Baseball history was rewritten Sunday in Tokyo.
Yakult Swallows slugger and former major leaguer Wladimir Balentien clubbed his 56th and 57th home runs of 2013 in a 9-0 victory over the visiting Hanshin Tigers, breaking the Nippon Professional Baseball single-season home run record of 55 shared by Sadaharu Oh, Tuffy Rhodes and Alex Cabrera.
NPB introduced a new, more hitter-friendly ball at the beginning of this season and home run numbers are up across the league, but that should take nothing away from Balentien’s feat. After all, he’s the only one climbing toward 60. Major League Baseball fans are well-seasoned in the practice of adding context to these sort of things. Here’s No. 56, the record-snapping shot:
Balentien signed a three-year, $7.5 million free agent deal last winter with the Tokyo Yakult Swallows after flaming out in the Reds’ farm system. It does not carry an opt-out clause, so he can’t immediately parlay this success into a big contract back in the states. Then again, maybe he wouldn’t even want to.
The Mets have reportedly offered their managerial position to Indians’ pitching coach Mickey Callaway, according to multiple reports from the New York Post’s Joel Sherman and the Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal. The three-year deal was accepted and is expected to be finalized today, though the team has yet to make an official announcement.
Callaway, 42, got his start in coaching back in 2010 for the Indians’ Single-A affiliate, where he helped the Lake County Captains to their first Midwest League title. He was promoted to a coaching position in High-A in 2011 and finally advanced to a big league role in 2013, where he helped guide the Indians’ pitching staff through five winning seasons and three postseason runs. Their success serves as a ringing endorsement: they’ve consistently ranked among the top ten rotations in MLB and led the league with a collective 23.1 fWAR and second-best 3.52 ERA in 2017.
The timing couldn’t be better for the Mets, whose cadre of powerhouse pitchers has weathered numerous injuries to Noah Syndergaard (torn right lat muscle), Matt Harvey (stress reaction in right shoulder), Zack Wheeler (stress reaction in right arm) and Steven Matz (ulnar nerve irritation) over the last year. While they’re preparing to take on a manager with no prior managerial experience, it doesn’t look like that’ll be an issue for Callaway.