Why that guy keeps asking about Hideki Matsui

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I’ve had a little bit of fun at the expense of our friends in the Japanese media over the past couple of days, but it’s time to be a little more fair.  Don’t worry, I’ll skip back to snarky and flip soon enough.

There’s a reason why that guy I keep talking about keeps asking about Hideki Matsui.  It’s not because he’s dense. It’s not because he doesn’t understand Hideki Matsui’s market. It’s because he has no choice, nor do most of the other Japanese writers.  They are sent here by Japanese media companies for the express purpose of covering Japanese players. Often because the media company has a business imperative to sell the hell out of Matsui and need his face on the cover, constantly. And Ichiro’s face. And Matsuzaka’s.

A lot of these guys don’t want to focus so much on the Japanese players. I spoke briefly with one of the Japanese reporters today — not the Matsui guy, sadly — and he said that many of his colleagues want to talk about U.S. baseball more generally and to educate the Japanese
audience about other players. But the companies that
employ them demand wall-to-wall Matsui coverage. It’s what sells there. Understandable, really.

It does lead to silliness, the kind of which we’ve seen the past few days.  But it also has its miseries.  Indeed, according to an American beat writer I spoke with, there is no more miserable a job in baseball than being assigned to cover a Japanese starting pitcher.  The press following him still has to file every day even though he only pitches every fifth. What do you write when it’s mid-August and it’s not his turn and you’ve used up every single human interest angle in existence?  What’s worse, what do you write when the guy you’re covering is on the DL like Matsuzaka last year?

So, yes, I laugh a bit because it is kind of funny to hear Bobby Cox asked about whether he’d like Hideki Matsui on his club.  But it’s a benign laugh, one with empathy, not scorn, because the guy asking the question has a way harder job than I do, and he does it way farther away from his home than I do too.

Cubs to activate Craig Kimbrel on Thursday

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The Cubs will activate reliever Craig Kimbrel ahead of Thursday afternoon’s game against the Braves, Sahadev Sharma of The Athletic reports.

Kimbrel, 31, ended a seven-month stint in free agency, agreeing to a three-year, $43 million contract with the Cubs earlier this month. He has made four minor league appearances, allowing one earned run on two hits and a walk with four strikeouts in 3 2/3 innings.

With an aggregate 3.96 ERA entering Wednesday, the Cubs’ bullpen has been among the better bullpens in the league. Adding Kimbrel, one of the greatest closers of all-time, certainly can’t hurt and will give them some stability in save situations.