MLB’s Japanese Dream Team (Part 4: The Bullpen)

(Those of you looking for the other components of this Dream Team can look here, over here and here.

 Closer: Koji Uehara

 Japanese Team: Yomiuri Giants (1999-2008)

  MLB Teams: Baltimore Orioles (2009-11) Texas Rangers (2011-12) Boston Red Sox (2013-Present)

  Originally a starting pitcher, Uehara was a former Rookie of the Year, a two-time Japanese champion and a two-time Eiji Sawamura (Japanese Cy Young Award) winner with the mighty Yomiuri Giants. The Giants, a team with an aversion to letting their players go to the U.S., made Uehara wait until he was a free agent to sign a two-year deal with the Orioles. He started 2009 in the O’s rotation, starting 12 games and posting a respectable 4.05 ERA, before being shut down.

In 2010, he was used exclusively as a setup man or closer for some reason. I have the feeling that the Orioles weren’t regretting their decision too much, however, as he had a 2.86 ERA in 2010, and a 1.72 ERA in the half of 2011 that he spent with Baltimore (He was traded to Texas for Chris Davis and Tommy Hunter). While he was excellent with Baltimore and Texas, he will likely be best remembered as the 2013 World Champion Boston Red Sox (I still seethe angrily whenever I read or hear that) closer, after Joel Hanrahan and Andrew Bailey didn’t pan out. A beloved figure in Boston, he signed up for another year with the Red Sox and will be their closer next year.

  Right-handed Setup man: Akinori Otsuka

  Japanese Teams: Kintetsu Buffaloes (1997-2002) Chunichi Dragons (2003) Shinano Grandserows (Independent, 2013-Present)

  American Teams: San Diego Padres (2004-05) Texas Rangers (2006-07)

  A star closer in Japan, Otsuka was posted by the Chunichi Dragons prior to the 2004 season, and he was picked up by the San Diego Padres. As the Padres’ setup man, he posted a fantastic 1.75 ERA in ’04, and was pretty solid the next year, as well.

Before the 2006 season, Otsuka was traded to the Texas Rangers for Adrian Gonzalez, Chris Young and Terrmel Sledge. He replaced Francisco Cordero as the Rangers closer, and had an excellent season, with a 220 ERA+ (See? I can do newfangled stats too!) and 32 saves. The next season, the Rangers, oddly enough, replaced Otsuka with Eric Gagne. This proved to be short-lived, as Gagne was traded to the Red Sox (Where he imploded) and Otsuka took the reins again, but, unfortunately, he got injured and never played another game in the big leagues.

Oh, look! A penny!

Left-Handed Setup Man: Hideki Okajima 

 Japanese Teams: Yomiuri Giants (1994-2005) Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters (2006) Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks (2012)

 MLB Teams: Boston Red Sox (2007-11) Oakland Athletics (2013)

  A four-time Japan Series winner, Okajima was signed by the Boston Red Sox for pretty much the sole purpose of being a friend to big-time signing Daisuke Matsuzaka. His career didn’t get off to that great of a start. He gave up a home run to John Buck on his very first pitch. However, he righted the ship and went on a scoreless streak that lasted almost two months, and got elected to the All=Star Game. He struggled later in the year and was shut down for a bit, but he returned at the end of the season and helped the Red Sox win the World Series. He had a couple more fine seasons with Boston before fading out in 2011. After returning to pitch in Japan for a year, he had a little-publicized five-game stint with the A’s and is currently a free agent.

 Relief Pitcher: Takashi Saito

 Japanese Teams: Yokohama BayStars (1992-2005) Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles (2013-Present)

  MLB Teams: Los Angeles Dodgers (2006-08) Boston Red Sox (2009) Atlanta Braves (2010) Milwaukee Brewers (2011) Arizona Diamondbacks (2012)

 A decent, if unspectacular pitcher in Japan, Saito was a pleasant surprise for Dodger fans, claiming the closer role vacated by Eric Gagne and striking out 107 hitter, phenomenal for a relief pitcher. He returned the next year and only had 74 strikeouts, but he also recorded a 1.40 ERA, which should have gotten him at least mildly considered for a Cy Young Award. He had several more excellent years with different teams, before pitching atrociously for the D-Backs and returning to Japan.

Sasaki’s the one on the left, by the way, although it’s a little known fact that Pikachu did in fact,  have a long and prosperous career with the Seattle Mariners.

 Relief Pitcher: Kazuhiro Sasaki

 Japanese Team: Yokohama BayStars (1990-99, 2004-05)

 American Team: Seattle Mariners (2000-03)

   He may not have left the Mariners on the best terms, but Sasaki nonetheless was probably one of the bigger Japanese stars in the game during his short tenure with the M’s. Winning the American League Rookie of the Year Award in 2000, Sasaki took the closers’ job from Jose Mesa and ran with it, racking up 129 saves and two All-Star appearances over his four years with the club. after a poor 2003 season, he returned to Japan to return to his family…. And his mistress. (Fact: The only player on this team elected into the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame…Although that’s very likely to change.)

    Relief Pitcher: Junichi Tazawa

Japanese Team: Nippon Oil (Industrial, Service time unknown)

MLB Team: Boston Red Sox (2009, 2011-Present)

  Interestingly enough, Junichi Tazawa is the only pitcher on this team that has never thrown a pitch in Nippon Professional Baseball.  Undrafted by any Japanese team out of high school, he signed with petroleum company Nippon Oil’s amateur team (In Japan, if a player doesn’t sign with a Japanese team after high school ball (Which, incidentally, is a HUGE deal in Japan), he can either sign directly with a big league team (In which case, he would be ostracized by the traditionalist elements in the NPB, of which there are many), sign with an independent team, or sign with an industrial team, which are teams that are backed by some of Japan’s many big corporations (Yamaha, Toshiba and Central Japan Railway have teams, among others). After a certain amount of years pitching in the Industrial League, a player becomes, once again, eligible for the draft.). He was not drafted by a Japanese team, but he was signed by the Red Sox, and fought through some injury problems to secure a place as the Red Sox setup man. He was a minor, but nonetheless important part of the 2013 World Championship.

 Relief Pitcher: Masanori Murakami

 Japanese Teams: Nankai Hawks (1963, 1966-74) Hanshin Tigers (1975) Nippon-Ham Fighters (1976-82)

  MLB Team: San Francisco Giants (1964-65)

  It seems fitting to end this list with the guy who started it all. Masanori Murakami came to the San Francisco Giants with two other Japanese players from the Nankai Hawks as a sort of exchange program. Of the three, Murakami stood out, playing exceptionally well in the Minor Leagues. The Hawks never asked for him back, so the Giants said “screw it” and called him up, making him the first ever Japanese player to play for a Major League team. He played wonderfully in his cup of coffee, and the Hawks must have taken notice, so they demanded the Giants send him back. the two teams agreed to let Murakami play one more season in the Bay Area. He was perfectly non-spectacular in 1965, and returned to Japan, where he had a fine career.

The End (Finally!!!) 

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MLB’s Japanese Dream Team (Part 3: The Bench)

(This is a continuation of parts 1 and 2)

 Utility Infielder: Norihiro Nakamura

 Positions: Third Base, First Base, Shortstop, second Base

 Japanese Teams: Osaka Kintetsu Buffaloes (1992-2004) Orix Buffaloes (2006) Chunichi Dragons (2007-08) Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles (2009-10) Yokohama DeNa Baystars (2011-Present)

  MLB Team: Los Angeles Dodgers (2005)

  A highly touted player with considerable power, having had a couple of 40+ homer seasons in the NPB, Nakamura walked away from a guaranteed $10 million two-year contract in Japan to sign a minor league contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers, with a spring training invitation. The Dodgers, who had lost previous third baseman Adrian Beltre to the Seattle Mariners, the Dodgers were eager to see how their new addition would perform in the Majors. Nakamura lasted exactly 17 games in the Big Leagues before he was sent back to AAA (Where he actually played pretty well) and released at the end of the season. Nakamura commented that  “If Ichiro had started his career under minor [league] contract like [him], he couldn’t be called up to Major League”, which may be true, but Ichiro also didn’t hit .128 when he did get the chance to play.

  Utility Infielder: Tsuyoshi Nishioka

  Japanese Teams: Chiba Lotte Marines (2003-2010) Hanshin Tigers (2013-Present)

  MLB Team: Minnesota Twins (2011-12)

  Positions: Shortstop, Second Base

  An All-Star and Gold Glove Award winner with the Chiba Lotte Marines, Nishioka was posted by the Marines and signed by the Twins to a three-year contract in 2010. (Fact: I saw his Twins debut. Minnesota got slaughtered by the Blue Jays) Unfortunately, just one week into his Major League career, Nishioka broke his left fibula (Leg? Is that a leg thing?) and missed 59 games. He was atrocious upon his return, batting .226 with a .527 OPS, while also playing terrible defense.

Nishioka played only three games with the Twins in 2011, spending most of the season with the AAA Rochester Red Wings. At the end of the season, Nishioka requested and was granted his release from the Twins, returning to Japan to play for the Hanshin Tigers.

 Utility Outfielder: Tsuyoshi Shinjo

  Position: All outfield positions

  Japanese Teams: Hanshin Tigers (1991-2000) Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters (2004-06)

  MLB Teams: New York Mets (2001, 2003) San Francisco Giants (2002)

  A, energetic, flamboyant player, Shinjo only played three seasons with the Giants and the Mets, but he  did become the first Japanese player to play in a World Series, in 2002 with the Giants. Not too shabby for a guy whose manager in Japan tried to convert him into a starting pitcher because he was perceived to be so worthless as an outfielder.

 

Utility Outfielder: Norichika Aoki

 Position: Corner Outfielder

 Japanese Team: Tokyo Yakult Swallows (2004-11)

  MLB Team: Milwaukee Brewers (2012-13)

  A former Rookie of the Year and batting champion with the Tokyo Swallows, Norichika Aoki first started catching American eyes in the 2009 World Baseball Classic, hitting .324 for Samurai Japan, helping Japan win the Championship,  and being named to the All-Tournament team. Posted by the Swallows prior to the 2012 season, Aoki was claimed by the Brewers and quickly became a solid, if not great, player for the Brewers, getting on base enough for players like a juiced-up Ryan Braun to drive him in. This offseason, Aoki was traded to the Kansas City Royals for pitcher Will Smith.

To be continued…..Again……

MLB’s Japanese Dream Team (Part 2: The Starting Rotation)

(This is a continuation of this post)

1. Yu Darvish

 Japanese team: Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters (2005-2011)

  MLB team: Texas Rangers (2012-Present)

   Scouted by the Angels and the Braves as early as high school, this Japanese-Iranian righty decided instead to sign with the hilariously named Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters. Darvish spent the next seven seasons putting up some of the best numbers that Nippon Professional Baseball had ever seen, going 93-38, with a 1.99 ERA, a couple MVP awards, an Eiji Sawamura Award (The Japanese equivalent of the Cy Young Award), two Gold Glove Awards, and five All-Star nods. That and his performance in the 2009 World Baseball Classic (In which he got the last out of the tournament in the championship game against South Korea) started making fans and big league teams in North America salivate.

After a long bidding war, the Texas Rangers beat out the Toronto Blue Jays (Goddammit!) for Darvish’s services. He signed a six-year, $60 million dollar contract. I believe Clayton Kershaw referred to that sum as: “adorable.”

Anyway, his first season in America wasn’t quite Clayton Kershaw-like, but he was still very good, posting a 3.90 Earned Run Average and striking out 221 hitters. He finished in the top 10 of both the Rookie of the Year race (Behind Mike Trout and Yoenis Cespedes) and the Cy Young  race (In which David Price won). In 2013, however, he really pitched at or near his full potential, nearly throwing a perfect game on Opening Day (Granted, it was against the Astros, but still…) and finishing second in the Cy Young Award Race, ahead of countryman Hisashi Iwakuma, but behind the Tigers ace, Max Scherzer.

2. Hiroki Kuroda

  Japanese Team: Hiroshima Toyo Carp (1997-2007)

  MLB Teams: Los Angeles Dodgers (2008-2011) New York Yankees (2012-2013)

  The relentlessly good 38-year old from Osaka, Hiroki Kuroda has, over the last five years, become not only one of the best pitchers to ever cross the Pacific, but one of the most consistent players in baseball today.

  Kuroda was a mediocre-to-bad pitcher for his first few years with the Hiroshima Carp (Carps?), posting 6.00+ ERA’s in ’98 and ’99. He righted the ship at the turn of the century, however, and went on to post a 3.69 ERA in the NPB. Signing with the Dodgers in 2007, he pitched four rather under-the-radar seasons with the Dodgers that were nonetheless very good, even contributing a 2011 season that could have been a top-ten Cy Young Award contender if his 13-16 record didn’t look so bad in the eyes of people who still think that wins and losses are worth a damn. Leaving the Dodgers after the 2011 season, Kuroda signed with the Yankees, and has been re-signed two more times to one-year deals. He might’ve been in the mix for the AL Cy Young Award in 2013 if he hadn’t faded in August and September, as the Yankees missed the playoffs.

  3. Hisashi Iwakuma 

  Japanese Teams: Osaka Kintetsu Buffaloes (2000-04) Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles (2005-11)

  MLB Team: Seattle Mariners (2012-Present)

  Poor Hisashi Iwakuma. Not only is he not the first player that leaps to mind when you think of Japanese aces (That’d be Yu Darvish, obviously), he isn’t even the most well-known pitcher on the Mariners!

That said, maybe living under Felix Hernandez’s shadow has helped Iwakuma excel, performing exceptionally well in both his seasons with the Mariners so far.

An elite pitcher in Japan and the 2009 World Baseball Classic along with future big leaguer Yu Darvish and future train wreck Daisuke Matsuzaka, Iwakuma was posted by the Golden Eagles, with the Oakland Athletics winning the bidding. However the two sides did not agree to a deal, and Iwakuma  played in Japan for one more year before signing with the Seattle Mariners.

(Fact: The A’s are 1 for 6 when it comes to Japanese players.  Their only success was the short stint that Hideki Okajima had at the end of 2013. Relief pitcher Keiichi Yabu pitched poorly for them in 2005, Akinori Iwamura hit .129 in 10 games with them in 2010, Hideki Matsui was very bad for them in 2011, they failed to sign Iwakuma, and, most recently, they signed charismatic star shortstop Hiroyuki Nakajima to a two-year deal prior to the 2013 season only to have him display poor form in Spring Training (During which he lost the starting job to Jed Lowrie), started the season in AAA, hit for a .698 OPS (Bad) for the Sacramento River Cats, and get outrighted to the minors)

  4. Hideo “The Tornado” Nomo 

  Japanese Team: Kintetsu Buffaloes

  MLB Teams: Los Angeles Dodgers (1995-98, 2002-04) New York Mets (1998) Milwaukee Brewers (1999) Detroit Tigers (2000) B0ston Red Sox (2001) Tampa Bay Devil Rays (2005) Kansas City Royals (2008)

  This is him, folks. The man who really got the ball rolling  when it comes to Asian baseball players. Nicknamed “The Tornado” because of his bizarre mechanics, Nomo pitched great for the Kintetsu Buffaloes, but got into a contract dispute with them. To get off the team and break into a career in America, he exploited a loophole in his contract with the Buffaloes and was signed by the Dodgers in February of 1995.

After a month spent pitching in the minors thanks to the strike, Nomo made his debut and took the nation by storm, becoming a minor celebrity in the States, and a hero in Japan. His best season was his first one, when he posted a 2.54 ERA (Which is excellent) and won the Rookie of the Year Award. He had a couple more fine seasons (In 1996, he became the last Dodger to throw a no-hitter) with the Dodgers before imploding and bouncing from team to team over the next few years. In 2001, he finally put together an OK season with the Boston Red Sox (In which he threw a no-hitter on his first start of the season), which convinced the Dodgers to re-sign him. He had two great years with the Dodgers before imploding once again. Nomo may have been nowhere near a Hall of Famer, but every Japanese big league star owes at least part of their success to the Tornado.

 5. Tomo Ohka

Japanese Teams: Yokohama BayStars (1994-98, 2010-11) Toyama Thunderbirds (Independent) (2013)

 MLB Teams: Boston Red Sox (1999-2001) Montreal Expos/Washington Nationals (2001-2005) Milwaukee Brewers (2005-06) Toronto Blue Jays (2007) Cleveland Indians (2009)

 “Who?” is right.

  Tomo Ohka wasn’t well known or good in Japan either, but his ability to control pitches drew interest from the Boston Red Sox, who signed him in 1999. After pitching well in AAA, he was called up in July, and pitched poorly for the Red Sox. He righted the ship the next year, however, and pitched solidly before being traded to the Expos. He actually pitched very well for the Expos and Nationals in his years with the team, but pitched poorly once again after being traded to the Brewers. After short stints with the Jays and the Indians, he returned to Japan, where he was pretty much awful. In 2013, he reinvented himself as a knuckeball pitcher with the indie league Toyama Thunderbirds, and, after the season, signed a minor league contract with the Blue Jays.

To be continued…

MLB’s Japanese Dream Team (Part 1: The Starting 9)

Big news, everybody, I’m writing about baseball again!

“Oh…. Joy.”

Sure, my insights into the All-Star Game last year were ignored by just about everybody except me, but I’ll be damned if that’s going to stop me.

I’m sure Axl Rose would agree.

Anyways, with all the hysteria about Masahiro Tanaka coming over from Japan and signing with the Yankees (Because they had SUCH good luck with Kei Igawa and Hideki Irabu), I decided to do a dream team of Japanese players who have come over from Asia to play in Major League Baseball. The team includes five starters, a closer, right and left-handed setup men, four other relievers, a starting lineup with a DH, two backup infielders, and two backup outfielders. There is no backup catcher, since there’s only been one Japanese catcher who has played in the big leagues, specifically:

Catcher: Kenji Johjima

 KenjiJohjimaLead.jpg Japanese teams: Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks (1995-2005) Hanshin Tigers (2010-2012)

  MLB team: Seattle Mariners (2006-2009)

   One of the many Japanese players to play for the M’s (And most certainly not the only one on this Dream Team), Johjima was signed to a three year deal during the team’s rebuilding phase in the 05-06 offseason. The rebuilding has… Yet to pay off, but Johjima had a fine couple of seasons in Seattle, before playing very poorly in ’08 and opting out of his contract in 2009 to return to Japan.

Holy shit!

First Baseman: Tadahito Iguchi

 Japanese teams: Fukuoka Daiei Hawks (1997-2004) Chiba Lotte Marines (2009-Present)

  MLB teams: Chicago White Sox (2005-2007) Philadelphia Phillies (2007, 2008) San Diego Padres (2008)

I’m kinda cheating with this entry, since Iguchi played his entire American career as a second baseman. However, since returning to Japan in 2009, he has played a lot of first base for the Chiba Lotte Marines, so I’m working with what I’ve got here.

Iguchi signed with the White Sox just in time to win the World Series with them in 2005. He played very well for the Sox over  the next few seasons before being traded to the Phillies midway through the 2007 season. After playing atrociously for the Padres in ’08 and being released, Iguchi signed with the Phillies again and played four games with them, helping them out a teeny bit on their way to the 2008 title. Along with So Taguchi and (Oddly enough) the late Hideki Irabu, he is one of the only Japanese players two win multiple World Series rings (Although he wasn’t a member of the Phillies postseason roster).

  Second Base: Kazuo “Kaz” Matsui

  Japanese Teams: Seibu Lions (1995-2003), Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles (2011-       Present)

  MLB Teams: New York Mets (2004-2006) Colorado Rockies (2006-2007) Houston Astros (2008-2010)

  Pretty much the definition of your generic steady utility infielder, Kaz Matsui was an MVP and Gold Glover during his eight years with the Seibu Lions, Matsui was signed by the Mets, who hoped that he would be at least a solid offensive contributor and a Gold Glove candidate. Unfortunately, Matsui had a slash line of .256/.308/.363 (Which is bad), and wasn’t even that good defensively. When you consider that he had also (Temporarily) supplanted fan favourite Jose Reyes at shortstop, and that he was starting to get injured more than the average bear, and you had a player that was starting to draw the ire of pissed of Mets fans (On the bright side, he did become the only player to hit a home run in his first plate appearance of his first three seasons). He was moved over to second base (Where he was average defensively) and was traded to the Rockies, where he played very, very well for the next one and a half years (Thank you Coors Field!) and spent the last three years of his career with Houston (Where he fell back down to earth. Go fig.) before being released and returning to play with the current defending Japanese champions, the Golden Eagles.

 Third Base: Akinori Iwamura

  Japanese Teams: Tokyo Yakult Swallows (1997-2006, 2013), Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles (2011-2012)

  MLB Teams: Tampa Bay Rays (2007-2009) Pittsburgh Pirates (2010) Oakland Athletics (2010)

   Yes, I know that Iwamura played most of his big league career at second base, and he probably was better than poor Kaz Matsui, but he did play his first year in MLB at third base, and there’s no way I’m giving a starting lineup spot to Norihiro Nakamura.

Iwamura’s three year, $7.7 million dollar contract with the former Devil Rays was overshadowed by the massive contract the Red Sox gave to his friend, Daisuke Matsuzaka, but I think that, in hindsight, we could all agree that Iwamura’s contract was a little more cost-efficient. Aki played quite well with the Rays, with an OPS in the mid- .700’s, and was a part of the Rays’ wonderful 2008 season, during which they won the American League pennant, and lost to the Phillies in the World Series. He was also notable for his usage of a glove made out of crocodile skin. That’s pretty badass, right?

  Shortstop: Munenori Kawasaki

  Japanese Team: Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks (2001-2011)

  MLB Teams: Seattle Mariners (2012) Toronto Blue Jays (2013-Present)

  Well, if you ever wanted an example of how thin the market for Japanese shortstops has been…

  To be fair, nobody was really expecting Kawasaki to be a superstar. The Japanese All-Star and Golden Glove winner signed a minor league deal with the Seattle Mariners prior to the 2012 season, and made the club out of spring training as a utility infielder. Things went downhill from there, however, as he only hit .192 during the regular season and had an OPS of .459. For those who don’t understand baseball stats, just know that all the entertaining GIFs in the world could not even come close to make that excusable.

After the M’s released him, he signed a minor league deal with my Toronto Blue Jays and started the season off with the AAA Buffalo Bisons. After the injury to the aforementioned Jose Reyes, Kawasaki was called up to the (Disappointing as all Hell) big league club, and instantly endeared himself to suffering Torontonians, with his energetic, adorable personality, and his critical role in the eleven game winning streak that the Jays went on in July. He cooled off drastically, as did the Jays, but he did win a spring training invitation for next year from the Jays, so we probably haven’t seen the last of Moony Kawasaki.

  Left Fielder: So Taguchi

  Japanese Teams: Orix BlueWave (1992-2001) Orix Buffaloes (2010-2011)

  American Teams: St. Louis Cardinals (2002-2007) Philadelphia Phillies (2008) Chicago      Cubs (2009)

  This shy, hard working utility outfielder was already well into his thirties when he signed  with the Cards in 2002, and was just about an elder statesman when he finally had his first season where he topped 100 games, at the age of 34.

Taguchi became a fan favourite in St. Louis after a couple of years of toiling in the minors, unusual for a Japanese signing, but then again, he was kind of mediocre in Japan anyways. In a nice surprise, Taguchi turned out to be an excellent defensive-minded backup outfielder, with a solid bat to boot. His modest, shy personality endeared him to the Missouri fanbase, and solidified his place in Cardinals history by hitting the go-ahead home run in the ninth inning of game 2 of the NLCS, which was unusual, considering: A) He hit it off the great Billy Wagner, and B) he isn’t exactly Hank Aaron, especially not in 2006. After awful stints with the Phillies and the Cubs in 2008 and 2009, respectfully (Although he did win his second World Series with the Phils) he played two subpar seasons in Japan, before retiring in 2012.

   Kosuke Fukudome - 2008 - cropped.jpg Center Field: Kosuke Fukodome

     Japanese Teams: Chunichi Dragons (1998-2007) Hanshin Tigers (2013-Present)

    MLB Teams: Chicago Cubs (2008-2011) Cleveland Indians (2011) Chicago White Sox (2012)

   That sound you hear is the sound of Cubs fans screaming in fury and/or sobbing.

    Just kidding. I’m pretty sure they don’t read my blog. Anyways, I put Fukodome at center field, even though he mostly played at right field, because I felt that he was better then either of the two backups, and right field was already taken by, well, you’ll see.

Fukodome, a superstar with the Chunichi Dragons,  was signed by the Cubs prior to the 2008 season, in the hopes that he would become the next big Asian superstar. Needless to say, it didn’t turn out that way, but the reality is that Fukodome was a solid outfielder during his 3+ seasons with the Cubbies. His pedestrian batting average dissapointed fans, but his On-Base Percentage was actually pretty great, at .369. Sure, he didn’t exactly set the world on fire on the base paths or defensively in right or center field, and he didn’t even really come close to hitting the 21 home runs he averaged in Japan, but I can’t help wondering if his awful slide during the second half of 2008 tainted the rest of what could have been a solid big league career.

 Right Field: Ichiro Suzuki

 Japanese Team: Orix BlueWave (1992-2000)

  MLB Teams: Seattle Mariners (2001-2012) New York Yankees (2012-Present)

  Honestly? Was there ever any doubt?

  The only member of this dream team that will likely be elected into the American baseball hall of fame (Although I would NOT count out Yu Darvish as a future Hall of Famer), Ichiro is, by far,  the most famous, most successful player to come over from Asia.

Honestly, I could go on and on about Ichiro. He’s one of my favourite non-Blue Jay players, and my first ever non-little league jersey was a Mariners jersey with Ichiro’s name on the back. However, I don’t feel like prolonging this post any more than necessary, as it’s already hella long, so I’ll just leave you with his Baseball Reference and Wikipedia pages.

 Designated Hitter: Hideki “Godzilla” Matsui 

 Japanese Team: Yomiuri Giants (1993-2002)

 MLB Teams: New York Yankees (2003-2009) Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (2010) Oakland Athletics (2011) Tampa Bay Rays (2012)

 If Ichiro was the best position player to play in the big leagues, the man they call “Godzilla” is probably number two. (Fact: Matsui’s nickname was originally a mean joke concerning his skin condition, but it has since become associated with his offensive prowess) The power-hitting outfielder first came to the attention of the American media during the strike of ’94, when bored Americans started following the Japan Series (Japan’s equivalent of the World Series), which featured Matsui’s team, the eventual champion Yomiuri Giants.

Matsui turned town a contract offer from the Giants in 2001 and later signed with the Yanks before the 2003 season. He went on to have a wonderful seven-year career with the Yankees, during which he came very close to beating out Angel Berroa for the 2003 Rookie of the Year Award, shifted to DH after playing poor defence, was elected to two All-Star Games, and won the World Series in 2009, also winning the World Series MVP Award that year. Before signing with the Angels and having a solid year in Anaheim and fading out with the A’s and the Rays.

 To be continued…

An Introduction to Canada Episode 2: The Rest of the Provinces!

Welcome to part 2 of my ongoing series, my introduction of Canada to those who may not know that much about the country and Canadians in general. If you’re wondering where the Arctic Territories and the Maritime Provinces are at, head on over here.

Saskatchewan

Motto: Multis e Gentibus Vires (Latin) Strength from many peoples (English)

Capital: Regina

Largest City and Metro: Saskatoon

Joined Confederation: 1905 (Split from Northwest Territories)

Official Language: English

Premier: Brad Wall (Saskatchewan Party)

Population: 1,033,381

Comparable to: North Dakota, but prettier.

Claim to Fame: That one time Tom Hanks came to watch the Grey Cup.

Tom Hanks poses for a photo at the 101st Grey Cup game held at Mosaic Stadium in Regina, Sask. on Sunday Nov. 24, 2013.

Fun Facts:

  • Canada’s farm-iest province.
  • If you’re ever in Saskatchewan, and you want to win over the locals (Say, I dunno, you’re being forced into a shotgun wedding by a crazed gopher-herding family) just wear green and white, or some variation of this logo. Just trust me on this.

Also, wearing watermelons on your head is perfectly acceptable here. Just in case in case you’re into that stuff.

Manitoba

Map showing the location of Manitoba, in the centre of Southern Canada

Motto: Gloriosus et- O irrumabo! Culicibus! (Latin) Glorious and- Oh, fuck! Mosquitoes! (English)

Capital, largest city and largest metro: Winnipeg

Joined Confederation: 1870

Official language: English, but French is all but official too.

Premier: Greg Selinger (New Democratic Party)

Population: 1, 208, 268

Comparable to: Minnesota, but covered in mosquitoes.

Claim to Fame: Along with Saskatchewan, Northern Ontario, and Western Ontario, one of the “flyover provinces”.

Fun Facts:

  • Churchill, a town in the Northern part of the province, bordering Hudson’s Bay, is a small, mostly Aboriginal, town, where the tourism industry is thriving thanks to the fact that polar bears venture near (And sometimes into) the town in the months of October and November.
  • More mosquitoes per square kilometer than most tropical countries.

Actual size.

Alberta

Motto: Fortis et liber (Latin) Strong and Free (English)

Capital: Edmonton (My hometown!)

Largest City and Metro: Calgary

Joined Confederation: 1901

Official language: English

Premier: Alison Redford (Progressive Conservative Party)

Population: 3, 645, 257

Comparable to: Montana (Climate) , Texas (Damn near apocalyptic environmental policies, right-leaning governments, and an unfortunate preference for country music).

Claim to fame: Nickleback. We are so, so fucking sorry.

Fun Facts:

  • The second-most entitled, and most spoiled province in the country. Yep, we’re those guys.
  • Fort McMurray, in the North of the province, is the heart of one of the country’s main hubs of oil production, the notorious Athabasca Tar Sands. No joke here, I just hope it burns to the ground.
  • Just a heads up: Any city or town in Western Canada that has a name that begins with “Fort” is bound to be a piece of crap.

British Columbia

Motto: Splendor sine occasu (Latin) Splendour without diminishment (English

Capital: Victoria

Largest city: Vancouver

Largest metro: Metro Vancouver

Joined Confederation: 1871

Official language: English

Premier: Christy Clark (Liberal Party)

Population: 4, 400, 057

Comparable to: Washington (Canada’s main source of pot. Similar climate in the south. Also, hipsters) Oregon (Similar politics. And climate. Also, hipsters) California (Many TV shows and movies are filmed there. Also,  similar politics. And hipsters.)

Claim to fame: Pamela Anderson.

‘Nuff said.

Fun Facts:

  • The most beautiful province in the country. Bar none.
  • BC was the home of the internment camps where the Canadian government imprisoned innocent Japanese-Canadians during World War II. Yeah, we used to be REALLY racist.
  • Also, while we’re on the topic of racism, the Canadian Pacific Railway, which runs from Vancouver to various parts of Canada and the Northern States, we made the not morally terrible at all decision to use Chinese migrant workers (Or “coolies”, as they were lovingly referred to) as slave labour, paying them pennies in return for building the damn railroad and handling insanely dangerous explosives. In return, the Chinese took over the city of Richmond.
  • The southwest corner of the province is more or less the only part of the country that isn’t blanketed by snow eight months out of the year.

Quebec

Motto: Je me souviens (French) I remember (English)

Capital: Quebec City

Largest city and largest metro: Montreal

Joined Confederation: 1867

Official Language: French

Premier: Pauline Marois (Parti Quebecois)

Population: 7, 903, 001

Comparable to: Louisiana’s french population (Minus the friendly Cajuns) and Texas’s occasional separation jags (Except more realistic and more reasonable).

Claim to Fame: Celine Dion. Again, we are so, so sorry.

“And my heeeeeeaaaaaaarrttt will go oooooooooooooooooon……….”

Fun Facts:

  • While most of the southern part of the province is of stereotypical French-Canadian stock, the northern is composed mostly by Cree and Inuit people.
  • In 1963, a far-left, separatist paramilitary group called the Quebec Liberation Front launched a series of propaganda and terrorism which targeted English (Or “Anglo-Saxon Imperialist”) institutions in the province. They were responsible for the deaths of at least five people in between 1963 and 1970, when they were involved in the October Crisis, during which they kidnapped the British trade commissioner to Canada, James Cross, as well as Quebec vice-premier Pierre Laporte. While Cross was released and the FLQ fled to Cuba like a bunch of little bitches, Laporte was found in the trunk of an FLQ members’ car, strangled by his own rosary beads. The world is a dark and horrible place, kids!

Oh, look! Puppies!

  • The birthplace of poutine. See? Maybe life ain’t so bad.

Ontario

Motto: Ut incepit Fidelis Sic Permanet (Latin)

Capital, largest city and largest metro: Toronto (Ontario is also home to Canada’s federal capital, Ottawa)

Joined Confederation: 1867

Official Language: English (de facto)

Premier: Kathleen Wynne (Liberal Party)

Population: 12, 851, 821

Comparable to: New York State

Claim to fame: Rob Ford, motherfucker!

Fun Facts:

  • The most populous province, accounting for forty percent of Canada’s population.
  • Home of some of the most mediocre sports franchises in North America.

And that’s not even mentioning the Ottawa sports teams.

That’s it for today, but I plan on doing more episodes of my Intro to Canada some time in the near future. In the meantime, I’ll see you all sometime after my exams are over. Or when I finish binge-watching Orange is the New Black when I should be studying. Either or.

Analysing North Korea’s official name

With Dennis Rodman’s latest visit to the totalitarian juche regime in North Korea going about as well as you’d expect, I figure that now is as good a time as any to do a (Not very) in-depth analysis of the country’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

 Let’s start at “Korea” and work our way backwards, shall we?

Korea?: Well, they’re actually half right on that front. The DPRK comprises approximately half of the Korean peninsula.

 Republic?: Um…well….If you mean “Republic” in the same way that Rome was (Corrupt and oligarchic), then you’d be a little more accurate than if you mean “republic” in the modern sense, in which case, no. You’re wrong.

People’s?: Well, shit, I guess the North Korean people would have to be pretty devoted to their country in order to make photos like this one readily available:

This photo was released by the Shiny, Happy Korean Department of Propaganda Photos with the promise that “There is not even a single soldier forcing these dancers to dance for hours on end until they collapse from exhaustion. In addition, not a single one of the dancers’ families were executed because of failure to dance devotedly enough for Dear Leader’s enjoyment.”

Democratic?: You must be fucking joking.

The (Belated) Obligatory New Year Post

Happy 2014, everybody! I hope all your hangovers have cleared up by now!

2013 was a, well, let’s say an interesting year. From Syria to Rob Ford to Miley Cyrus to the NSA, it seemed like there was never a dull moment.

There were, however, several horrifying and confusing ones.

How did I spend my New Years’ Eve, you ask? Did I spend New Year’s Eve in Cuba, welcoming 2014 with a back massage on some idyllic paradise of a resort? Or did I go to some gathering with my family? Or, considering that I’m a wild and crazy seventeen year old kid, did I go to some house party, chug copious amounts of alcohol, pot and/or ecstasy before puking up my guts and passing out shortly after grinding a lamppost in front of all my friends? No. None of these. Especially not the last one.

“Man, you’re justa….just-…just a fuckin’ hater, man…’

I spent New Years Eve finishing off yesterday’s post  and watching Animaniacs reruns. I maintain that there is no better way to spend New Years Eve.

On an unrelated note, Rule 34 is a bitch when you’re just trying to find a goddamn Animaniacs logo. It’s a sick, sick world.

I’m not one for New Year’s Resolutions, because I’ve always seen them as setting yourself up for failure. Especially for a slacker who’s all set to congratulate himself for waking up in the morning without suffocating himself on his pillow.

Pillows: Soft and downy, yet, brutal and efficient.

Nonetheless, I did make myself a short list of resolutions to try to commit to in 2014. They are as follows:

  1. Be less socially awkward. It’s kind of general and boring, I know, but there are only so much times one can tolerate being wished a Happy New Year and impulsively responding with “Thanks! I hope you don’t get cancer and die this year!”
  2. Learn Portuguese and German. I already speak English (Duh), Spanish (Thanks to my Salvadoran-Canadian upbringing) and French (Thanks to the Edmonton Public School’s French Immersion program). However, I’ve always wanted to learn more languages, if for no other reason than to be able to communicate with locals during my future international book tours. Honestly though, I really want to actually learn more languages. Portuguese, because it’s a good starting point, being so similar to Spanish, and German, because I heard before I started to learn it that it’s extremely similar to English. Whoever told me that is a dirty liar.
  3. Maintain an “A” average (80%). It’s currently hovering around the high seventies.
  4. Get through the giant-ass pile of books on my desk that has been there since last Christmas. The sad thing is, most of them are Spider-Man comics.
  5. Do at least one hundred blog posts this year. Recently, I’ve been pretty damn inconsistent when it comes to blogging, which is a shame, because I really love doing it and want to write as a career eventually. So this year, I want to do at least one hundred posts (This would be my second one), and hopefully, hone my abilities so I don’t have to rely on a snarky pop culture-related caption to get a cheap laugh.

Bieber. Douchebag. Stupid. Funny. You laugh now.

For now, though, I wish everyone a Happy 2014.

I hope none of you get cancer and die this year.