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And then there was Ichiro: MLB teams in process of shedding Japanese players

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"Ichiro might be the only one whose job is safe for next season." This, reports Sunday Mainichi (Oct 10), is the general view of Japan's sports writers covering the U.S. Major Leagues.

Seattle Mariners right fielder Ichiro, who just ended his 10th year in the majors, also set a record for 10 straight seasons with more than 200 base hits. In over a century of U.S. pro baseball, only former Cincinnati Reds superstar Pete Rose, who holds the all-time record of 4,250 base hits, was able to hit safely over 200 times in 10 seasons, albeit not in consecutive years.

In the season that just ended, the performance of most of the other Japanese playing in the Major Leagues was marginal.

"Hideki Matsui, who was picked up by the California Angels based on his helping to lead teams to championships, is one example," notes sports writer Yasuhiko Kikuta. "For the first time in four years, the Angels didn't make it to the postseason playoffs."

But author Yoshiaki Furuuchi springs to Matsui's defense. "Among the league's designated hitters, Matsui's 20 home runs and over 80 runs batted in put him in the upper ranks. The problem is that the Angels made it conditional that he contribute to their taking the division championship. It's a different situation from Ichiro, who's on a team that appreciates his record-setting performance even though they're at the bottom of the standings.

"Besides, Matsui's contract was only for one year," adds Furuuchi. "I think he's pretty much resigned that they won't renew it."

Several other Japanese players in the MLB are said to be searching for new teams, possibly returning to teams in Japan.

"Kazuo Matsui and Akinori Iwamura seem keen on going back to Japan," says Kikuta. "Matsui went into a terrible batting slump and was put on waivers by the Houston Astros last May. After that he played for the Colorado Rockies and minor league team, and ended the season without being able to get back to the majors. Iwamura was also cut from the Pittsburgh Pirates and went to the minors. He was picked up by the Oakland Athletics when a member of the regular squad went on the disabled list. But I don't think anyone will sign him after this season."

Boston Red Sox pitching ace "Dice-K" Matsuzaka missed one month due to an injury, but still managed a respectable record of 9 wins and 6 losses. His earned run average during September, unfortunately, was abysmal. In a key game against the Tampa Bay Rays on Sept 8, he was shelled for 8 runs by the fourth inning.

Matsuzaka's team failed to make the postseason playoffs for the first time since 2007.

"In the off season, the Red Sox will be putting a lot of effort into bolstering their roster, and I won't be surprised if Matsuzaka is among players to be dropped," journalist Daisuke Sugiura predicts.

Every year since 1995, teams with Japanese players have made it to the postseason playoffs. Since Tsuyoshi Shinjo and the New York Mets in 2002, Japanese athletes appeared on teams that played in the World Series for the past eight consecutive seasons.

But sportswriter Yoshikazu Idemura notes that the latter streak may be about to end.

The sole hope rests on the success of the Atlanta Braves, this year's National League wild card team. The Braves roster includes two pitchers from Japan -- Kenshin Kawakami, with a 1-10 losing record, and 40-year-old veteran Takashi Saito.

© Japan Today

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.

27 Comments
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WOW! Hanshin and the Yomiuri Giants are going to be strong next year

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"MLB teams in process of shedding..." job that many JT readers had done months in advance. Now bring new j-players let critics have their opinion on JT discussion board.

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Not sure how this is really earth-shattering news. It's pretty simple - if don't perform on the field, you don't make the owners money. Its the same in any sport from horse racing to cricket.

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MLB is about results. The vast majority of Japanese players who went to MLB have been serviceable but only a few have been top-quality ballplayers. Wide gulf talent-wise between MLB and Japanese baseball leagues.

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news flash: Other ballplayers who also didn't perform won't return next year either. Japanese ballplayers are actually just ballplayers too. The title makes it appear that this is a Japanese-only phenomenon, when it's just another year in the majors. Grow up.

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It seems to me the article is suggesting there's going to be nearly a clean sweep, with that one exception. It takes more than skill at the game to make it in the major leagues -- the US season is longer and so are the travel distances from city to city between games.

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Let's be honest, the red sox didn't play any crucial games in September. Matsuzaka will be back. I suspect matsui too. Iwamura and kazuo... Can't see it...

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*

sf2k*, the name of this site is "japan today". meaning basically they are reporting on japan & japanese. hence the article about "japanese" ballplayers.

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No mention of Uehara, Fukudome, Takahashi (Hisa), et al?

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Kwaabish, the reason is that they're not Japanese (get it?). Also read earlier that Kazuo Matsui prefers to stay in US even if he can "only" play in the minor leagues. Tells you something about life on the two planets.

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Taguchi just came back this year, too, resigned to Orix Buffaloes.

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Fails to mention a new batch will be going just a question of when, this time including Darvish.

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In todays U.S. baseball, there are alot of outstanding AA and AAA minor league players that are willing to play for any major league at minimum salary $400K. Most of the U.S. teams will no longer risk millions in investments to Japanese ballplayers and will pursue top prospects from other U.S. minor league system. Same with Darvish, although he is an outstanding pitcher, the cost and the risk is too great. They don't want another Matsuzaka or Kuroda.

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What happened to Matsuzaka? He got chubby. Eating too much hamburgers in US? He needs to go down in weight. Go on a diet. The guy is fat. No wonder he gets injured. Yoshinori Tateyama is trying to cross the pond, age 36, 37 ,pitcher for Fighters. He is a mid reliever. Then there are rumors about other players too but just rumors.

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Many of the players who go to MLB are over the hill and many were just average players in Japan too. Some on the other hand were first class players who have not been living up to expectations. It takes a certain type of personality as well as skills to succeed in USA. Expats living in Japan know too well what it is to settle in a new country. Some succeed while others turn into bitter Japan hating gaijins. It's probably the same with Japanese baseball players too.

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Actually I think the so called "over the hill" players have been quite successful.

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Saito have done well in the Majors. He must have been close to 40 when he left Japan and he was pretty much regarded as washed up and then did well for the Dodgers. Rumors say that Diamondbacks, Yankees, Mets, Mariners, Rangers, Braves are interested in Darvish. And that Diamondbacks is willing to pay 6.5 Billion yen for Darvish. We'll see what happens. Then there is Hiroyuki Nakajima. The Seibu short stop. Rumors say that he might go to the Majors after this season. But they are just rumors.

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Nakajima is a stud, he'll do well in the majors. Darvish, Iwakuma, Ma-kun, and Yoshinori will be future MLBers also.

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ironchef at 07:06 PM JST - 12th October. Nakajima is a stud, he'll do well in the majors. Darvish, Iwakuma, Ma-kun, and Yoshinori will be future MLBers also

What makes you think any of the above ballplayers from Japan will do much in U.S. major league? They are not studs but duds. Heck, I will take 21 years old rookie Bumgarder or Arizona's rookie Dan Hudson, who both earn around $400K over Darvish anyday. They are alot better than Darvish for fraction of the cost. The Japanese players are so overated with their statistics that when they arrive here, they cannot get close to the stats that they had in Japan. Fukudome...330 average in Japan, and barely .260 hitter in U.S., Kaz Matsui, Ogawa, etc....What a ripoff.

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If you stay in "The Show" for 10 years, you've done a good job. If these players are on the back-ends of their MLB careers, they can hold their heads up high for the job they've done.

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Heck, I will take 21 years old rookie Bumgarder or Arizona's rookie Dan Hudson, who both earn around $400K over Darvish anyday.

Sfjp doing his predictable, "pick a young successful player who jumped from the Minors at an unexpected rate " who are obviously paid lower than that of an average MLB player. It's equivalent as saying, "I'll take Carlos Gonzalez or Joey Votto over (name other cleanup/power hitter from about 20 or so MLB clubs)" AFTER THE FACT.

How many times have we seen these so-called up and coming "studs" turn to "duds" after the following year? Or just have a mediocre careers all together? (Ben McDonald, Kris Benson, Mark Prior, or Tod Van Poppel)? Just go through the MLB June Draft over the course of the last twenty years check the names of the first rounders. Majority don't even sniff the "show" and clubs wasted millions and millions in signing bonuses and minor league salaries.

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nigelboy at 05:48 AM JST - 13th October. Sfjp doing his predictable, "pick a young successful player who jumped from the Minors at an unexpected rate " who are obviously paid lower than that of an average MLB player. It's equivalent as saying, "I'll take Carlos Gonzalez or Joey Votto over (name other cleanup/power hitter from about 20 or so MLB clubs)" AFTER THE FACT.

Is it really after the fact? What a garbage. You got short memory of Bumgarner.. Here is your reply from one year ago in 2009.

nigelboy at 12:40 AM JST - 28th October (2009) If you could read a earlier comment on same category, I mentioned Madison Bumgarner, who was 19 years old lefthander, who pitched for the Giants in September '09. Make direct comparison with Kikuchi. Bumgarner will probably start for the Giants in '10.

nigelboy saids: "So you're comparing a 19 year old kid who's going to be in the starting rotation next year. In other words, he's a stud. More reason why MLB scouts are looking into Kikuchi in light of the fact that LH pitchers are at a premium".

How many latin is paid $100 ($50 million for the rights and $50million for signing) like Matsuzaka for not pitching an inning in MLB or $50mil. Fukudome, $21mil Ogawa, or Jojhima? They are a high profile major investment players that do no produce at this level compared to non-experience latin players who does not cost much to sign.

Nigelboy saids: "Again straying off topic. The examples you mentioned above are NPB players turned MLB where posting was required. We're talking about an amateur so there are no "major investment" you speak of."

sfjp330 at 02:47 AM JST - 28th October (2009) Nigelboy saids: "you're comparing a 19 year old kid who's going to be in the starting rotation next year. In other words, he's a stud. More reason why MLB scouts are looking into Kikuchi in light of the fact that LH pitchers are at a premium."

Bumgarner is barely two years out of high school as a amateur. He played in Giants single 'A' club in San Jose for 1/2 the season and went to "AA" in Connecticut during mid. He has all the tools but maybe maturity might take time. If he makes the major league Giants roster for '10 season, he will be paid major league minimum at $425K so it's not a major financial setback for the Giants. I have seen Bumgarner and has one of the nastiest 92-94 mph sliders with great movement. Kikuchi has all the tools and I hope NPB does not destroy his arm like others and wish him the best

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with the exception of ICHIRO, JPN players in the US are not tough "mentally" and the neccessary "power" is not consistant enough for the MLB level.....little matsui, iwamura, hideki matsui, matsuzaka, are all definitely "doneski" or wash-up on the MLB level.....get some pitchers like Darvish in the majors to REPRESENT!!!!.....btw, ICHIRO is the best from nippon! hats-off:)

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with the exception of ICHIRO, JPN players in the US know how to contribute to winning games at the MLB level..... little matsui, iwamura, hideki matsui, matsuzaka, are all coming back to Japan with World Series experience, some with Championships... they will all be able to teach Japanese kids what it means to be a Major Leaguer... btw, ICHIRO is the best from nippon in the game of baseball! hats-off:).... as a Major Leaguer, he is the worst from nippon! hats-off:(

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IMO the restriction that a player must play like nine years here in Japan before being eligible for posting obviously impacts what kind of numbers they can put up in the majors. They are past their peak before they even get to MLB. And, as we all know, pichers are a huge risk, since the managers here insist on making the starters routinely throw 120+ pitches, and there is no such thing as an off day. They have 35 year-old arms by the time they are 30. Again, IMO, this is just a down-cycle for J-players in MLB, although I am not sure their numbers/impact will ever again reach the heights of say three years or so ago. But, maybe that is not such a bad thing, as I'm sick and tired of all the news programs focusing every night exclusively on every little accomplishment a J-player makes. Could make you believe only J-players are responsible for every win -- but never the loss.

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I don't see why a Japanese player has to wait nine years to go to the U.S. Why can't they just sign a contract for 2-3 years in Japan and when it expires, simply go to the U.S. Oh, that's right. This is the land of legalized slavery.

U.S. players pretty much come and go as they please to Japan. One point for the U.S.

I signed a teaching contract in Japan which said I couldn't teach the school's students privately after quitting. I mean, what gives them the right. They didn't birth the students.

I got a flyer from some coach requesting my kids to join the local baseball team. I said, "They're only 5 and 7." He said there were plenty of 5-7 year olds on the team. I said, "I mean, I think it's a really bad idea because they are only 5 and 7."

I hear they practice SIX days a week. My next-door neighbor's boy practices another hour (8-9 p.m.) with his dad. So noisy!

I believe I'll steer my kids away from team sports in Japan for awhile. Aikido and hip hop dancing is fine - both are just once a week. Far more useful in life as well.

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How about Kosuke Fukudome? When he came to Chicago, I noticed that a lot of Cubs "fans" jumped on Fukudome bandwagon and looked to him as the savior of the team. Most of us know how that turned out... As a result, all of the people that were going "Ooooh!" and "Aaaah!" over him are the same ones bashing him and wishing he never came over. Quite frankly, I'm happy that he came to Chicago. Plus, he brings his family and buys groceries at the store I work at, so I get to say hello to them once in a while. :)

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