Why that guy keeps asking about Hideki Matsui

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I’ve had a little bit of fun at the expense of our friends in the Japanese media over the past couple of days, but it’s time to be a little more fair.  Don’t worry, I’ll skip back to snarky and flip soon enough.

There’s a reason why that guy I keep talking about keeps asking about Hideki Matsui.  It’s not because he’s dense. It’s not because he doesn’t understand Hideki Matsui’s market. It’s because he has no choice, nor do most of the other Japanese writers.  They are sent here by Japanese media companies for the express purpose of covering Japanese players. Often because the media company has a business imperative to sell the hell out of Matsui and need his face on the cover, constantly. And Ichiro’s face. And Matsuzaka’s.

A lot of these guys don’t want to focus so much on the Japanese players. I spoke briefly with one of the Japanese reporters today — not the Matsui guy, sadly — and he said that many of his colleagues want to talk about U.S. baseball more generally and to educate the Japanese
audience about other players. But the companies that
employ them demand wall-to-wall Matsui coverage. It’s what sells there. Understandable, really.

It does lead to silliness, the kind of which we’ve seen the past few days.  But it also has its miseries.  Indeed, according to an American beat writer I spoke with, there is no more miserable a job in baseball than being assigned to cover a Japanese starting pitcher.  The press following him still has to file every day even though he only pitches every fifth. What do you write when it’s mid-August and it’s not his turn and you’ve used up every single human interest angle in existence?  What’s worse, what do you write when the guy you’re covering is on the DL like Matsuzaka last year?

So, yes, I laugh a bit because it is kind of funny to hear Bobby Cox asked about whether he’d like Hideki Matsui on his club.  But it’s a benign laugh, one with empathy, not scorn, because the guy asking the question has a way harder job than I do, and he does it way farther away from his home than I do too.

Video: Albert Almora, Jr. saved by the ivy

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The ALCS had a weird play in Game 4 on Tuesday night, but Game 4 of the NLCS did as well. This one involved Cubs outfielder Albert Almora, Jr. and his attempt to spark a rally in the bottom of the ninth inning against Dodgers reliever Ross Stripling.

After Alex Avila singled, Almora ripped a double to left field, past a diving Enrique Hernandez. The ball rolled to the ivy in front of the wall. Most outfielders there would’ve put their hands up, which would have alerted the umpires to call an immediate ground-rule double. Hernandez didn’t, instead fishing the ball out and firing it back into the infield. Avila had stopped at third base, but Almora kept running. Much to his surprise, he pulled up into third base to see his teammate standing there, resigned to his fate as a dead duck. Third baseman Justin Turner applied the tag on Almora for what he thought was the first out of the inning.

Almora, however, was then sent back to second base after the umpires correctly called a ground-rule double.

Unfortunately for the Cubs, the lucky break didn’t help as closer Kenley Jansen came in and took care of business, retiring all three batters he faced without letting an inherited runner score. The Dodgers won 6-1 and now lead the NLCS three games to none. They’ll try to punch their ticket to the World Series on Wednesday.