Tagged: Japanese Baseball

Two Rays Go to Japan

Two more 2008 Tampa Bay Rays have left the team for more playing time — overseas.

Relief pitcher Scott Dohmann, who beat Grant Balfour for a roster spot on Opening Day before the world knew of Balfour’s flamethrowing prowess, has signed with the Hiroshima Toyo Carp of Japan’s Nippon Pro Baseball.  Dohmann was in the Tampa Bay organization for two years, compiling good statistics in a horrendous bullpen in 2007 before falling off the wagon (6.14 ERA in 12 appearances, with a better 3.46 ERA in 33 games at Durham) last season.  His departure does not leave much of a dent in the Rays bullpen, though they certainly could use the talent depth.  I have no idea whether or not he’ll be any good in Japan.  Every player who goes there reacts differently.  Regardless of how he takes it, good luck to him in this endeavor.

First baseman Dan Johnson, who hit possibly the single most important home run of the Rays’ 2008 regular season, has been sent to the Yokohama Bay Stars in exchange for cash, the St. Petersburg Times reports.  He will forever have a big place in Tampa Bay baseball history for his heroic efforts on September 9 at Fenway Park.  Having arrived at game time after his call–up from Durham, Johnson pinch hit in the ninth inning against the vaunted Jonathan Papelbon.  He promptly launched a home run over the Red Sox bullpen to tie the game, which the Rays would win 5–4.  Without that win and the ensuing momentum, the Rays may never have won the division or had home field advantage in the ALCS.  He hit .307 with 25 home runs, 84 walks and 75 strikeouts at Durham and .200 with two home runs in ten games in Tampa Bay.  I think that with his good batting eye and power, he is the type of player who can be a star in Japan.  As long as he can mentally respond to the pressure, he can be great overseas.  Hopefully he does very well in Yokohama and he can relate a great experience back to us in America.

I will be keeping track of these players’ seasons in the Far East next year.  On an unrelated note, Tropicana Field hosted its first ever regulation football game, the NCAA’s Magicjack.com St. Petersburg Bowl between South Florida and Memphis.  USF won 41–14 behind excellent quarterback play from Matt Grothe, who may finally live up to the hype and become a top–level QB next season.  Until more moves are announced, or Hank Steinbrenner balks at his $26.9 million luxury tax, go Rays.

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Barry Bonds to the Rays?

This MLB.com article says that it’s possible.  Carl Crawford and Troy Percival spoke positively of this idea, but fans that I know of are not so high on this.  Thankfully, Andrew Friedman and the Rays front office said they only had a "minor discussion" about Barry Bonds and that it is a "non-story."  The story first hit newspapers this morning, followed by MLB.com’s story; it was quickly debunked for the most part by the team.  Bonds has been reportedly driving around to Spring Training camps in Florida looking for a job.  This is how far the all time home run leader has fallen.  While it now looks most likely that they won’t pursue him, here are my thoughts on this idea:

We don’t need Barry Bonds.  There are numerous reasons, on and off the field, why we should never even consider acquiring him.  There’s the "new attitude" that the Rays have this season, thanks mostly to an image makeover and the trades of their locker room cancers, plus the team’s growing youth movement.  Barry Bonds in the antithesis of everything this represents, and he would kill team chemistry from day one.  He brings far too much baggage and too many mental and attitude problems to be a good member of this team.  The media circus and hype surrounding him could warrant increased attendance and more attention, but would mount unnecessary pressure upon the team and would offset the team’s balance.  We’re also stocked at Bonds’ positions, with one guy already signed to do the Bonds job more than he himself could: a younger, healthier Cliff Floyd.  We also have Crawford, Upton, Baldelli and Gomes, four more outfielders who could absolutely start right now.  Why hold the young guys back?  It’s just infeasible to waste a roster spot on him.  I don’t even want to start on the money the Rays would have to pay him.  He would end up being about a quarter of the team’s payroll.  Not to mention he has a perjury trial currently in the federal courts that is sure to tie him up during this season.  We just don’t need Barry Bonds now.  Five or ten years ago, maybe so, but there is absolutely no reason good enough to sign him in 2008.

If the Cardinals want Barry Bonds to hit behind Albert Pujols, they can have him.  But a more intriguing idea was proposed today by Barry’s agent: he might even play in Japan in 2008 rather than retire.  In the past, Bonds undermined Japanese baseball when asked about Karl "Tuffy" Rhodes’ 2001 55-home run season ("But it’s Japan, man").  Now he might have to ask Rhodes (who hit 42 home runs for Orix last season after a year off) about job opportunities.  Make sure it’s in the Pacific League, where they have the designated hitter.  I’m sure the Japanese media and fans would have a season-long circus surrounding him if he actually did play there.  Americans are sick of Barry Bonds beyond words, but the Far East has never had him for any extended period of time.  This would be like Daisuke Matsuzaka times 10.  I dare him to insult native players and see what the Japanese fans do to him.

There’s my take on Barry Bonds, and for previous words I’ve had about him, revisit this post from August 8, 2007.  Until next time, go Rays.

I Wish We Had Fans Like Those In Japan

Another update out of the "Strange But True" files before tonight’s All Star Game…

As usual, the big market and well-covered teams got many of their players into the All Star starting lineup.  Not that some of them don’t deserve it, because some really do, but what about our Devil Rays?  Or the Pirates or the Royals?  We all have all stars on our teams.  If only they could get voted into the game.

For fans of one team in Japan, this actually happened.

The Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles are, by far, Japan’s newest team, in just their third year of existence.  They are still near the bottom of the Pacific League in the standings, and don’t have many top-tier players.  However, a group of fiercely dedicated Golden Eagles fans rigged the All Star voting in a way that we will never see in Major League Baseball.  All three pitcher spots, catcher, second base, two of three outfielders, and the designated hitter all represent this 33-42-2 team.  (All but one of the other players, Orix’s Karl Rhodes, are from the Fukuoka Hawks.)  Even .170-hitting rookie catcher Motohiro Shima is starting the Japanese All Star Game.  That is the equivalent of starting Devil Rays catcher Dioner Navarro here.  Scary to think about it that way, with how badly he has hit this year.  Japan really has dedicated fans who will do anything to get their favorite teams recognized.  Just picture Shields, Reyes, Pena, Wigginton, Harris, Iwamura, Crawford, and Young all representing the Devil Rays.  That will never happen in this league, but that’s what it would be like if fans were like those in Japan.

The bad thing is, of course, this easily infuriates every other team in the league.  Japan is having a field day with this and many people are speaking out, suggesting that fans should no longer vote for All Stars.  OK, so maybe this shouldn’t quite happen in America, but it would be nice to at least see more than one Devil Ray in an All Star Game.  The players deserve it.  (But we probably shouldn’t send Navarro.)