The return of baseball to Japan is not being met with unequivocal joy

2 Comments

Baseball is resuming in Japan, delayed a few weeks by the earthquake and tsunami. Everyone in a position of authority is noting how baseball coming back will restore a sense of normalcy to life.  But as Robert Whiting — the author of the fabulous book about baseball in Japan, You Gotta Have Wa — notes, practically speaking, it’s not that simple:

There is not enough electric power to enable the normal schedule of night games to proceed, and given the power outages, many people, especially those in the affected areas, won’t be able to watch the games on TV, assuming they still have a functioning TV set.

“Watching baseball is not the first thing on anyone’s mind in Tokyo either,” said Kozo Abe, a sports reporter with the Fuji-Sankei media group. “The Japanese feeling at the moment is that they are not ready to root for the revival of Japanese baseball from the bottom of their heart.”

But they’re doing it anyway.  And some in the game — notably, Yomuri Giants’ President Takuo Takihana — are sniffing at the many game time and duration restrictions designed to conserve electricity.  Others, while noting the need for the restrictions and doubting whether the country is emotionally prepared for the normalcy being imposed by NPB, acknowledge that it will be difficult to achieve it given the absence of the usual trappings of Japanese baseball such as bright lights, loud music, and “cute girls in miniskirts selling draft beer and octopus snacks.”

Play ball?

Johnny Cueto expected to opt-out of his deal after the season

Getty Images
1 Comment

Johnny Cueto signed a six-year $130 million deal with the Giants prior to the 2016 season. In his first season he went 18-5 with a 2.79 ERA and 198 strikeouts in 219.2 innings, helping lead the Giants to the playoffs. This season has been rocky for Cueto — he’s got a a 4.42 ERA in 15 starts and has battled blisters — but they’ve been far rockier for the Giants overall, as they sit in last place in the NL West and have the second worst record in baseball.

Many suspect that the Giants will either rebuild or, at the very least, restructure some in response to this nightmare year. If so, they’re likely going to be doing it with Cueto, who Jon Heyman reports is going to opt-out of his deal:

San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Johnny Cueto is planning to opt out of his contract at the end of the year, but he would listen to any extension offer . . . Cueto has $84 million to go over four years. It would probably take an injury or major slump for Cueto not to opt out. But it makes sense that he will.

Heyman says the Giants are not inclined to give him an extension, so expect to see Cueto on the free agent market three days after the World Series ends, which is the deadline for him to exercise his opt-out rights.

The Dodgers are concerned about Julio Urias’ shoulder

Getty Images
2 Comments

Things are going great for the Dodgers lately. They’ve won seven consecutive games and 13 of their last 14. They lead the National League in wins and are in first place in, arguably, the best division in baseball.

But there are a lot of moving parts on a baseball team, and even when some things are going great, other things can go not-so-great. Like this:

Urias has been diagnosed with shoulder inflammation and shut down indefinitely. An MRI last week showed no structural damage, but his shoulder is still bothering him. He has not pitched in the bigs since late May, when he allowed seven runs in less than three innings against the Miami Marlins. He was sent down after that and went 3-0 with a 3.12 ERA, six walks and 17 strikeouts in 17.1 innings pitched in three starts with Oklahoma City before being shelved.