Red Sox make it official, name Grady Sizemore the Opening Day center fielder

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UPDATE: And now it’s official, as manager John Farrell announced today that Grady Sizemore will be the Opening Day center fielder for the Red Sox. It’ll be his first regular season game since September 22, 2011.

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Grady Sizemore’s comeback has gone exceptionally well in Red Sox camp. He’s hit .333 with an .842 OPS and more walks than strikeouts, and perhaps most importantly he was able to play in three consecutive games for the first time since … well, a long time and many injuries ago.

Here’s what Sizemore told Alex Speier of WEEI.com about his status:

You definitely want to push it and test it and see how things feel. You’re definitely going to have some bumps and bruises like you would in any season or any week of baseball, but it’s all been mild stuff. Everything has been great. I’ve held up well. It’s good to get the reps. It’s nice to play consecutive days and get a better feel for timing, moving around. Everything is as good as I could have hoped for.

Sizemore was one of the best all-around players in baseball before injuries derailed his career at age 26. He hasn’t played a full, healthy season since 2008 and hasn’t played in the majors at all since 2011. And right now it looks like he’ll be the Red Sox’s starting center fielder on Opening Day. Helluva story.

The Japanese playoffs are super unfair

Hiroshima Carp
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I know a little about Japanese baseball. Not a lot, mind you. Like, I couldn’t hold my own with people who actually watch it or report on it or whatever, but I could explain some of the broad differences and similarities between the NPB and the U.S. majors.  I can say a few things about how the two leagues compare competitively speaking. I can name some stars and (I think) all the clubs. But there’s, quite obviously, a ton I don’t know.

A thing I did not know until today: the NPB playoffs are really messed up.

The NPB is divided into two leagues, the Central and the Pacific, with the winner of each league facing off in the Japan Series. Like the U.S. majors, they have preliminary playoff rounds in each league. Each league has three playoff teams, with the second and third seed teams playing a series first, and the winner of that series playing the top seed — the team with the best record in the league — in what is called the Climax Series.

Here’s the weird part: the higher-seeded team in the Climax Series — the team which won the league in the regular season — gets every single playoff game at home. What’s more, that team begins the Climax Series with an automatic 1-0 advantage. So, yes, it’s a seven-game series on paper, but one of the teams only has to win three games to advance to the Japan Series.

Oh, in Japan, they also have no problems ending a playoff game early if it rains. That’s what happened in the Central League Climax Series last night, where the lower-seeded Yokohama BayStars took on the league champ Hiroshima Carp. Here’s the report from Jason Coskrey of The Japan Times:

The rainy conditions in Hiroshima caused the umpires to stop play for over 30 minutes and ultimately call the game after five innings, minutes after the Carp put three runs on the board. Just like that, it was over. The Carp won 3-0, with Yokohama robbed of the four innings (at least) it would’ve had to try and rally.

Even better: as Coskrey notes, there are five days in between the end of the Climax Series and the beginning of the Japan Series, so there is no reason they could not suspend a game and resume it the next day. They just choose not to. The upshot: the Carp were staked to a 2-0 series lead despite the fact that they had only played five innings of baseball. UPDATE: they played a full game today, the BayStars won, so now it’s 2-1 Hiroshima.

Imagine if that happened in the NLCS. Imagine if the Dodgers began the series with a 1-0 lead over the Cubs and played all of their games in Los Angeles. Imagine there was a freak L.A. storm and it ended one of the game in the fifth inning, right after Justin Turner hit a homer. I’m pretty sure people would riot.

Kinda makes our complaints about the replay system seem rather quaint, eh?