some of the novel training methods being tried out this spring, starting with Giants farm team manager Shinnosuke Abe having batters do some lifting barbells on the sideline after BP.
“The essence of baseball is hitting a ball with a bat. You want to be careful about building up the wrong muscles, because they can impede your swing,” Harimoto said in what was for him an unusually well-phrased observation. “Horiuchi-san will tell you it’s the same for pitchers.”
Horiuchi agreed, but added that novel training was a kind of fun thing for coaches, and that thinking outside the box is probably a good thing, upon which the focus switched to the Seibu Lions’ camp, where players executed a standard footwork drill while solving a series of simple arithmetic problems a coach shouted at them.
“Complete waste of time that would be better spent building up their physical condition,” Harimoto said. “If they want to learn arithmetic, they should do it in the offseason.”