Top 10 Tiger Moments of 2014

tigers2014Fans voted on their top 10 news-making events of the year. Here they are, with links to video when possible.

#10 (tie): The Tiger Girls; Kubota of “JFK” Announces Retirement (22 votes)

#9: Manager Yutaka Wada has his contract extended (33 votes)

#8: Takahiro Arai leaves the club, returns to Hiroshima Carp (37 votes)

#7: Team loses “the war to acquire Hiroyuki Nakajima” (50 votes)

#6: Sekimoto’s pinch hit grand slam to beat the Giants (55 votes)

#5: Nishioka’s season-ending base runner interference call (104 votes)

#4: Takashi Toritani declares himself an overseas free agent (140 votes)

#3: Six individual titles won by Tigers! (221 votes)

#2: Nishioka and Fukudome collide in the outfield (363 votes)

#1: First Climax Series title won by sweeping the Giants in 4 (565 votes)

Facebook Fan Page

I have started a Facebook fan page to supplement this website. When I get short tidbits and news, I tend to post them just to Facebook. The more “substantial” stuff will still be posted here. Feel free to put in a “Join” request… I’ll add you if you’re not a spam bot! Click below to access the page:

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Tigers 2015 Fan Club Membership!

IMG_3610Some of you may be aware of the Hanshin Tigers Fan Club. Others might not. Since the information on the team website is only in Japanese, it becomes even harder for English-speaking fans to get a service that is quite reasonable. I’ll break it down for you here:

The cost for a year membership is ¥3,600 (around $30 US) and includes:

IMG_36141) A membership card. On the back is your name and membership number, as well as a little Tigers jersey with the number of your choice on it. (I chose #9 because Matt Murton is my favorite player.) Three straight years of membership earns you “Gold” status, 5 is “Platinum” and 10 is “Diamond.” Not sure what its significance is.

Update: After reading into it, I found out Gold gets you a free towel (different than the one below) plus entry into a draw for 3B SMBC seats to a game. Platinum gets you a Membership “card case” plus entry into a draw for 1B SMBC seats to a game, plus access to special “Platinum and Diamond Members Only” tickets. Diamond gets you a special hand-stitched “Diamond Member” emblem, entry into a draw for lower-deck Green seats, access to special “Platinum and Diamond Members Only” tickets, plus entry into a draw for invitations to special events (open practices, more) accessible only to Gold, Platinum and Diamond members. You also get an optional “Diamond Plus Member” service available for ¥33,600 which includes: a unique Mizuno “bench coat” with your name (up to 10 characters) stitched into the sleeve, a unique Diamond Plus Member card, a Mizuno “Gold Glove Leather” keychain, earlier access to tickets than anyone else, a walk down the red carpet at Fan Appreciation Day, a pair of tickets (1B Alps) to any regular season game, your name on a placard outside Koshien Stadium, and entry into a draw to access the draftees’ club induction conference. WOW.

IMG_36122) A replica yellow jersey OR a tote bag with 2 seat cushions (for the hard seats at Koshien) OR a tote bag (like the ones that high schoolers use) OR a large beach towel with Torakki- (To Lucky) and Torako on it.

SilkscreentowelMurtonFujinamiUemotoToritaniNishiokaNohmiGomez3) If a current member “introduces” you to the club, both you and that person get a silk-screen hand towel that has 7 players on it.

4) Discounts on certain tickets/items, as well as the ability to choose your seats when buying tickets. Without the membership you can only choose your section, then you get your seats chosen for you.

5) Invitations to special fan events throughout the year.

6) A quarterly magazine put out by the club (in Japanese, of course). I would like to be the one to introduce the idea of having the magazine available in English, too. Of course, I would be the translator, in a perfect world!

7) You get a chance to throw out the first pitch at home games or present “player of the month” awards to players.

So that’s what you get for the cost of a decent dinner for two. Not bad, eh? I’m glad I got my membership this year, and hope to make it easier for everyone to get theirs in 2016!

May everyone enjoy the final few days of 2014! Looking forward to another great year of cheering for the Tigers in 2015! Let’s hope they can win their first title in 30 years! GO TIGERS!

Hanshin Tigers SS Toritani – Blue Jays Make Official Offer

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Photo taken from sportsnet.ca

The original article can be seen here 元の記事はこちら

Hanshin Tigers international free agent Takashi Toritani (33) has received an official offer from the Toronto Blue Jays to be their second baseman on the 23rd. Sources revealed that Toritani’s agent, Scott Boras (62) has met and negotiated with the team several days in a row. It also appears the Padres are making attempts to acquire Toritani as well.

Blue Jays' GM Anthopoulos at MLB winter meetings

Blue Jays’ GM Anthopoulos at MLB winter meetings

At last, an official offer has been presented to the man who has dreamed of playing on the big stage for years. Blue Jays’ GM Alex Anthopoulos made public the Jays’ high estimation of Toritani as a potential second baseman in a local radio talk show interview on the 17th. Major league sources have said that “the Blue Jays have put an official contract offer on the table and negotiated with his agent several days in a row.”

However, the Jays’ top priority is said to be strengthening their mid-relievers, and that Toritani is the final piece of the puzzle, and that the budget is limited. Other sources have said that Toritani is looking at this contract offer and noticing it is not as favorable as the ¥300 million yen that the Hanshin Tigers have offered him.

On the other hand, the Padres are seeking to make Toritani their shortstop. They’ve got Amarista and Barmes as candidates to be starting shortstops but would like to strengthen their depth at the position by adding Toritani. The Jays see him as a starting second baseman. The Padres are thinking of using him at his original position, shortstop. And then there are the Hanshin Tigers, who are set to offer him a much more favorable contract than the two major league teams. The time for Toritani to make his decision is drawing nearer.

Presently, the Hanshin Tigers are waiting to hear back from Toritani. Since declaring his intent to test the waters overseas, he has met with the club once in November and twice in December. The Tigers have indicated they want to sign him to a huge contract. They are hoping against hope that he will bring good news to them in the new year, as they see him as an instrumental part of their title run.

Coming Soon (or late, or maybe not at all): Book Review!

YougottahaveWAOK, I know I posted about a different book awhile back, promising to write a review of it. That still might come, and same with the one for this book. It has been on my list of “books to get” for awhile now, and I finally decided it was time. Looks quirky and interesting, and should be a real eye opener about what baseball in Japan was like 20 years ago, at least from the perspective of the author and the people he interviewed. Have any of you read this book or heard of it? The Japanese title, by the way, is Wa wo motte Nihon to nasu (和をもって日本となす). If you have any thoughts, let me know! If you want to borrow it when I am finished, let me know! (No promises I can get it into your hands, but we can try to make it happen anyways!)

Like I said last time… book review coming soon!

Offseason Report 7 – Oh Signs his 2015 Contract

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Closer Seung-hwan Oh joined the Tigers before the 2014 season with an agreement to play two years, but the contract for that second year was not signed until yesterday. Now that he is officially back, the Tigers will start next year with the exact same four foreigners (the limit for active rosters in Nippon Professional Baseball) as they had last season.

Said the Korean stopper: “It was great to play for an excellent organization like the Tigers this year. But I regret not being able to win it all at the end. Next year I’m going to do my best to be one of the team’s core players, and contribute to us winning it all.”

Of course we wish you all the best in 2015, Mr. Oh! Thanks for a great 2014! Let’s get the title in 2015!

In other news, the team is still trying really hard to sign free agent ace pitcher Chihiro Kaneko. The (former?) Orix Buffalo was the recipient of the Eiji Sawamura Award in 2014 and has expressed interest in being posted (i.e. going to the major leagues) in the near future. The Tigers are among 5 teams (none of these are the Giants) reportedly interested in the 31-year old.

Christmas + Tigers + History = Randy Bass Goodness

randybasssantahanshintigersTigers’ legend Randy Bass (60) has come to the Osaka area to help the Hanshin Department Store chain drum up some business. Today he was at Dotonbori on a tour boat in a Santa costume, shouting “Merry Christmas” to all who could hear and see him. He seemed to really enjoy his time, even posing in front of the (re)new(ed) Glico runner billboard. Check out pictures here.

Offseason Report 6 – Murton Returns for 2015 Hungry for Title

Most in Tigers History!

Murton Signs 450 Million Yen Contract: “Just want to win”

The original article, written by Daichi Shiraishi, can be seen here 元の記事は白石大地氏によって書かれた

Next Season Murton Ties Kirkland and “god” Randy Bass for Longest Stay with Team
Murton signs his contract with his agent in Knoxville, TN. Photo taken from Sanspo.com

Murton signs his contract with his agent in Knoxville, TN. Photo taken from Sanspo.com

The Tigers announced that on the 16th in Knoxville, Tennessee, they signed a one-year contract with outfielder Matt Murton (33) for next season. His salary is the highest given to a foreigner in team history at $3.9 million (around 450 million yen). By playing next year, his sixth with the team, he will tie the team record for longest tenure by a foreigner. “I just want to win the championship,” he said as he reflected on winning the batting title with a .338 average and on falling short of winning it all this season.

He was all business, showing up in a sharp-looking suit. All he wants is the championship. He signed his contract while back in America. Next year will mark his sixth year with the Tigers.

“I’ve decided to come back to the Tigers for a sixth season.”

The comment was announced via the club. His sixth year will tie him for the longest tenure by a foreign player with Willie Kirkland (1968-1973) and Randy Bass (1983-1988). The line of legendary foreigners just got longer.

His salary comes as a surprise. His previous record $3.5 million contract goes up $400,000 to $3.9 million (around 450 million yen). It puts him in a class of his own when it comes to foreign athletes in Japanese professional baseball.

Of course, he has proven himself worthy of such a high salary based on his work since joining the club. In his first year (2010), he broke the single-season record for most hits with 214. It broke Ichiro’s previous Japanese high of 210. He won the batting title with a .338 average this season while reaching the 1000-hit milestone (US & Japan combined) as well. He already has a case for being called the greatest import in team history. But the one thing missing is the title. A championship for the team.

“This season we got to the Nippon Series but I’m disappointed that we were not able to win. I’m not thinking about personal stats for next year – all I want to do is win a title.”

This year the team finished in second place, 7 games behind the Giants. They swept through the Climax Series on their way to the Nippon Series, but failed to close out the season on a winning note.

The personal records did not translate into the team’s success. Heading into the team’s 80th season, only one word matters: Championship.

Randy Bass, who won the Triple Crown two consecutive years (1985-86) led the team to their first league title in 21 years as well as the Nippon Series Championship. On the other hand, Murton has been named to the all-league team four times, including two in a row, surpassing Bass’ three – a club record. Next year, he hopes to be able to enjoy the sweet taste of victory champagne, just as the great Bass did.

“I am always thankful for the Tigers fans’ warm support.”

Murton has always responded to the Tigers faithful. Now in his sixth year, the challenge of bringing the club its first league title in 10 years and first Nippon Series in 30 years, is on.

Offseason Report 5 – Randy Messenger Signs On for Two More Years

Becoming a Legend

Tigers’ Messenger Looks to Catch the Great Bacque and Lead the Team to the Top

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Messenger signs a 2-year contract worth 500 million yen (US$4.2 M) at a Knoxville hotel restaurant on December 14. Photo taken from Sanspo.com

The original article, written by Kenji Miki, can be found here 元の記事は三木建次氏によって書かれた

Gonna be a legend! Pitcher Randy Messenger (33) signed a 2-year contract (worth 500 million yen) with the Tigers through the end of 2016 at a hotel at McGee Tyson Airport (Knoxville, Tennessee) on the 14th. This season, his fifth in Japan, saw him record 13 wins and his first “most wins” title, but he wants more in 2015. Should he reach double figures in wins for the fifth straight year and win his second straight “most wins” title, he would become the “Greatest Foreign Pitcher of All Time.”

As his right hand scrawled his signature across the page, the curtain opens on Messenger’s legend. Negotiations took place in a hotel in Tennessee. His facial expression brimmed with the same confidence as he shows when he stands tall on the mound.

“I hope to stand strong on the rotation again and whenever I’m starting, I want to do everything I can to give my team a chance to win.”

With 13 wins in his fifth season in Japan, the man already won his first “most wins” title and his second straight “most strikeouts” title (with 226) but he is setting the bar even higher for next year. The righty will be 34 years old in August, but he could win the title of “Legendary Foreigner” in the hearts of fans.

He’s got double-digit win totals every year since 2011, and if he can do it again in 2015 he will become the third foreigner (after the Tigers’ Gene Bacque and the Marines’ Katsuo So) since the 2-league era started to do so. Of course for Messenger, this is just a short stop on the road to even greater things. Should he get through the summer in good shape, he could also become just the third foreign pitcher (after Kip Lee Gross of the Nippon Ham Fighters in 1995-96 and Seth Greisinger of the Yakult Swallows in 2007 and Yomiuri Giants in 2008) to nab the “most wins” title in back-to-back seasons. No pitcher has accomplished both of these. Doing so would make him the “Greatest Foreign Pitcher of All Time.”

Tigers legend Gene Bacque is the team's last foreign pitcher to record double digits in wins 5 in consecutive seasons (1964-1968). Photo taken from Sanspo.com

Tigers legend Gene Bacque is the team’s last foreign pitcher to record double digits in wins 5 in consecutive seasons (1964-1968). Photo taken from Sanspo.com

But it’s not just about setting records. Naturally, the team is also relying heavily on the righty. The team’s attempts to sign free agents this offseason have all gone sour, leaving the team with just four of their six rotation spots (Mess, Nohmi, Fujinami and Iwata) solidified. The lineup is the same as it was this past season. Messenger threw the most innings of any pitcher in either league, with 208 ⅓. Naturally the team is counting on the man who threw on 4 days’ rest and got the team a bunch of wins. “We expect, and even need, greater numbers (than this year’s) from him next season,” said pitching coach Nakanishi.

As though he could still hear the crowd at Koshien cheering all the way from his home country, Messenger said, “I’m so happy to be able to pitch before Hanshin Tigers fans next season. They stay loud all the way through the game, which pushes me to play harder for them.” He’s planning to train for next year near his home in Kentucky, but he will not throw until next year. More important than practicing his throwing is building the stamina to be able to throw well the entire season. That and taking care of his shoulder are top priority.

“What we were able to do in the playoffs this year is a huge confidence builder for next season.”

Next season is the team’s 80-year anniversary. Foreign import righty #54 looks to lead the team to its first league title in 10 years, first championship in 30, and becoming a true legend.

Offseason Report 4 – MLB Blue Jays Rumoured to be Interested in Toritani

Original article can be seen here 元の記事はこちら

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Takashi Toritani played solidly at 2B during the 2013 WBC. Photo taken from Sponichi.

I’ll be the first to admit it. I was one of the more cynical Hanshin Tigers fans when I heard that shortstop Takashi Toritani had his heart set on playing in the major leagues starting in 2015. I mean, who would want a soon-to-be 34 year old who has no experience living, let alone playing, in America? Especially one with little power and little speed? Add on to that a negotiating condition: must be used as a starting member. So today’s Sponichi front cover caught me off guard:

The Toronto Blue Jays are considering offering Toritani a contract to be their starting second baseman? Of course with Jose Reyes firmly (if brittlely) positioned at shortstop, there was no way they could talk about him playing his regular position. However, Toritani showed his versatility in the 2013 World Baseball Classic, playing three infield positions well, including second base.

Since the Jays used 7 different players at second last season (the most regular being now-free agent Munenori Kawasaki, who played 49 games), they are clearly looking for an upgrade. Sponichi mentions that team Pacific Rim scout (and former LA Dodgers GM) Dan Evans watched Toritani play in 10 or so games this season, and liked what he saw. Not only is his defence solid, but he has gotten on base better than 40% of the time for two straight seasons. Obviously, Toritani’s agent, Scott Boras, also has great things to say about his client: “He is so good at stopping anything hit his way, he could play any infield position.”

While other teams have viewed Toritani as a potential utility infielder (i.e. filling in the gaps as injuries and slumps happen), the Jays are the only team so far that has given serious thought to making him a regular fixture in their lineup. Having already signed free agent catcher Russell Martin, and trading for all-star 3B Josh Donaldson and outfielder Michael Saunders, the Blue Jays are looking to be one of the most stacked lineups in the American League next year.

For his part, Toritani has made his stance clear: a contract with a major league club takes precedence over all, even denying the Tigers a chance to negotiate with him: “It’s all in my agents hands now.”

Should the Blue Jays make an offer, Toritani’s days of dreaming about the major leagues could be over. Expect to hear more concrete news about the (former?) Tigers’ captain soon.