Daily Archives: 27 October 2005

Next, Lotte Marines vs. Chicago White Sox?

Bobby Valentine, manager of the Chiba Lotte Marines (and nicely profiled by Japundit), sounds just a bit pumped up after seeing his team take the Japan Series in 4 straight games, outscoring the Hanshin Tigers by 33 to 4. The Asahi Shimbun reports his challenge to both Japanese and North American pro baseball.

NISHINOMIYA, Hyogo Prefecture–Bobby Valentine is nothing if not ambitious.

The 55-year-old manager of the Chiba Lotte Marines issued a challenge Wednesday to the winner of the World Series: “Let’s do battle in a real World Series.”

Valentine, who on Wednesday became the first foreigner to manage a team to a Japan Series title, says the level of play in Japan has risen to that in North America and the time has come for a best-of-seven series between the Japanese champions and the World Series champions….

The Marines swept the Tigers in four games to claim their first championship in 31 years. Valentine says his club has what it takes to compete against either of this year’s World Series combatants, the Chicago White Sox and the Houston Astros.

“(Lotte) is as good a team as I’ve ever managed,” Valentine said. “I don’t like to rate the teams I’ve managed, but it compares very favorably to the teams playing in the World Series.

“The White Sox have a little more power than us, but so did Softbank [Hawks] and so did Seibu [Lions],” he added, referring to the two teams the Marines beat in the Pacific League playoffs.

“The only reason I am saying this is because I am the only person to have managed in both the World Series and the Japan Series,” Valentine said. “I’ve watched our guys all year and I’ve watched the two teams in the World Series on TV and the level is equal. The competition would be great, it’s time to do battle.”

The Japan Times adds more player reaction.

Valentine’s players also think a champion-versus-champion showdown would be beneficial.

“I would like to play against the major league champions,” said Lotte pitcher Hiroyuki Kobayashi, the winning pitcher in Game 3 of the Japan Series. “The (Chicago) White Sox have home-run hitters with (Paul) Konerko and (Joe) Crede. Some matchups would be more problematic,” Kobayashi admitted.

Former Fukuoka Daiei Hawks star Tadahito Iguchi, now with the White Sox, would worry Kobayashi more than anyone, he said.

“He hit me pretty good,” Kobayashi said. “I faced him enough.”

According to Lotte outfielder Benny Agbayani, who played for Valentine’s New York Mets in the 2000 World Series, the biggest winners if such a series were to take place would be the fans.

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Well, So Much for the Rakuten Eagles

Jack Gallagher reports in the Japan Times on the quick demise of the once-brash upstart Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles. (I prefer to call them the Igloos, which sounds much the same in Japanese.)

Last fall, the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles emerged on the Japanese pro baseball scene as the first expansion team in 50 years and optimism abounded that a new era in the game had dawned.

The Eagles hired the first non-Japanese general manager ever in American Marty Kuehnert, then brought rookie manager Yasushi Tao out of the television booth to lead the team.

They marketed the club like it had never been done before here.

The term “fan service” was actually brought into the lexicon and seemed certain to have an impact on how pro baseball teams in Japan treated their supporters.

These moves were definitely not out of the traditional Japan pro baseball textbook and had the establishment feeling a bit uncomfortable, to say the least.

Eagles owner Hiroshi Mikitani seemed to be the face of the future. A 38-year-old business magnate who was determined to drag the game into the 21st century.

But, lo and behold, a funny thing happened on the way to changing history.

The more time passed, the more the Eagles began to look like the other 11 franchises in Nippon Pro Baseball….

[T]he team did not enjoy the benefit of an expansion draft — where they could choose players from the existing NPB teams — like new franchises do in Major League Baseball.

No, the Eagles were constructed almost entirely from the leftovers of the merger between the Osaka Kintetsu Buffaloes and the Orix BlueWave.

The only two true stars the team had were ace pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma and outfielder Koichi Isobe, who refused to play for the Orix Buffaloes — the team created by the merger.

The results were predictable.

The Eagles finished their inaugural season with a record of 38-97-1, the worst mark in the NPB in 40 years.

Read the whole sorry story, if you have any interest in Japanese baseball.

UPDATE: And here’s another sad story by Gallagher about the nasty treatment of foreigners by Japan’s sports media.

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