A message of congratulations to the Toronto Blue Jays

Wow, you almost can’t tell that Sergio Santos just turned in the worst relief appearance in Blue Jays history. Almost.

Dear Toronto Blue Jays front office, management and players:

You played a fantastic pair of games yesterday. You have nothing to be ashamed about. Honest! Most teams would tremble at the thought of facing the mighty Minnesota Twins. Never mind that Joe Mauer schmuck. Most anybody would be damn near terrified to face the wrath of such perennial all-stars such as Chris Herrmann and Kurt Suzuki. No wonder you all  pitched around Josmil Pinto the way that you guy did. I would have too. Sure, he’s barely hitting .200, but it’s still early and a superstar like him is bound to break out at any time.

Seen Here: Josmil “The Destroyer of Worlds” Pinto.

It’s a wonder that you made it to the seventh inning with a lead, frankly. Even with the marvelous four innings that Dustin McGowan threw, giving up only three runs, six hits and four walks, you still held on to a pitiful 5-3 lead. Don’t get me wrong though, you should all count yourselves very lucky to hold a lead against a team that smart money has picked to finish second-last only to the Astros in the American League.

John Gibbons doesn’t need to blame himself for this. It’s not his fault that his brilliant strategy of “taking good, solid pitchers like Neil Wagner and Brett Cecil out of the game way before they’re out of gas” didn’t work out. All revolutionary actions are bound to hit a rough spot at some point,mainly due to the fact that they’re highly illogical,  but they’re also eventually recognized for the sheer brilliance that they are, no matter how much of a toll they take on your bullpen.

Or, in some cases, your life expectancy.

And could you really blame Sergio Santos for his implosion of Ricky Romero-like proportions? I’m not even gonna joke about this anymore, because there is no positive way to spin this. Three wild pitches in an inning? Are you fucking serious? I’ve seen Little Leaguers pitch better innings than that.

I’m sorry that this post is so irrelevant to my usual topics and filled with pretty mean-spirited sarcasm, but I really needed to vent about this and it was either using this creative outlet or screaming wordless cries of pain.

Final MLB Predictions

Surprise, surprise, the Blue Jays probably aren’t gonna be huge factors in the AL East this year. Bring back  Cito Gaston already!

Well, with the season starting today in a couple hours, I guess the ship has sailed on my division-by-division predictions of the upcoming Major League Baseball season. I guess the honourable thing to do would be to bang out four more 1000+ word previews, but that would also be the insane thing to do, so here’s a quick PKTM preview of the 2014 season. The Al East will be thew only division with a summary, because, well, this was the only division I had stuff written out for. I need to work on this whole “meeting deadlines” thing.

AL East 

  1. Tampa Bay Rays
  2. Boston Red Sox (Wild Card)
  3. Baltimore Orioles
  4. New York Yankees
  5. Toronto Blue Jays

Sure, the Rays may not score the most runs (Or draw the biggest crowds), but their pitching staff is deep enough to the point where it doesn’t matter if Matt Moore or Chris Archer regress, or if Jake Odorizzi doesn’t cut it in the major leagues, because they’re bound to have somebody just as good waiting in the wings. Also, you can’t go wrong with Evan Longoria. Fuck Josh Lueke though.

The Red Sox are a great team as well though, and could repeat as World Series champions, let alone division winners. However, while they may be the harder-hitting team, the Red Sox pitching staff is a lot thinner than Tampa’s, and, while he probably should have won AL Manager of the year in 2013, John Farrell is still an inferior manager to Joe Madden.

The Orioles are far from has-beens, but they’re a bit iffier, what with Nelson Cruz coming off of steroids and Ubaldo Jimenez being Ubaldo Jimenez. The rotation is solid and deep, though, and they still have stars like Adam Jones and Chris Davis, who should hold them off while Manny Machado recovers from his injury.

As for the Bronx Bombers, they will probably miss the playoffs. There are far too many question marks on this team for me to justify predicting even an 85-win season. Can they really count on not only Derek Jeter, but also Mark Teixeira, Brett Gardner, Brian Roberts, Carlos Beltran, Jacoby Ellsbury and Michael Pineda to stay healthy? And on C.C. Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda and Alfonso Soriano to not regress with age? And who knows about Masahiro Tanaka.

And as for my Blue Jays, they may be filled to the brim with talent, but with that rotation? Come on. Maybe in a lesser division, but not in the same division as the Red Sox, Rays and O’s.

AL Central

  1. Detroit Tigers
  2. Kansas City Royals
  3. Cleveland Indians
  4. Chicago White Sox
  5. Minnesota Twins

AL West

  1. Texas Rangers
  2. Oakland Athletics (Wild Card)
  3. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
  4. Seattle Mariners
  5. Houston Astros

NL East

  1. Washington Nationals
  2. Atlanta Braves
  3. Miami Marlins
  4. Philadelphia Phillies
  5. New York Mets

NL Central

  1. St. Louis Cardinals
  2. Pittsburgh Pirates (Wild Card)
  3. Cincinnati Reds
  4. Milwaukee Brewers
  5. Chicago Cubs

NL West

  1. Los Angeles Dodgers
  2. San Francisco Giants (Wild Card)
  3. Arizona Diamondbacks
  4. San Diego Padres
  5. Colorado Rockies

 

AL MVP: Mike Trout, Angels

NL MVP: Yasiel Puig, Dodgers

AL Cy Young: Felix Hernandez, Mariners

NL Cy Young: Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers

AL Rookie of the year: Taijuan Walker, Mariners

NL Rookie of the Year: Billy Hamilton, Reds

 

ALCS: Detroit Tigers over Tampa Bay Rays

NLCS: Los Angeles Dodgers over St. Louis Cardinals

World Series: Los Angeles Dodgers over Detroit Tigers

 

Now, if ya’ll will excuse me, I’m gonna get back to binge-watching the 90’s X-Men cartoon series.

While also mentally willing Jubilee to shut her goddamn mouth.

 

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!!!) 

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…

AL All-Star Ballot Update!

Well, it’s been a few weeks since I last checked out the All-Star Vote standings for the AL and the NL. I’d say we’re probably overdue for another tirade against ballot-stuffers, eh? Well, as soon as I tear my eyes away from the mean-spirited ugliness that is the MLB.com comments section. Is it just me, or do all people named “commenter” have some form of mental instability issue?

 

AMERICAN LEAGUE ALL-STAR VOTING
(as of June 15)

FIRST BASE
Chris Davis, Orioles 2,999,094
Prince Fielder, Tigers 1,980,129
Mike Napoli, Red Sox 744,334
Albert Pujols, Angels 693,062
Mitch Moreland, Rangers 645,071

My Vote: Chris Davis, Orioles

It’s good to see that at least one of the starters will be deserving. Chris Davis is absolutely killing it in Baltimore. Really, if anybody has a .330+ average and is on pace for 40+ home runs, then they better be the ASG starter.

I’m kinda dissapointed that Adam Lind isn’t getting any love, and especially dissapointed that Albert Pujols is seen by some as an All-Star. I can’t really complain otherwise.

SECOND BASE
Robinson Cano, Yankees 2,409,512
Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox 1,635,674
Ian Kinsler, Rangers 1,123,654
Omar Infante, Tigers 872,142
Jose Altuve, Astros 734,896

My Vote: Robinson Cano

Man, was probably the most difficult position to vote for. I mean, in the top 3 spots are three EXTREMELY good ballplayers in Robbie Cano (Who will almost certainly be voted in) Dustin Pedroia (Who may be having a better season, and Howie Kendrick, who- wait a minute. Where’s Howie? Howie!? HOWIE!?!?

Wrong one, asshole.

In the end, I voted for Cano, but going back on it, I think Howie Kendrick was the better choice. I can live with Cano starting though.

However, the fact that Kendrick isn’t in the Top 5 is inexcusable.

SHORTSTOP
J.J. Hardy, Orioles 1,871,010
Elvis Andrus, Rangers 1,358,412
Jhonny Peralta, Tigers 1,322,791
Jed Lowrie, Athletics 1,019,861
Derek Jeter, Yankees 669,698

My Vote: Jhonny Peralta.

My God, there were slim pickings at this position. The only truly worthy contenders (That I remember) are Hardy, Peralta, and Lowrie. This seems as good a time as any to speculate on why exactly Elvis Andrus is here. I must have been asleep when a sub .600 OPS was declared an acceptable quality for an All-Star. Bot his OBP and his Slugging Percentage are under .300. Stop. Voting. For. Him.

As for Derek Jeter, i’m not going to bother  chastising the idiots who voted for the guy who hasn’t played a single game this season and  probably won’t play in the game anyways. I just find it weird that in the comments section, nobody seems to own up to voting for him. Does this mean that whoever’s voting for him is embarrassed that they voted for him? I mean, they should be, but they should be able to put their money where their mouth is, right?

THIRD BASE
Miguel Cabrera, Tigers 3,277,890
Manny Machado, Orioles 1,626,209
Adrian Beltre, Rangers 1,105,706
Evan Longoria, Rays 898,422
Josh Donaldson, Athletics 500,773

My Vote: Miguel Cabrera

What can I possibly say about Miguel Cabrera that hasn’t been said already? I can really only express my condolences for Machado, Beltre, Longoria and Donaldson. Any one of them (Mainly Machado) would have had a decent shot had it not been for Miguel Cabrera existing.

CATCHER
Joe Mauer, Twins 2,127,175
Matt Wieters, Orioles 1,615,625
A.J. Pierzynski, Rangers 885,137
Carlos Santana, Indians 864,779
Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Red Sox 748,725

My Vote: Joe Mauer

My only two complaints here are: a) That Matt Wieters has more than a million votes and b) That Jason Castro is nowhere to be see on the list. This is mostly as a result of the obscurity that comes with working in Houston.

DESIGNATED HITTER
David Ortiz, Red Sox 2,488,451
Lance Berkman, Rangers 1,239,521
Edwin Encarnacion, Blue Jays 769,322
Mark Reynolds, Indians 745,058
Mark Trumbo, Angels 722,667

My Vote: David Ortiz

Big Papi’s monster season took me completely by surprise. How often does an obese, non-juiced 37 year old put up a .900+ OPS?

Ha. No.

On a bitter note, how the fuck did more people think that Lance Berkman deserves the vote more then Edwin Encarnacion?

OUTFIELD
Adam Jones, Orioles 2,740,505
Mike Trout, Angels 2,710,115
Nick Markakis, Orioles 1,463,392
Torii Hunter, Tigers 1,425,571
Jose Bautista, Blue Jays 1,379,251
Nelson Cruz, Rangers 1,310,079
Nate McLouth, Orioles 1,300,158
Alex Gordon, Royals 1,040,685
Jacoby Ellsbury, Red Sox 1,004,434
Yoenis Cespedes, Athletics 926,611
Coco Crisp, Athletics 869,153
Josh Hamilton, Angels 726,485
Austin Jackson, Tigers 712,623
Shane Victorino, Red Sox 682,220
Ichiro Suzuki, Yankees 620,734

My Vote: Adam Jones, Mike Trout, Jose Bautista

This list starts off strong (With the exception of Torii Hunter and Nick Markakis over Jose Bautista) but gets dodgy near the end. Angels fans can’t stop spewing hatred at Josh Hamilton, and yet, they keep voting for him. And it boggles the mind to ponder how Ichiro got here. I love the guy too, Yankee fans, but come on. He’s a defense only ballplayer nowadays, and God bless ’em (I may be the world’s biggest John McDonald fan) but  he’s definitely not an All-Star

Tomorrow, be sure to check in for the NL ballot update and my thoughts.