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.
Brewers closer Corey Knebel set a modern major league record for relievers to start a season, as Thursday’s appearance marked his 38th consecutive appearance with a strikeout. He set down the side in order in the ninth inning, striking Josh Bell out to start the frame.
Aroldis Chapman held the record previously, recording a strikeout in his first 37 appearances of the season in 2014 with the Reds.
Knebel, 25, has flown under the radar despite having an incredibly good season. He moved into the closer’s role in mid-May when Neftali Feliz, now a free agent, struggled. After Thursday’s appearance, Knebel is 12-for-15 in save chances with a 0.96 ERA and a 65/17 K/BB ratio in 37 2/3 innings.
Despite having hit at least 20 home runs in eight of his 11 seasons in the majors, Reds first baseman Joey Votto has never participated in a Home Run Derby. Currently, he’s tied for the National League lead in home runs with 20, and he hasn’t been invited to this year’s festivities at Marlins Park.
In the event he is invited, Votto said he thinks he can win it, C. Trent Rosecrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer reports. Votto likened himself to Ichiro Suzuki, a player known more for his contact abilities and mastery of the strike zone than power. “Just think of me as the Canadian Ichiro — Japan has theirs and Canada has theirs,” Votto said. “I could pull homers into the seats at will.”
Along with the 20 homers, Votto is currently hitting .306/.419/.601 with 53 RBI, and 52 runs scored in 313 plate appearances.
Teammate Scott Schebler also has 20 home runs at the moment and Adam Duvall, who made it to the semifinals of the Derby last year, has 16. Neither of them have been approached about participating in the Derby, either. Per Rosecrans, in the event each was invited, Duvall said he would consider participating if he wasn’t an All-Star and Schebler would participate regardless. Votto said he would only participate if he made the All-Star team.