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!!!) 

9 Baseball-Related People Who Are/Were Worse Human Beings than Alex Rodriguez (Part 2)

(This is a continuation of this article)

Today, the subject of this post and the last one, Alex Rodriguez, skipped his rehab game in Tampa, because, if anybody deserves a break after not playing for months on end, it’s Alex Rodriguez.

I would have had this post out sooner, but I was busy engaging in the time-consuming activity of trying to watch Game of Thrones without subscribing to HBO. 

Game of Thrones title card.jpg

This is the result of boob-enthusiasts and Lord of the Rings enthusiasts learning that they have common ground in their desire for barely restrained medieval soft-core porn. 

Anyways, here are the two more of the  worst people ever to be involved with Major League Baseball.

5. John Rocker

Jesus Rollerblading Christ, look at his fucking neck!!!

Relief Pitcher

Teams: Atlanta Braves (1998-2001) Cleveland Indians (2001) Texas Rangers (2002) Tampa Bay Devil Rays (2003) Long Island Ducks (2005) (Funny how  a racist, bigoted piece of shit like Rocker would play on the “Braves” and the “Indians”. Playing in Texas as well is just the icing on the cake.)

Career Highlights: Unless you count inspiring this guy a highlight, nothing.

Because we really want to give the position of most powerful man in the world to a bush-league baseball player.

The Douchebaggery:

Oh, man, what could I say about John Rocker that hasn’t already been said?

The closer from Georgia looked like the next hometown star for the Braves since Chipper Jones, and, looking solely at his numbers in three and a half years with the Braves, he looked like he would be pretty damn successful, with 83 saves and a sub- 3.00 ERA. After he was traded to the Indians though, he only got 5 saves and a 6.00 ERA with the Tribe, Rangers and D-Rays. He made a short-lived comebak to baseball in 2005, playing for the Indy league Long Island Ducks. This will prove to be quite ironic.

It was his actions off the field that landed him on this list though. Now, it’s one thing to be racist in the early part of the 20th century, when it was an accepted part of life that Blacks, Jews, Mexicans, Asians, Aboriginals, Gays, Women and what-have-you were clearly inferior to pure-blooded whole some, pasty, Protestant American men. What was known as Nazism when the Germans did it was referred to in the States as “Manifest Destiny” or some such bullshit.

‘Murrica!!!

That doesn’t make it acceptable, not by a fucking longshot, but it was, unfortunately, a part of life.

But in this day and age, when he have come so far as a species that we have come up with wonders such as penicillin, iPods, and Jennifer Lawrence…

Seen Here: Proof that God has forgiven us for global warming.

.. It comes as a shock that anyone is still ignorant enough to use hateful language or discriminate against other people.

Paula Deen

Paula Deen: She doesn’t just hate your health anymore.

The following are a bunch of quotes from this 1999 Sports Illustrated interview with Rocker.

  • On ever playing for a New York team: “I would retire first. It’s the most hectic, nerve-racking city. Imagine having to take the [Number] 7 train to the ballpark, looking like you’re [riding through] Beirut next to some kid with purple hair next to some queer with AIDS right next to some dude who just got out of jail for the fourth time right next to some 20-year-old mom with four kids. It’s depressing.”

Well, he’s got me there. Living in a city that has some gay people and some people with oddly coloured hair isn’t nearly worth the World Series title.

  • On New York City itself: “The biggest thing I don’t like about New York are the foreigners. I’m not a very big fan of foreigners. You can walk an entire block in Times Square and not hear anybody speaking English. Asians and Koreans and Vietnamese and Indians and Russians and Spanish people and everything up there. How the hell did they get in this country?”

“Spirit Airlines, you dumb motherfucker.”

Rocker has a special place in his heart for New York Mets fans though.

  • On Mets fans: “Nowhere else in the country do people spit at you, throw bottles at you, throw quarters at you, throw batteries at you and say, ‘Hey, I did your mother last night — she’s a whore.’ I talked about what degenerates they were, and they proved me right. Just by saying something, I could make them mad enough to go home and slap their moms.”

Well, gee, what could he have possibly done to instigate that?

Hilariously enough, he later went on to play for the independent Long Island Ducks in 2005. He was cut after posting a 6.50 ERA in 23 games.

While he was fined for his comments and ordered to undergo sensitivity training, he cut the training short and never paid the fine.

He also started a so-called “Speak English” campaign.  I don’t know shit about it, but I think he can safely assume that it’s some bullshit.

You stay classy, John Rocker.

This year, in a last-ditch attempt at relevance, he came out as saying that the Holocaust could have been avoided had there been no gun control in Germany, to which the baseball world politely replied “Shut the fuck up.”

 4. Marge Schott

Marge Schott.jpg

Marge Schott, photographed here at a lynching.

Owner

Cincinnati Reds (1984-1999)

Career Highlights: 1985 World Series Championship

How can one not think of Marge Schott without “Yakety Sax” popping into one’s head? Or, y’know, some weird bastard offspring of “Yakety Sax” and the “Imperial March” from Star Wars. 

The following is a list of Schott’s finest moments.

First, the bad, but still not atrocious:

  • Schott let her terribly named St. Bernards, Schottzie and Schottzie 02, roam around Riverfront stadium, and let them take massive St. Bernard sized shits on the playing field. (The article that reported this demonstrates Schott’s senility well.)

Eh, fuck it, you’re not here for the bad stuff.

Presenting: The Truly disgusting stuff!

  • November 13, 1992: Charles “Cal” Levy, a former marketing director for the Reds, stated in a deposition for Tim Sabo, a former employee who was suing the team, that he’d heard Schott refer to outfielders Eric Davis and Dave Parker as “million dollar niggers.” Improbably, Sabo lost his suit.
  •  Levy also alleged that Schott kept a swastika armband in her house and claims he overheard her say “sneaky goddamn Jews are all alike.” Schott issued a statement saying the claims of racism levied against her were overstated and that she did not mean to offend anyone, as it simply belonged to her husband, who got it after coming home from World War II and keeps it as a “remembrance of her husbands’s bravery.” There you have it folks: Nazi swastikas are okay to own and wear as long as they’re viewed as memorabilia and not the symbol of a political party that murdered millions and millions of people.

  • She also claimed that Adolf Hitler was “O.K. at the beginning” as “he rebuilt all the roads.” Apparently, this was seen by her as justification for the Holocaust.

“Don’t stop now, guys. Just think of all the minorities we’ll be allowed to slaughter after this!”

  • She also had no idea why the word “Jap” could be considered offensive.

Ichiro is not amused.

  • She banned the Reds from wearing earrings because “only fruits wear earrings.”

“Say what, motherfucker?”

  • During a game against the Montreal Expos on April 1, 1996 on Opening Day in Cincinnati, umpire John McSherry called for time and motioned towards the Reds’ dugout for medical attention. After taking a few steps, however, he collapsed. Efforts to resuscitate him failed and he was pronounced dead an hour later. This was Schott’s reaction to the game being postponed:

“Snow this morning and now this. I don’t believe it. I feel cheated. This isn’t supposed to happen to us, not in Cincinnati. This is our history, our tradition, our team. Nobody feels worse than me.”

  • Yikes. How terrible of a person do you have to be to value a fucking baseball game over human life?

On April 20, 1999, Schott, facing a third suspension from MLB for all-around bitchiness, sold her controlling share of the Reds. She died on March 2, 2004. I can only assume her death was met with mass celebrations in the Reds’ clubhouse.

Tune in soon for the thrilling conclusion of the three part series!