The NPB is undecided on when to start the season

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Japan obviously has bigger problems than when to start the baseball season, but the Central and Pacific Leagues of the NPB met today to discuss when they should begin the 2011 baseball season in the wake of the tsunami and the mounting nuclear crisis.

The NPB blog Yakyubaka reports that no decision has been made and that, in fact, there’s some dispute between the Pacific league and the Central League regarding when to start.  The latter is intent on beginning on the original start date of March 25th and the former wants a delay. Notably, more Pacific League teams are closer to the areas that were most devastated in the disaster. Though given the scope of it all, this is an event of national significance, not merely local.

One’s gut instinct is to say that baseball should simply stop for the time being.  But as we’ve seen throughout our own history, the interplay between sports and national crisis is more complicated than that.  As FDR famously wrote at the outset of World War II when it was suggested that the game be suspended: “I honestly feel that it would be best for the country to keep baseball going.”  That notion has been echoed many times over the years. There have been delays in sporting events, but they have tended to be short and then, once they resumed, used as rallying points or, at the very least, a sign that normal life can once again resume.

I don’t know of these examples are transferable from the American experience to the current Japanese crisis. National psychology is kind of a pseudoscience, but it’s not an illusory notion.  I couldn’t hope to guess what makes more sense for the NPB to do with its schedule right now.  All I hope is that the Japanese crisis is sufficiently stabilized and that the Japanese people feel normal enough to play baseball games sometime soon.

(via BTF)

Kyle Schwarber is “probably, arguably” in The Best Shape of His Life

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Joe Maddon just held his annual media availability here at the Winter Meetings. During the scrum he said that Kyle Schwarber “looked great the other day” at a Cubs community event and that . . . wait for it . . . “he’s in, probably, arguably in the best shape of his life.” Maddon went on to say that, if Schwarber looks good in spring training, he might even be the Cubs leadoff hitter in 2018.

Schwarber is only 24, but the former catcher turned outfielder is going to spend most of his career as a DH, with another team obviously, unless he shows the Cubs that he can be a regular defender. The Cubs would love to see him in better shape whether they keep him or shop him, and if it’s the latter, they’ll want to show potential trade partners that he can play defense so as not to limit his market. It’s in everyone’s interests for him to be lean, mean and a bit more flexible once spring training starts.

To that end, according to a recent report, Schwarber “has been on a mission this offseason to transform his body.” And now Maddon is playing up the BSOHL angle. Whether that’s salesmanship or not, all eyes are going to be on Schwarber come February.