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.
The Braves reportedly have a deal in place with free agent catcher Kurt Suzuki, per Chris Cotillo of SB Nation. FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal adds that the contract is for one year, $1.5 million with up to $2.5 million in additional incentives.
Suzuki, 33, completed a three-year track with the Twins in 2016, slashing .258/.301/.403 with eight home runs in 373 PA. The veteran backstop likely won’t provide an offensive or defensive upgrade over current starter Tyler Flowers, but should give the Braves some depth at a position they’ve been looking to strengthen since the start of the offseason.
The team has yet to confirm the deal.
With the 2017 World Baseball Classic around the corner, Team Israel has reportedly reached out to Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis, per MLB Network’s Jon Morosi. Tournament rules stipulate that a player’s roster eligibility can be achieved in one of several ways: they were born in the country in question or hold citizenship/permanent legal residence there (or are simply capable of qualifying for citizenship), or one of their parents was born in the country or holds citizenship/permanent legal residence there.
For Kipnis, it’s the latter. Kipnis’ father, Mark Kipnis, is Jewish. That gives Kipnis the status he needs to suit up for Team Israel, despite the fact that he is a practicing Roman Catholic. He has yet to confirm or deny his participation in the competition.
Fifteen players have confirmed for Team Israel so far, including Mets’ infielder/outfielder Ty Kelly and free agents Sam Fuld, Nate Freiman, Jason Marquis and Jeremy Bleich. Per MLB.com’s Chad Thornburg, eight minor leaguers will also appear for the team. Like Kipnis, at least three other major leaguers are eligible for Team Israel’s roster but have yet to accept or decline involvement in the WBC: Dodgers center fielder Joc Pederson, Mariners infielder/outfielder Danny Valencia and free agent left-hander Craig Breslow.