The Japanese Professional Baseball Players Association asked Monday if NPB could revise its player-entry procedures to account for players who begin their pro careers abroad following the abolition of its awful Tazawa Rule.
According to the Nikkan Sports, the union wants Japanese nationals who turn pro overseas to be treated in the same manner as imported players, who can negotiate to sign with a team of their choosing for whatever they can get.
NPB rules require Japanese nationals and non-citizens who finished their amateur careers in Japan to sign their first NPB contracts only after being selected in the annual new-player draft.
Even players with extensive major league experience can only enter NPP through the draft and then are subject to NPB’s salary structure. These limit first-year player salaries to15 million yen, roughly $160,000, along with a maximum signing bonus of 100 million yen ($950,000) and 50 million yen in incentives.
A Japanese national, such as Gosuke Kato, who has never lived in Japan but has played pro ball in his U.S. homeland for years, can only enter NPB on the same terms as an amateur in Japan. The was true for Mac Suzuki and more recently Junichi Tazawa. Had the draft rules been different, and had he not been banned from playing in NPB because of the Tazawa rule, Tazawa could have picked up his career this summer in NPB instead of turning to an independent minor league team.
Fighters to talk posting Arihara, Nishikawa
A pair of the Nippon Ham Fighters’ top players, ace right-hander Kohei Arihara, and centerfielder Haruki Nishikawa, reiterated their desire to move to the major leagues this winter via the posting system, Sponichi Annex reported.
Arihara’s 2020 season was in many ways the same as his 2019 second half, after he was unstoppable in the first half. He posted an 8-9 record and saw his ERA rise by a run.
Nishikawa, the ultimate Japanese slap-hitting up-the-middle defender, posted a career-high .430 on-base-percentage, largely because his .372 BABIP was near his career high and his batting average rose with it to .307.
Hawks exploit Lions rookie to gift Ishikawa
Nobuhiro Matsuda and Yuki Yanagita homered off Seibu Lions rookie Hiromasa Saito (0-1) in a three-run third inning, allowing Shuta Ishikawa (11-3) the chance to earn his 11th win as the SoftBank Hawks won 6-2 at PayPay Dome on Monday.
Matt Moore allowed a run over three innings, while Seibu starter Kona Takahashi threw two scoreless innings he needed to qualify among the league ERA leaders. Matsuda then tied it by leading off the third and Yangita put the Hawks ahead for good with his 29th home run, a two-run shot. By preserving the lead for three innings, Ishikawa tied for the league wins lead with SoftBank ace Kodai Senga and Hideaki Wakui of the Rakuten Eagles. The wins title is Wakui’s fourth and his first since 2015.
Senga and Ishikawa both won for the first time and became the first NPB pitchers to lead their league in wins after entering pro ball on non-roster developmental contracts. Senga also tied for the league-lead in strikeouts, while clinching the ERA title. Ishikawa posted the PL’s best winning percentage, .786.
Ukyo Shuto became the first Hawk to steal 50 bases in a season since 2011, the year the Hawks won the first of their six Japan Series titles during the 2010s.
Fighters end with win
Catcher Yushi Shimizu homered and drove in three runs to help the Nippon Ham Fighters erase an early deficit in a 7-4 come-from-behind season-ending win over the playoff-bound Lotte Marines at Chiba’s Zozo Marine Stadium.
The Marines, who will open the playoffs in Fukuoka on Saturday, finished second for the first time since 2007.
Active roster moves 11/9/2020
Deactivated players can be re-activated from 11/19
Things went south in a hurry for Nao Higashihama, and the Lotte Marines exploited their advantage to pick up a crucial 6-1 win over the SoftBank Hawks on Thursday at Chiba’s Zozo Marine Stadium to stay in the Pacific League playoff picture.
Higashihama (9-2) needed two big plays from Yusuke Masago. The Hawks center fielder saved two runs by making a catch against the wall in the second inning, but couldn’t quite haul in Hisanori Yasuda’s two-out fifth-inning fly to the gap in left.
The Marines came from a run down in the inning after Seiya Inoue, who was robbed by Masago in the second, got justice with a one-out broken-bat single. With first baseman Kenji Akashi holding the big Marine at first, Yudai Fujioka bounced one over his head to put two on. With two outs, a decent 0-2 fastball drifted into the heart of the zone, and the rookie Yasuda put a good swing on it, driving it to left center. Masago came up short and the ball bounced to the wall. Fujioka, who had to hesitate on the play scored on a close play at the plate.
Trailing 2-1 in the sixth, Higashihama gave up a one-out single and three two-out walks.
Manabu Mima (10-4) allowed an unearned run in the third. With two on and two outs, he gloved a liner from Yuki Yanagita but lost control of the ball. He retrieved it and threw wide to first, scoring the Hawks’ only run of the game. With the tying run at the plate in the form of slugger Alfredo Despaigne, Hirokazu Sawamura came in and struck out the big Cuban on four straight splitters. The Marines’ lucky two-run fifth snapped a 28-scoreless-inning streak since Lotte scratched him for a run in the Hawks’ 5-1 win on Oct. 10.
Eagles ride late rally
Thirty-two-year-old veteran Ginji Akaminai and rookie Hiroto Kobukata each doubled in a ninth-inning run off Taiwan right-hander Chang-Yi (2-4) as the Rakuten Eagles broke up a 2-2 tie to beat the Orix Buffaloes 4-2 at Osaka’s Kyocera Dome.
Former Padre Kazuhisa Makita (2-2) earned the win, and lefty Yuki Matsui earned his second save as he transitions back to the bullpen after spending the first half of the season transitioning to the starting rotation. Longtime starter Wataru Karashima, who spent the first half of the season in the bullpen, allowed two runs over seven innings in which he struck out 10, walked one and allowed five hits.
Ono earns Dragons an ‘A’
Sawamura Award winner in waiting Yudai Ono (11-6) struck out seven and walked one over seven innings to pitch the Chunichi Dragons to a 2-0 win over the DeNA BayStars at Nagoya Dome. The win clinched the Dragons’ first top-three “A-class” finish since 2012.
That 2012 second-place finish came under the late Morimichi Takagi in the first year after the club fired their best manager ever, Hiromitsu Ochiai, for not being fan friendly, and three years after the team’s parent company began cutting spending in the wake of the downturn in Japan’s newspaper business.
Ono leads the CL with a 1.82 ERA, 148 strikeouts, 10 complete games, six shutouts and 148-2/3 innings.
Speedy Murakami swipes 3 in 1 inning
Munetaka Murakami raised his career stolen base total to 16 with three in the second inning of the Yakult Swallows’ 8-7 loss to the Hanshin Tigers.
The steals came in his 265th career game, as he became the 17th player in Japan to manage the feat. The 20-year-old cleanup hitter singled, took second on the next pitch, stole third as part of a double steal. He stole home when the Tigers tried to pick off his teammate at second.
The feat hadn’t occurred in the CL since 1953. It last happened in Japan when Nippon Ham’s Makoto Shimada did it in 1979.
The Tigers overcame a seven-run implosion by right-hander Yuki Nishi.
Chono leads Carp, Sakamoto inches closer
Former Giant Hisayoshi Chono hit his 10th home run and set up the winning run with a 10th-inning leadoff single as the Hiroshima Carp came from behind to beat Yomiuri 5-4 at Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium.
Giants captain Hayato Sakamoto belted his 18th home run in the sixth inning. The two-run shot tied it 2-2 and moved Sakamoto within two hits of 2,000 for his career.
Government slams ‘Tazawa Rule’
Japan’s government announced Thursday that it was a day late and a dollar short. According to the Mainichi Shimbun, the fair trade commission said it suspected Nippon Professional Baseball’s Tazawa Rule was a violation of Japan’s antimonopoly act.
NPB gave up on the rule this summer, and the FTC said it has dropped its investigation. The biggest surprise is less that the FTC dropped its inquiry than the realization that Japan actually has an antimonopoly law.
The rule in question was created in 2008 in the days before Tazawa, a top amateur prospect with corporate club Japan Energy, signed with the Boston Red Sox. The rule was aimed at players who turned pro overseas, and prohibited Japanese clubs from signing them after they returned to Japan for a period of two-to-three years.
The whole thing was riddled with irony, no less because the rule was put into place about the same time that lefty reliever Tetsuya Yamaguchi was named Central League rookie of the year. Yamaguchi had turned pro in the United States, where he played rookie ball in Missoula, Montana.
The rule may have influenced high school pitchers Yusei Kikuchi and Shohei Ohtani as they chose to remain in Japan after declaring their intent to go overseas.
NPB did away with the Tazawa rule this summer when he returned to Japan and joined the Musashino Heat Bears of the independent Baseball Challenge League.
In retrospect, the rule negatively impacted Tazawa and NPB, while limiting the options of two other players who were keen on turning pro with a major league club, Yusei Kikuchi and Shohei Ohtani.
The rule prevented Tazawa from choosing to enter NPB’s 2019 draft rather than accept a camp invite with the Cincinnati Reds. It also prevented Japan from selecting him in the 2013 and 2017 World Baseball Classic.
The 2013 squad, Japan’s first not to reach the final, was prohibited from selecting Tazawa, despite both head coach Masataka Nashida and pitching coach Tsuyoshi Yoshida saying how useful his participation would have been.
By getting rid of the rule, it made Tazawa eligible to be drafted last October, but no teams even took a flyer on him–a common practice when a player has broken one of the owners’ unwritten rules. Players of known quality who leave their teams in contract disputes have historically been ignored.
Martin re-enlists with Marines
Outfielder Leonys Martin, who is currently out with an ankle sprain and is expected to miss most or all of the postseason if the Lotte Marines qualify, has agreed to a two-year extension, ESPN’s Enrique Rojas has reported.
The deal according to Rojas is worth $6 million. The 32-year-old joined Lotte just before last year’s July 31 new-signing deadline joined Lotte just before last year’s July 31 new-signing deadline. Since then, he has made a big contribution with his powerful arm and his home run pop.
Although his numbers have been remarkably consistent since he arrived, his on-base percentage has jumped in 2020 because he is leading both of Japan’s leagues in being hit by pitches with 17, in 448 plate appearances.
Active roster moves 11/5/2020
Deactivated players can be re-activated from 11/15
The SoftBank Hawks won the 21st championship in franchise history on Tuesday with a 5-1 win over their nemeses all season long, the Lotte Marines, at Fukuoka’s PayPay Dome.
Tsuyoshi Wada (8-1) struck out eight while allowing three hits and a walk over six innings. Wada, the winning pitcher in the team’s last clinching game, when they won the 2019 Japan Series, came out firing on all cylinders, pumping a fastball that usually sits at 87 mph up to 92. The lefty.
“I think we were all a little nervous today, so for Wada to come out and do what he did, it gave us all courage,” Hawks manager Kimiyasu Kudo said.
“This was a year that we didn’t even know would start, but we hung in there amid all the difficulties and uncertainty. We wanted to win so badly, but I don’t know if we could have done it without the players taking such good care of their conditioning during this very difficult year.”
Tail-end hitter Hikaru Kawase put the hosts on the board in the fifth inning against Ayumu Ishikawa (7-5). He led off with a double, was sacrificed to third and scored on Akira Nakamura’s sacrifice fly. Hawks catcher Takuya Kai made it a 3-0 game in the sixth with his 10th home run, a two-run shot that plated Kenji Akashi.
Reliever Sho Iwasaki won an epic at-bat against pinch-hitter Katsuya Kakunaka to get out of the seventh inning with two men on, and lefty Livan Moinelo worked a 1-2-3 eighth.
Closer Yuito Mori took the mound in the ninth and the Marines held his feet to the fire.
The right-hander allowed one run on Shogo Nakamura’s leadoff walk, and an error by center fielder Yuki Yanagita on Ikuhiro Kiyota’s one-out double. After a two-out walk, Mori appeared to be out of the woods on a bouncer to third, but Taisei Makihara, who entered the game for his speed and defense, fumbled the ball to load the bases.
That brought Shuhei Fukuda to the plate as the potential tying run. For years, the Hawks fourth outfielder, Fukuda moved to the Marines over the winter as a free agent. Mori finally got him on his 39th pitch of the inning.
The Hawks have now won three straight against Lotte but still trail in their season series 7-11 with one tie.
Lions ground Eagles on Mori homer
Tomoya Mori’s three-run home run off Rakuten Eagles ace Takahiro Norimoto (5-6) lifted the Seibu Lions to a 4-3 win at MetLife Dome that moved them to within two games of the Pacific League’s final playoff spot.
Mori’s ninth home run made a winner out of Kona Takahashi (8-8), who allowed three runs on four hits and three walks over seven innings. Kaima Taira and Tatsushi Masuda finished up with one scoreless apiece with Masuda earning his 30th save.
Fighters get past Buffaloes
The top two hitters in the Nippon Ham Fighters lineup, Haruki Nishikawa, who reached base five times, and Shota Hiranuma each scored twice in a 5-3 win over the Orix Buffaloes at Osaka’s Kyocera Dome.
Steven Moya tied the game 2-2 in the bottom of the first for the Buffaloes with his 10th home run, while Bryan Rodriguez threw a scoreless inning of relief as the Fighters used seven pitchers on a bullpen day.
Nishikawa, who said last winter that he’d like to move to the majors in 2021 by way of the posting system, made his second costly base running mistake in a few days.
Lopez slams Giants
Jose Lopez, who spent his first two Japanese seasons with the Yomiuri Giants, hit a grand slam off his former team for his 996th career hit in Japan as the DeNA BayStars clobbered rookie Shosei Togo (8-6) in a 9-2 win at Yokohama Stadium.
The Giants’ magic number to clinch their second straight Central League pennant dropped to three thanks to the Chunichi Dragons’ 4-1 loss to the Hanshin Tigers.
Over the weekend, Lopez achieved his 2,000th hit between the majors and NPB, and is now four hits shy of joining his former Seattle Mariners teammate Ichiro Suzuki and Hideki Matsui as the third player to achieve 1,000-plus hits in both the majors and Nippon Professional Baseball.
Lopez’s home run was his ninth, while Tyler Austin hit his 19th for the BayStars. Shinichi Onuki (10-5) allowed two runs over six innings to earn the win.
Tigers win on grab bag of mistakes
The Chunichi Dragons’ bullpen which has been, after lefty starter Yudai Ono, the team’s biggest story this season, was snake-bit in a three-run, error-filled eighth inning in a 4-1 Hanshin Tigers win at Koshien Stadium.
With two outs and none on in the eighth, first baseman Dayan Viciedo dove to make a stop, and threw to the pitcher, who took his eye off the ball, allowing a runner to reach. On the next play, Fuku threw wide to first to put two on.
Dragons rookie Kaname Takino, whose first career hit over the weekend was unexpectedly greeted by fireworks at Jingu Stadium from a nearby event, made it a trifecta for Tigers fans. He tried to make a shoestring catch on a flare off the bat of Koji Chikamoto but kicked it away. The Tigers leadoff man was credited with a two-run triple before another run scored on a smashed infield single.
Tigers closer Robert Suarez surrendered a Viciedo leadoff double in the ninth before striking out the last three batters to record his 24th save.
Hanshin left fielder Jerry Sands, who was ejected on Sunday for abusive language toward a home plate umpire and fined 100,000 yen ($950) had two hits.
Kuri stuffs Swallows
Allen Kuri (8-5) threw his fifth straight solid start, hurling 7-2/3 innings for the Hiroshima Carp in a 2-0 win over the Yakult Swallows at Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium.
Kuri struck out 10 but loaded the bases in the eighth on a single and two walks, forcing lefty Atsuya Horie to come in and strike out Swallows batting star Munetaka Murakami to preserve the two-run lead. Geronimo Franzua worked a 1-2-3 ninth for his 16th save.
Over his last five starts, Kuri has allowed three runs, two earned, over 40 innings. During that stretch, he’s walked nine but struck out 38 and allowed no home runs.
Swallows right-hander Hirotoshi Takanashi (3-6) worked seven innings and took the tough loss.
The 26-year-old is 4-4 this season with a 3.10 ERA in 11 games. He will probably will be unable to resume training for at least a month.
Former Red Sox pitcher Tazawa goes undrafted
Junichi Tazawa, the 34-year-old right-hander who made history by snubbing Nippon Professional Baseball’s draft and becoming the first marquee Japanese amateur to turn pro with a major league club, was in turn snubbed by NPB teams in Tuesday’s draft.
As a Japanese citizen, Tazawa is only eligible to sign his first NPB contract after being selected in the draft. For years, he hoped to play for Japan’s national team but was blacklisted because of NPB’s infamous Tazawa Rule, which was recently revoked.
He is currently playing for the Musashino Heat Bears of the independent Baseball Challenge League, Japan’s largest independent circuit. He was not even selected in the developmental draft, from which a team could sign him to a non-roster contract with a 240,000-yen minimum salary (roughly $2,200).
There was some speculation that he was passed over because teams don’t wish to deal with players who are represented by agents.
The Tazawa rule is headed toward its rightful place in history, the dustbin, Nippon Professional Baseball’s executive committee decided Monday.
The rule was an awkward spiteful attempt to prevent Junichi Tazawa, a top corporate league star in 2008, from snubbing NPB and going to play in the majors. Instead, it only served to make NPB look petty and spiteful, and weaken Japan’s team for the World Baseball Classic, by blacklisting him.
The rule, enacted in 2008, prohibited the 12 teams from signing players who chose to play overseas before submitting themselves to the NPB amateur draft for a period of three years–for those leaving right after high school–or two years for those who left later.
It was a hasty last-ditch effort to keep Junichi Tazawa from signing with the Boston Red Sox and was only agreed upon in the days leading up to him completing his deal.
Now 34, Tazawa returned to Japan this summer and is currently playing for the Musashi Heat Bears in independent ball–which would have been the case regardless of the rule since he is a Japanese citizen and can only sign with an NPB team after being selected in its autumn draft.
If the rule were to remain in place, he would not be available until the 2021 draft.
“I think it’s unfortunate they made that rule, and that it may have influenced others,” Tazawa said in September 2019 when he was with the Los Angeles Angels. “The Red Sox laid out a plan for my development and that encouraged me to think that was the best thing for me at the time to go over there and see how far I could push myself.”
“The Red Sox did a lot for me, and I am grateful to them for that. I suspect that going forward there will be more guys who want to try and make it straight out of the high school or something like that. Whether the rule will keep them from doing it, I don’t know.”
Two current major leaguers, Yusei Kikuchi of the Seattle Mariners and Shohei Ohtani of the Angels, were prepared to ignore the Tazawa rule and sign with big league clubs straight out of high school but were convinced to stay in Japan after they were drafted.
A few weeks before Tazawa spoke, corporate league pitcher Shumpei Yoshikawa abruptly quit his team to sign with the Arizona Diamondbacks.
“His decision is his decision,” Tazawa said. “In my case, had I failed, my company (Enos) had my back and said I could return, and that I could regain my amateur status after six months, so it wasn’t a huge leap.”
Yoshinobu Yamamoto (3-0) struck out a career-high 13 after getting an early lead and some big plays behind him and needed it all to outlast rookie southpaw Ryusei Kawano (0-2) in the Orix Buffaloes’ 2-1 win over the Nippon Ham Fighters.
Making less use of his cutter than usual but with that same electric rise in his fastball and a good splitter and generally good location, Yamamoto needed little help from his fielders through the first five innings at Osaka’s Kyocera Dome.
The Buffaloes had two early chances to score off Kawano, the Fighters’ top draft pick last autumn. After two one-out walks in the first, Adam Jones hit a hard grounder to short for an easy double play.
Some good hitting by Takahiro Okada produced a leadoff single in the second, but after Aderlin Rodriguez struck out and third baseman Christian Villanueva snared a hard liner for the second out, things were not looking up. Reserve infielder Tatsuya Yamaashi, rewarded with a start after coming off the bench on Saturday and singling to lead off Orix’s winning rally, put a good swing on a Kawano changeup and drove it to center for an RBI double.
Buffaloes shortstop Ryoichi Adachi then lined a hanging curve to center to make it 2-0. There wasn’t a lot left in the inning, but Adachi made sure that would be it by wandering off first base and getting tagged out 1-3-4.
Adachi is one of those players who has always had outstanding tools, especially on defense, but who has been dogged by inconsistent play. He has missed time with a serious illness, but he’s also established a reputation as a player whose concentration wanders.
But with the exception of his TOOTBLAN in the second, he had a huge game with three hits and three defensive gems at short that secured the victory. Those became necessary when Kawano hung in and worked more aggressively than he had in his previous starts.
In the sixth, however, it became clear this game was going to be tougher than it appeared as Yamamoto seemed unable to produce the same spin he had earlier and more of his pitches were getting hit hard.
It started with Shingo Usami’s one-out single on a 3-2 fastball that Yamamoto left up. Usami rifled it into center, although Yamamoto waved at it as it whistled over his head. Yamamoto’s next pitch also might have done him bodily harm, but he got his glove on it. Kazunari Ishii’s liner spilled out, but Yamamoto was still able to get a force at second.
After a stolen base, Haruki Nishikawa’s flare to shallow right fell in for an RBI single. The Fighters might have scored again in the seventh, but Adachi and Yamamoto didn’t give them the chance.
Adachi backhanded a grounder deep in the hole to nail the leadoff man. He then ranged to his left and fired across his body for the second out, and Yamamoto dispatched the final batter with a strikeout.
Villanueva, who added another web gem in the fifth inning, led off the Fighters’ eighth with a single. Fighters manager Hideki Kuriyama, who used to order more sacrifices than anyone in Japan, slipped back into his old habits and played for a tie on the road. He sent a pinch-hitter up to sacrifice, but Kenshi Sugiya popped his bunt to catcher Kenya Wakatsuki, who caught Takuya Nakashima off first for a double play.
Adachi then finished off the inning when Usami grounded up the middle. Going to his left, Adachi spun and threw in the air to nail the runner for the final out.
Yamamoto allowed four singles but no walks in a 119-pitch effort that was the PL’s first complete-game victory of the season.
Kawano lasted 7-1/3 innings but was fortunate to hold the Buffaloes to two runs after giving up eight hits and three walks. He left after loading the bases for Jones. But when the game was primed to slip out of control, right-hander Kazutomo Iguchi did a superb job. A two-pitch pitcher, Iguchi popped up Jones on the second splitter he threw him, and punched out Okada who watched two-straight fastballs on the outside corner.
Hawks’ Ishikawa mows down Eagles
Right-hander Shuta Ishikawa (2-0) struck out nine of the first 10 batters he faced and didn’t allow a base runner until the fifth inning for the SoftBank Hawks in their 6-1 win over the Rakuten Eagles at Fukuoka’s PayPay Dome.
Ishikawa allowed a run on two hits without walking a batter. With a 3-0 fifth-inning lead, he gave up a leadoff single to Hideto Asamura and an RBI double to Stefen Romero.
Eagles starter Ryota Ishibashi (1-3) struck out nine over six innings. The right-hander surrendered six runs on eight hits and a walk. After retiring the first two batters in the first inning, Yuki Yanagita took him deep to the home run terrace in left for an opposite-field home run and his eighth homer of the season.
Kenji Akashi went 3-for-4 and scored twice, while Takuya Kai had a two-run sixth-inning single and a second-inning sacrifice fly that made it 2-0.
Lions’ Kuriyama rocks Marines again
Takumi Kuriyama went 2-for-2 with an RBI double, a three-run homer and two walks for the Seibu Lions in their 8-5 win over the Lotte Marines at Chiba’s Zozo Marine Stadium.
Kuriyama doubled in the opening run in the second inning for Seibu off Jose Flores (0-1), who was making his first-team debut.
After the Marines scored twice in the second against submarine right-hander Kaito Yoza, Shuta Tonosaki doubled in two runs to retake the lead and scored on Kuriyama’s third home run of the season and second of the series.
Flores, who retired the Lions in order in the first, allowed six runs on seven hits and two walks over three innings. He struck out five. Yoza allowed four runs in 4-2/3 innings, and last year’s bullpen workhorse, Katsunori Hirai (2-0) earned the win in relief for 1-1/3 perfect innings.
Kaima Taira, new import Reed Garrett and closer Tatsushi Masuda wrapped it up. Cory Spangenberg went 2-for-4 for the Lions with his third home run, a two-run shot.
The Marines’ Brandon Laird went 2-for-5 and drove in two runs, on a fifth-inning double and a ninth-inning single.
Swallows luck into 1st place
The Yakult Swallows moved into first place in the Central League with a 3-2 win over the Yomiuri Giants made possible when Gerardo Parra’s unfamiliarity with Japan’s rules turned a run-scoring groundout into an inning-ending double play.
Double play, doo, doo, doo, doo, doo, doo
Trailing 3-2 in the sixth with one out and runners on the corners, Ginjiro Sumitani grounded to short. Alcides Escobar threw to second baseman Tetsuto Yamada for the force on Parra at second.
Parra slid to the bag and upended Yamada and tipped him over when he rose out of his slide. Yamada, who had virtually no chance of throwing out Sumitani at first was knocked over as the run scored.
Swallows manager Shingo Takatsu requested a video review of Parra’s slide to determine whether it was legal or not. The result of the review was an inning-ending double play.
“When the batter hits a possible double play ball, runners who appear to intentionally interfere with a fielder trying to make a throw by the manner in which they slide will be ruled out as will the batter.”
–Official Baseball Rules 6.01
Former second baseman Yutaka Takagi, speaking as an analyst on Fuji TV’s “Pro Yakyu News” said, “Parra went straight to the bag. Maybe he over-slid a little. What sold that (umpire’s) decision was Yamada’s performance. That’s an awfully difficult double play to make but by tumbling he get’s a double play. That’s a good defensive play.”
Swallows starter Hirotoshi Takanashi (1-1) earned the win after allowing two runs over five innings. He got a huge out in the third, when he caught one of Japan’s most disciplined hitters, Yoshihiro Maru looking at a called third strike with two on and two out to protect a 2-0 lead.
Munetaka Murakami doubled in Norichika Aoki in the first off Giants starter Toshiki Sakurai. Aoki homered for the second-straight day to make it 2-0 in the third.
After Hiroyuki Nakajima homered to trim the Swallows’ lead to a run in the fourth, Takanashi singled for the second time and scored on a Murakami single.
Oyama, Iwasada lead Tigers past BayStars
Cleanup hitter Yusuke Oyama went 3-for-4 and drove in two runs, while starter Yuta Iwasada (2-1) worked eight scoreless innings in a 2-1 win over the DeNA BayStars at Koshien Stadium.
Iwasada struck out eight and walked two, while allowing three hits. BayStars starter Kentaro Taira (2-1) allowed a run over six innings on one walk and six hits. He struck out six.
Edwin Escobar worked a scoreless seventh for the BayStars but Spencer Patton surrendered an insurance run on two hits and a walk in the eighth.
The Tigers, who had deactivated closer Kyuji Fujikawa earlier in the day, turned to Robert Suarez, who had last saved a game in 2016 when he was with the Pacific League’s SoftBank Hawks.
A walk and an RBI single by Jose Lopez made it a one-run game again, but Suarez retired former batting champ Toshiro Miyazaki on a fly to center to end it.
Endo fans 9 as Carp hammer Dragons
Right-hander Atsushi Endo struck out nine while allowing a run over six innings as the Hiroshima Carp beat the Chunichi Dragons 7-2 at Nagoya Dome.
The 21-year-old Endo (1-2) walked two and gave up five hits after allowing 16 runs over 13 innings in his first three starts. The Dragons’ starter, 23-year-old Kodai Umetsu (2-2) allowed four runs over six innings.
Jose Pirela, who opened Saturday’s game with a home run for Hiroshima, singled and scored in the first and third, and walked and scored in the seventh. Carp right fielder Seiya Suzuki went 2-for-4 with a double a run and three RBIs.
Tigers deactivate Fujikawa
The Hanshin Tigers deactivated 39-year-old right-hander Kyuji Fujikawa on Sunday, a day after the closer saying his right arm is not fit. On Saturday, the former Cub and Ranger surrendered three ninth-inning runs in a 4-2 loss to the DeNA BayStars.
“I’v been asked to hold down an important role, and in my current condition cannot contribute to the team,” he said in a statement released by the team.
Meanwhile, the Yakult Swallows have deactivated veteran catcher Motohiro Shima due to a fracture of the navicular bone in his right foot. The longtime captain of the Pacific League’s Rakuten Eagles, Shima moved to the Swallows over the winter.
Shima suffered a broken bone in his right hand in March when he was hit by a pitch.
Matsuzaka has back surgery
Daisuke Matsuzaka has undergone arthroscopic surgery on his back and was discharged from an Ibaraki Prefecture hospital on Sunday the Nikkan Sports reported. The 39-year-old two-time World Baseball Classic MVP this season rejoined his first pro club, the Seibu Lions of Japan’s Pacific League, for the first time in 14 years.
He started the season on the Lions’ Eastern League farm club, and as his innings and pitch counts increased, he began to feel numbness in his right hand and the decision was made to have surgery. He is expected to be out two to three months, and is aiming toward returning to action this season.
Tazawa signs with independent club
Right-hander Junichi Tazawa has joined the Musashino Heat Bears of the independent Baseball Challenge league, the Hochi Shimbun reported Sunday. Nippon Professional Baseball’s 12 teams have reached an ungentlemanly agreement to not sign Tazawa for a period of two years after he leaves the U.S. because he declined to enter NPB’s draft and instead chose to sign with the Boston Red Sox.
The “Tazawa Rule” is not in fact a rule but an agreement, and nothing prevents teams from ignoring it. It was quickly written after Tazawa indicated he would sign overseas and just days before he finalized his deal with the Red Sox. Because Japan’s national team, Samurai Japan, is organized not by Japan’s national federation but by NPB, Tazawa has been blacklisted from playing for his country because he exercised his right to work where he chose.
Tazawa entered this season on a minor league deal with the Cincinnati Reds, but was released in March.
Carter Stewart hasn’t thrown a baseball in anger as a member of the SoftBank Hawks, but his arrival in Japan, as the first big-name American amateur to turn pro with a Japanese team, could cause a ripple effect through baseball’s labor markets. It could mean an end to the posting system or more money for U.S. amateurs from MLB.
Say it again: “This is MLB’s fault”
Although the Hawks signing Stewart is news, it is not a new story. His signing is made possible by MLB and its union conspiring to deprive amateur players of the right to fair value for their service, and MLB’s choice to further clamp down on the below-subsistence wages paid to minor league players.
Without those two factors, no Japanese club is going to spend what it would be worth to lure a top amateur to NPB, at least not as long as the economic structure in NPB continues without significant change.
But with MLB’s draft signing pool bonuses, draft slot values, and the criminal level of pay in the minor leagues, Japanese teams can now pay the best American amateurs less than they’re worth but vastly more than MLB clubs can.
Sure, there’s a limit on having four players on each team’s active roster in Japan, but NPB clubs could theoretically have up to 52 foreign players under contract, not including those on developmental contracts, who don’t count against each organization’s 70-man official roster.
Japan was in a similar bind 25 years ago
A quarter of a century ago, Nippon Professional Baseball’s owners were bullied into allowing the Yomiuri Giants sign their big name veteran stars by agreeing to the introduction of free agency after the 1993 season.
What was intended as a way for the country’s biggest-name franchise to enrich itself at the expense of its business partners became something else altogether within two years. The free agent system was predicated on owners’ belief that competition in the majors was too hard for Japanese players.
Unfortunately, for the NPB owners, that belief was proved wrong in the most dramatic fashion by pitcher Hideo Nomo.
Jean Afterman, then working with Nomo’s agent Don Nomura, found the loophole needed to punish NPB for its arrogance. Because NPB rules considered Japanese players to be inferior and incapable of playing in the majors, they were permitted to play abroad after retiring in Japan.
So Nomo “retired” and became Japan’s first free agent import to the major leagues. Although NPB closed that loophole within a few years, the free agent route that was meant to enrich the Yomiuri Giants with Japan’s top talent, soon became a highway for Japanese stars to leave for the major leagues.
This could be something big — or not
The question then is whether this type of deal will become a supply line for Japanese baseball to upgrade its talent base at the expense of MLB.
In order for that to happen, Japanese teams will need to handle the players and develop them in a sustainable relationship with MLB so the international rules don’t change at the whim of MLB and its union.
The Japanese side of the equation
The SoftBank Hawks were perfectly placed for this kind of venture. They have the money, the infrastructure, the patience, and the will. Since SoftBank’s founder Masayoshi Son took over the club in 2005, he has aspired to field the world’s best baseball team and has frequently pestered his staff to sign the biggest names available.
Son has repeatedly challenge major league owners to an international championship series between the NPB and MLB champs, something that will happen the second MLB owners think it’s profitable.
The Hawks have invested heavily in development and in their medical side. While other clubs expect first-year pros to make an immediate impact, Hawks newcomers have to slog their way through an impressive logjam of minor league talent to even get a shot at the top.
The Hawks are an exception, but with the will, a few other teams, the PL’s Rakuten Eagles and the CL’s Giants, Hiroshima Carp and DeNA BayStars could join them in a true money ball campaign — exploiting the sizeable gap between what MLB requires amateurs be paid and what they are worth to Japanese teams. In 2023, when the Nippon Ham Fighters open their new stadium outside Sapporo and begin generating huge amounts of revenue, they could become players as well.
The Carp probably won’t go down this road, although they are well situated to expand into MLB’s Dominican Republic player pool because of their academy in that country. Hiroshima is focused on recycling talented players who fail in their first shot with big league clubs but are not willing to see their baseball dreams die.
But for now, it’s just the Hawks.
The MLB side of the equation
The market solution on the MLB side is to increase the amount of the signing bonus pools and draft slot allocations so that those amounts at least equal the value of those players to NPB teams — eliminating the demand for those players by raising the prices.
But that’s not what MLB does, and doing so would require negotiations with its union to alter the details of the CBA.
The posting system, however, is not included in the CBA. Though the agreement must conform to the CBA and the union must sign off on it — as it did in December 2017. But because either MLB or NPB can back out of the deal with a few months notice, it’s an easy way for either side to fire a shot across the bow.
With the union’s cooperation, MLB could also take more drastic measures, such as instituting its own “Tazawa Rule” — named for Junichi Tazawa, because it effectively banned him from playing in NPB because he turned pro with the Boston Red Sox rather than submit to NPB’s draft. MLB could banish players who turn pro in Japan, but that seems like too drastic of a solution, and the Tazawa Rule hasn’t prevented Japanese from following his path.
The posting system
Ironically, punishing the Hawks by eliminating the posting system might be part of SoftBank’s grand plan, since the club has never used it and is opposed to its existence. That being said, the Hawks can use the posting process as part of their plan with Stewart.
If the deal is for six years, from June 2019 to June 2025, Stewart will qualify as an international free agent under current rules on Nov. 3, 2024, exactly when the posting period begins. If Stewart develops and has value, he will have options. SoftBank being SoftBank, they’d prefer Stewart to stay in Japan and sign an extension, but without an extension, Carter would be able to move to the States as a free agent when his contract expires.
Using the posting system prior to the 2025 season would allow the Hawks to recoup all the costs incurred with signing and training Stewart and essentially get paid to benefit from all his contributions. It’s also the reason why other clubs might jump on this train. They could make a profit signing and posting American amateurs, and eliminating the posting system would put a damper on that part of the business.
Still, the Hawks would be happy to see the posting system gone, because if it remains in place and Stewart has that option, SoftBank will have a hard time denying the requests of its Japanese stars, read Kodai Senga, who want to leave early.
But sooner or later, the Hawks are going to have to fall in line and post players if the system remains in place. That’s because at some point they’ll want to sign a player who will only work for a club that promises an early exit to the majors, read Roki Sasaki.null
Shohei Ohtani is one reason why MLB would like to weaken the posting system and raise the age of international free agency. If Japan’s best amateurs think it’s easier to get to the majors through free agency by going through NPB and the posting system, it will be even harder for MLB to sign kids like Roki Sasaki, which is the big league’s ultimate wet dream.
Being major league baseball, they think no one can teach professionals the way they can be prepared through in the minor leagues with all the soul-sapping crappy treatment that entails. But the real reason is the control that comes with signing amateurs. MLB is all about control, if it weren’t we wouldn’t see blatant service time manipulation.
If Japanese teams could take the best high school stars and promise to post them at the age of 23 so they could be international free agents, everyone would benefit, the NPB teams, the players, MLB. The only thing it would cost the MLB teams is control, and they put an awfully high value on that.
The problem is that by worrying so much about control, MLB guys lose sight of one fact, that Japan is a great place to learn how to play baseball.
The advantage of a Japanese education
There are things players won’t see in Japan, like a lot of 100 mile-per-hour fastballs, but other than that, you name it and Japanese baseball has it.
When a player ventures out of the minors and into Central and Pacific league, he faces some incredible pitchers, guys who can locate their fastball and then use NPB’s stickier baseball to throw some of the wickedest breaking balls in the world. Because the talent depth is thinner, there are pitchers who lack command and control, too, guys who throw more fat pitches that can be exploited.
“A lot can be gained from playing here. Playing in Japan is a great way to develop a hitter. Look what happened with Shohei Ohtani. He’s an elite hitter and an elite pitcher. That couldn’t have happened in the States.”
Former Detroit Tigers and San Diego Padres GM Randy Smith
For a pitcher, there is less pressure from lineups where every batter is trying to take you deep, but those batters are there along with guys who can foul off one good pitch after another, and are really, really hard to strike out.
Players also get used to playing in pressure situations in meaningful games in front of large crowds. If minor league baseball are less meaningful because one goal of every player is to get promoted, NPB games are more meaningful because they are all about winning, and there is value in that.
The other side is the fanatical amount of discipline and practice, which can be a good thing if a player embraces it. Another advantage is a good diet, a place to live in the team dormitory, a healthy diet and easy access to training facilities.
What this means for Carter Stewart
It means an opportunity to learn more about pitching than he would ever learn in the United States. If there is a weakness in the Japanese system, it is that so many talented pitchers never survive the nation’s old-school youth baseball traditions.
Some NPB training methods are obsolete, and most pro coaches tend to teach players to follow established models rather than find what works best for them as individuals. In that, however, there are messages worth learning if one can handle the often authoritarian way in which those messages are delivered. If Stewart can handle that, remain humble, remember that he is coming to learn and improve, he will excel to the degree he is physically and mentally able to handle.
Simply by reaching out to Stewart, the Hawks have instantly changed the way MLB views Japan since this is something it considered impossible. If Stewart succeeds and comes out of this as a world-class player, that will be a further shock to MLB owners who have shown little but disdain for Japanese baseball.