American League West Predictions

(Looking for my NL West preview? Here it is!)

“Oh cool, a helicopter!” -Jose Altuve, probably

5. Houston Astros 

 2013 Record: 51-111 (5th in division)

Manager: Bo Porter (2nd season as mansger, 51-111 career record)

General manager: Jeff Luhnow

Home field: Minute Maid Park

So what’s good?: Bupkiss.

Just kidding. There isn’t any reason for Astros fans to commit mass suicide yet. While this team has absolutely no hope of a winning record, much less making the playoffs, this season, there still are reasons to head to Minute Maid Park in 2014. For one, the big league team, despite barely being better than most AAA teams, has some solid talent in young players such as Jason Castro, Jose Altuve, Dexter Fowler, Chris Carter, Matt Dominguez, Jarred Cosart, Brett Oberholtzer and L.J. Hoes. None of these guys are superstars, obviously, but as a young core group of players, you could do worse.

And lest we forget that the Astros have the best farm system in the game, the beneficiaries of a bunch of good drafts. George Springer, Domingo Santana and Jonathan Singleton are all knocking on the door of the big league club, and Carlos Correa, Mark Appel and Mike Foltynewicz should all be factors way down the line.

Sounds great, but what sucks?: What could I possibly say about the Astros’ chances this year that hasn’t already been said?

Team Grade: D

Insert “99 Problems”joke here.

4. Seattle Mariners

 2013 Record: 71-91 (4th in division)

 Manager: Lloyd McClendon (6th season as manager (1st with Mariners) 336-446 career record)

 General manager: Jack Zdurienczik

 Home field: Safeco Field

 So, what’s good?: If there’s one nice thing to say about the Seattle Mariners, it’s that their rotation is very impressive. Felix Hernandez, of course is a wonderful pitcher, and should contend for the Cy Young Award, but often overlooked is Japanese hurler Hisashi Iwakuma, who was arguably even better than Hernandez last year. When you factor in the arrivals of prospects Taijuan Walker and Canadian lefty James Paxton, you have what could potentially be a great rotation on your hands.

There are some bright spots in this lineup as well, such as the highly underrated third-baseman, Kyle Seager, highly-touted catching prospect Mike Zunino and, of course, the highest profile signing of the offseason, Yankee expat Robinson Cano, probably the best second baseman in the game and a probable MVP candidate.

Sounds great, but what sucks?: Remember how I said how great the M’s rotation was? Well, that was before Walker and Iwakuma got hurt and became doubtful to not miss the start of the season and the rotation was depleted to Hernandez, Paxton and such superstars as Erasmo Ramirez and Blake Beavan. Add what looks to be, even with the addition of Fernando Rodney, a very thin bullpen (Although Rodney’s in decline, anyways) and you have a recipe for a ton of runs allowed, at least until the starting pitching gets healthy.

And the starting lineup doesn’t inspire much confidence either. Aside from Seager and Cano, most of the hitters are either mediocre (Justin Smoak, Logan Morrison, Michael Saunders, Dustin Ackley) or unproven (Zunino, Brad Miller). And holy shit, why would you pay $6 million dollars to Corey Hart? I’m sure he’s a nice guy, but I’m even more sure he hasn’t played in a major league baseball game since the end of the 2012 season. And while I may not be the best judge of managers, Lloyd McClendon’s poor record with the Pirates from 2001-05 isn’t that impressive.

Team Grade: C-

Admit it. You thought Bryce Harper was gonna be the next big thing too.

 3. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

 2013 record: 78-84 (3rd in division)

 Manager: Mike Scioscia (15th season as manager, 1233-1035 career record)

 General manager:Jerry Dipoto

 Home field: Angel Stadium of Anaheim

 So what’s good?: Any discussion about the strong points of the Angels has to begin and end with Mike Trout, the best all-around player in MLB bar none. He probably should have won MVP awards the last two seasons (Although it’d be hard to make an argument against Miguel Cabrera) and has to be considered the favourite to win the big prize this year, even if his team doesn’t make the playoffs.

 Another point in the Angels favour is the improved starting rotation, which was just plain rancid last year. Jered Weaver should be excellent, as long as he stays healthy, C.J. Wilson is a very good pitcher, although he is criminally overpaid, and Garrett Richards and Hector Santiago are some nice young talent. And let’s not forget about Tyler Skaggs, whom they acquired from the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Sounds great, but what sucks?: I have a feeling that Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton are going to rebound a bit this year, but I’m also quite sure that a) neither are going to be elite players ever again and b) even that slight rebound will not be enough to justify the inhuman amount of money that they’re being awarded in 2014 or going to be awarded way down the line. These idiotic contracts may turn out to be the reason that the Angels may not be able to afford to lock up Mike Trout before he becomes a free agent in 2018.

Team Grade: B-

 

Just let them move to San Jose already! That’s fucking disgusting!

2. Oakland Athletics

2013 record: 96-66 (1st in division)

Manager: Bob Melvin (11th season as manager (4th with A’s) 730-694 career record (237-186 with A’s))

General manager: Billy Beane

Home field: O.co Coliseum

So what’s good?: The good news is, aside from the recent injuries to their starting rotation, the A’s don’t really have a discernible weakness. The bullpen looks great, as seems to be the norm in Oakland, even if I maintain that Jim Johnson is highly overrated, and there isn’t a single bad player on the starting lineup. Sure, one could complain that there’s no real superstar, but who could really complain about a 1-2-3-4-5 of Coco Crisp, Josh Donaldson, Jed Lowrie, Yoenis Cespedes and Brandon Moss?

Sounds great, but what sucks?: The young A’s rotation has, unfortunately for my second-favourite team, fallen prey to injuries. Jarrod Parker is going to miss the season because of Tommy John surgery and A.J. Griffin is going to miss the first few weeks of the regular season with elbow tendinitis. I suppose you could ask for a worse rotation than Sonny Gray, Scott Kazmir, Dan Straily, Tommy Milone and Jesse Chavez, but it could still cost them some serious ground.

Team grade: B+

Catcher J.P. Arencibia posing for his first Texas Rangers headshot. Or hiding from irate Blue Jays fans. Either would be applicable.

1. Texas Rangers

2013 record: 91-72 (2nd in division)

Manager: Ron Washington (8th season as manager, 611-524 career record)

General Manager: Jon Daniels

Home field: Globe Life Park in Arlington

So what’s good?: No intelligent pitching staff wouldn’t shudder in fear upon glancing at the Rangers’ lineup. It’s a nice mix of 20-20 candidates (Alex Rios, Shin-Soo Choo) elite hitters (Adrian Beltre, Prince Fielder) speedsters (Elvis Andrus, Leonys Martin) and even a couple of strikeout-prone sluggers (J.P. Arencibia, Mitch Moreland), you know, to lull opponents into a false sense of security until they get hot. Or something.

To compliment this beast of a lineup, the Rangers have a good bullpen, led by Joakim Soria, Alexi Ogando, Neal Cotts and Jason Frasor among others, a good rotation, once healthy, and the great management skills of Ron Washington backing them up.

Sounds great, but what sucks?: What with all the injuries to the A’s pitching staff, I would  have had Texas as the clear favourite to win the division… Until 60% of their rotation was struck down by the injury bug.

Yu Darvish and Matt Harrison are likely to miss a few starts at the beginning of the season, and Derek Holland will be out ’till mid-season.  Until they return, their rotation will likely consist of Martin Perez (A very good young starter), Tanner Scheppers (Who has a previous career high of seven starts in the minors), Robbie Ross (Hasn’t started a game since since 2011, in the minors), Joe Saunders (5.26 ERA in 2013) and Nick Martinez (Who the hell is Nick Martinez). Also, second baseman Jurickson Profar will miss a whole bunch of time in the beginning of the year. Other than that though, I don’t see why the Rangers shouldn’t compete this year.

Team Grade: A-

To be continued…

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…