Wladimir Balentien

Fans in Japan are embracing Wladimir Balentien’s assault on the NPB home run record

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A good story in the New York Times about changing attitudes among Japanese baseball fans and players with respect to foreigners who threaten hallowed Japanese records. In this case, Wladimir Balentien’s chase of Sadaharu Oh’s home run record.

An online survey published late last month by the business daily Nikkei found that 69 percent of its 1,300 respondents said they were enthusiastic about Balentien’s bid to surpass Oh, and 27 percent said they were resigned to a new home run king. Fewer than 1 percent of respondents said that Balentien needed to be stopped at all costs. Fans now boo pitchers who appear to be shying away from throwing Balentien strikes. This week, the Yakult Swallows added a “Coco Meter” — using Balentien’s nickname — to count down to what would be a historic home run No. 56.

Balentien is still at 52, but has a lot of time to pass 55.  If he does, and if he is embraced as he does it, he will break a longstanding anti-outsiders sentiment among Japanese fans, which is well laid out by the Times article.

Good stuff all around.

Moises Alou pledges to help Cubs give “closure” to Steve Bartman

CHICAGO - OCTOBER 7:  Moises Alou #18 of the Chicago Cubs hits a two-run home run in the first inning against thye Florida Marlins during game one of the National League Championship Series October 7, 2003 at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images)
Brian Bahr/Getty Images
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After the Cubs won the World Series last month — their first since 1908 — owner Tom Ricketts said he plans to reach out to Steve Bartman to provide “closure.”

Bartman was the fan who interfered with left fielder Moises Alou’s attempt to catch a foul ball in Game 6 of the 2003 NLCS against the Marlins. Alou was particularly irate about Bartman’s presence and it led to the fan becoming persona non grata in Chicago. In the time since, even before the Cubs won the World Series, the club has tried to make amends but Bartman has rejected offers to speak publicly and he has also rejected invitations to Wrigley Field.

Alou pledged to make time to attend any ceremony the Cubs stage for Bartman, Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago-Sun Times reports.

Alou said, “Why not? I’d like to meet Bartman.” He continued, “I have nothing against the guy. I said it right after the game. I had the ball, and I got upset, but at the same time it’s not that kid’s fault. Everybody goes to the ballpark, and they bring a glove. Every wants to catch a fly ball.” However, He still maintains that he would have caught the ball if he had not been impeded.

Diamondbacks sign Jeff Mathis to a two-year, $4 million deal

SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA - JUNE 14:  Jeff Mathis #6 of the Miami Marlins hits a grand slam during the first inning of a baseball game against the San Diego Padres at PETCO Park on June 14, 2016 in San Diego, California.   (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images)
Denis Poroy/Getty Images
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The Diamondbacks announced on Monday that the club signed catcher Jeff Mathis to a two-year, $4 million contract.

Mathis, 33, isn’t much with the stick as he owns a career .197/.254/.308 triple-slash line over parts of 12 seasons in the majors. The veteran, though, is well-regarded for his ability to play defense, call games, handle a pitching staff, and get along with his teammates in the clubhouse. As Craig mentioned last year, Mathis is often talked about as a future manager.

The D-Backs non-tendered Welington Castillo on Friday, so Chris Herrmann and Mathis are the team’s two catchers as presently constructed.