Book Review – Throwback

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I have tried to focus on NPB and specifically the Hanshin Tigers as much as possible since last year. However, as someone who has mostly followed the game on paper for the better part of the last two decades, I thought I needed to get an education from someone who played the game on the field for nearly that length of time. Jason Kendall teamed up with Lee Judge to write Throwback: A Big-League Catcher Tells How the Game Is Really Played. While some of what he says is basic and known to most observant fans, he also goes into a decent amount of detail about some of the finer aspects of the game that go unnoticed by fans, especially those watching on TV whose angle is limited by what the camera shows us.

Jason Kendall was a catcher for the Pittsburgh Pirates, Oakland Athletics, Chicago Cubs, Milwaukee Brewers and Kansas City Royals from 1996 to 2010. Catchers, as you may know, understand the game better than almost any other position player, thanks to their vantage point and the need for them to know many more details than the rest of the team.

Through the book, Kendall mixes anecdotes with actual practical things for fans to look for whether in attendance at a game or watching on TV. He starts with pitchers (starters and relievers alike), how they like to have the game called for them, what makes a tough pitcher, what makes it easy for catchers to work with pitchers, etc. He then goes into the catchers’ mentality, followed by the infield, outfield, hitters, base runners, managers and the rest.

Each section gives the reader some new insight into how the game is really played, and how it goes beyond one man throwing the ball, another trying to hit it hard, and everyone trying to score runs. The amount of detail and thinking that goes into baseball is beyond what many of us think about as we watch the game.

考える野球術coverI actually read this in conjunction with a Japanese book called 考える野球術 (Thinking Baseball Techniques), which talked about many similar topics but just from a much more mechanical, impersonal perspective. It was interspersed with the thoughts and ideas of other professionals – mostly Japanese players with experience in the majors – but it definitely felt a lot less intriguing than Kendall’s thoughts.

Still, reading the two books simultaneously helped solidify some of the more solid ideas. It definitely brought my baseball knowledge up a few notches. If you have a chance to pick up Kendall’s “Throwback” I recommend it. Only two things about the book prevent it from being a full five-stars: a lot of ideas/anecdotes get repeated several times, and his final point –  “if you get anything out of this book, remember to protect your kids at games because you don’t want them to get hit by a foul ball” – seemed completely unrelated to anything else he said.

More Toritani and Blue Jays News (Unrelated in a way)

toritani3Sanspo is reporting that Toritani has signed a monster contract (for Japan) with the Tigers: a 5-year deal worth ¥2-billion (around US$16.9 million). This means he will be with the organization at least through his 38th birthday, and likely for the remainder of his career. Management, among others, look forward to being able to retire his number at the end of what could be quite the illustrious career. Numbers may not compare favorably (two different leagues and in Ripken’s case, eras) but the shortstop has a chance to mean to the Tigers what Derek Jeter meant to the Yankees and what Cal Ripken meant to the Orioles. Both had long, productive careers with one organization, and were outstanding leaders and fan favourites. Toritani and Ripken are among the first names that come to mind when thinking of iron men. Currently, Toritani has played in 1466 straight games, which is still well short of Ripken’s 2632, but still very impressive. Should Tori play all regular season games the remainder of his contract, he would end his age 38 season at 2186 games. Either way, it is great to have him back with the organization!

On another note, I stumbled across his Facebook page, which I had no idea existed until Tigers Pride posted a French translation to Facebook. Here is an English translation, along with the original statement. Nothing too exciting, but worth a read.

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Happy New Year!
At the end of last season, I decided to test the international free agent market. I thought long and hard about all the possibilities, and yesterday decided to return to the Hanshin Tigers.
I know my decision came kind of late and I caused a lot of fans and others some grief.
This season I will play with all my might and hope to share the joy of winning the pennant and Nippon Series with all the fans. I look forward to your continued support this year.
Right now I am in Okinawa doing voluntary training with Chiba Lotte’s Iguchi, as I have done every year. I’m doing all I can to get in shape for spring training!

Photo courtesy of sanspo.com

Photo courtesy of sanspo.com

In other news, the Toronto Blue Jays have re-signed 2B/SS Munenori Kawasaki to a minor-league contract for 2015. It appears he will be guaranteed $120,000 if he stays in the minors all season, but the split contract also means an increase to $700,000 if he gets called up from the farm team. Kawasaki is a huge fan favorite in Toronto and is also well-liked by his teammates. While he is not quite Takashi Toritani, the Blue Jays could end up with a decent Japanese 2B at a reasonable price after all.

Photo courtesy of sanspo.com

Photo courtesy of sanspo.com

Not only that, but the Jays are also apparently one of three teams showing interest in 41-year old legend Ichiro Suzuki. The Orioles and Marlins are also in the running. Should Ichiro join the Jays, it would be like a dream come true for Kawasaki, who lists Ichiro as his hero. The two played together briefly in Seattle in 2012 before Ichiro moved to the Yankees in a trade. Kawasaki was released at season’s end and joined the Blue Jays at the start of the 2013 season.

Two Birds with One Stone!

toritani2It appears all the hubbub about Takashi Toritani heading to the major leagues was for naught. Yahoo News (among others) reports that Toritani contacted the club late last night saying he has given up on the long negotiations with the Blue Jays and has decided to come back to the Hanshin Tigers for 2015 and beyond. Toritani had told the organization soon after the 2014 season ended that he wanted to test the overseas market, and received interest from some teams, but it appears the lone contract offer came from the Jays (who do not have a great relationship with Tori’s agent, Scott Boras). Other teams (such as the Padres and even the Mets and Royals) were rumoured to be interested as well, but nothing ever materialized from those camps.

This news means that the Tigers (a) do not need to think of some way to fill the hole he had potentially created; and (b) should not care in the least that they failed to sign Hiroyuki Nakajima. That’s what I call “killing two birds with one stone!” Looking forward to more great years of watching Toritani at Koshien!

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.

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.

Translation – Toritani to the Royals?

Sponichi reported today that the Kansas City Royals of the MLB are interested in the Tigers’ Takashi Toritani.


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Shocking news from across the ocean. Several sources, including a league representative, have confirmed that the Kansas City Royals have their sights set on acquiring Takashi Toritani.

“The Royals have been scouting him for some time now. He can play any infield position and never gets hurt.”

Since the season opener, Royals scouts have been watching his moves carefully, attending several dozen games. They praise his masterful bat control, his impressive .415 on-base percentage and his rock-solid defence.

As of August 31 (9/1 in Japan), the Royals have Infante and Escobar firmly set in the lineup at second and short, but incumbent third baseman Moustakas has struggled to secure the position. Looking ahead to next season, atop the team’s wish list is a player who can play multiple positions, namely 2B, 3B and short. Toritani matches the Royals’ needs, as he demonstrated at the 2013 WBC, playing not only shortstop, but also seeing duty at second and third. Sweetening the pot even more is the fact that Toritani’s Waseda University teammate, Norichika Aoki (32), is already on the team.

Toritani first acquired overseas free agent rights during the 2012 season. It’s been a well-known fact since his days at Waseda that Toritani has big league aspirations. He spent the last two off-seasons thinking deeply about whether to stay in Japan or try his luck in the majors. In the end he chose the former, but he has made his intentions to the team clear by signing a one-year contract last off-season.

Clearly the major league market demand for Japanese infielders has been scant up until now, and it might be difficult for an MLB team to make him a better offer than the Tigers. On the other hand, Toritani’s fascination with the possibility of playing in the major leagues also cannot be denied. No doubt he will be thinking this one through once the season is over.

He is one of few born and bred Tigers, and he’s been “batting third, at shortstop” for years. As a core building block of the team, the thought of him leaving puts a gaping hole in both the offence and defence. The team knows he desires to lead them to victory for the first time in 9 seasons, so they will wait until season’s end to start negotiations to keep him.

Will he stay with the team or move on to the majors? This off-season, all eyes will be on Toritani.