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

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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?

Report: Yankees acquire James Paxton from the Mariners

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Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports reports that the Yankees have acquired starter James Paxton from the Mariners. Corey Brock of The Athletic reports that the Mariners will be receiving three prospects from the Yankees: pitcher Justus Sheffield, outfielder Dom Thompson-Williams, and pitcher Erik Swanson.

Paxton, 30, has been among the game’s better starters over the past few years. In 2018, he went 11-6 with a 3.76 ERA and a 208/42 K/BB ratio in 160 1/3 innings. The lefty has two more years of arbitration eligibility remaining after earning $4.9 million this past season.

Sheffield, 22, is the headliner in the Mariners’ return. He made his major league debut in September for the Yankees, pitching 2 2/3 innings across three appearances. Two of those appearances were scoreless; in the third, he gave up a three-run home run to J.D. Martinez, certainly not an uncommon result among pitchers. MLB Pipeline rates Sheffield as the Yankees’ No. 1 prospect and No. 31 overall in baseball.

Thompson-Williams, 23, was selected by the Yankees in the fifth round of the 2016 draft. This past season, between Single-A Charleston and High-A Tampa, he hit .299/.363/.546 with 22 home runs, 74 RBI, 63 runs scored, and 20 stolen bases in 415 plate appearances. He was not among the Yankees’ top-30 prospects, per MLB Pipeline.

Swanson, 25, was selected by the Yankees in the eighth round of the 2014 draft. He spent most of his 2018 campaign between Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Overall, he posted a 2.66 ERA with a 139/29 K/BB ratio in 121 2/3 innings. MLB Pipeline rated him No. 22 in the Yankees’ system.

This trade comes as no surprise as the Yankees clearly wanted to upgrade the starting rotation and the Mariners seemed motivated to trade Paxton this offseason. To the Mariners’ credit, they got a good return for Paxton, as Sheffield likely becomes the organization’s No. 1 prospect. The only worry about this trade for the Yankees is how Paxton will fare in the more hitter-friendly confines of Yankee Stadium compared to the spacious Safeco Field. The Yankees are likely not done adding, however. Expect even more new faces before the start of spring training.