Thursday, March 23, 2006

Matsui-less Team Japan takes WBC crown

"Godzilla" before he was shunned for turning Yankee.

Is there any doubt why Team Japan won the first World Baseball Classic?

I imagine the conversation went like this:

Hideki Matsui: "Hey! Sign me up! I’m ready to play!"

Whoever decides the roster in Japan: "No thanks."

HM: "What do you mean ‘No thanks?’ I’m Hideki Matsui! Remember me? The one called ‘Godzilla?’"

WDTRIJ: "Oh we know who you are. A Yankee. That makes you more like Godzuki or other lesser monsters. And we’re trying to avoid the stench of Yankee scum on our otherwise fine team."

Considering the utter failure of a team that included Derek F. Jeter, SlapRod, and Bat-Chucker, it looks like it was a pretty good strategy.

Of course, at least they answered his call. When the phone number belonging to our own Kazuo Matsui appeared on the caller ID, those guys ran for cover.

The Mets have had a steady stream of Japanese players, none of whom were included on the Team Japan roster. We’ve had Tsuyoshi Shinjo, Satoru Komiyami, Masato Yoshii, Hideo Nomo and Takashi Kashiwada.

None of those guys had Yankee taint, so can only assumed they were asked not to play because, well, they sucked. That speaks volumes about our ability to scout Japanese players.

I started getting interested in Japanese ball after reading Warren Cromarte’s book “Slugging it Out in Japan.” It’s a good read and tells just how differently the game is approached and played overseas. Except for the part about them using the showers as urninals, it was pretty fascinating.

I was able to buy caps for the Hanshin Tigers and Yomiuri Giants — who are like the Yankess without the scum — but wanted to find more stuff. This was before the Internet made ordering such things easy. I wrote to each of the teams asking for a souvenir catalog and instructions on how to purchase things from the US.

he best response came from the Giants, who said they were unable to sell me anything but sent an envelope full of cool things.

First was a team schedule. I’m pretty sure that’s Godzilla himself picture on the back, long before he sold his soul. Another item was a neat New Year’s Day post card.

But the most fun was a little envelope with the team mascot and Japanese writing. I had no clue what it was since my Japanese is somewhat rusty. Rusty as in non-existant.

But I opened it up and there was a piece of paper with writing in English (Yes!) that said: "This is a kind of fortune that is distributed with 100 yen to the team members, sports writers and so on when Tokoyo Dome is full with 56,000 fans."

Sports writers getting paid when the dome is full? I've been in press boxes. I know sports writers. They like free stuff. But in the U.S. they're limited to food, food, more food, media guides and stacks of statistics distributed by interns, at least when they're not dispensing food.

If word of this gets out, we might see a lot more coverage of Japanese baseball!
In Other Words:
Speaking of Japanese baseball, former Mets manager Bobby Valentine has a blog about life in the Japanese leagues. It's a fun read, as you can imagine. It's at Bobby's Way.

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