The other day Japanese baseball officials admitted that they tinkered with it in order to “make the game more exciting” and increase offense. Today the Commissioner of the NPB apologized:
Nippon Professional Baseball commissioner Ryozo Kato held a meeting with representatives of the 12 teams and issued an apology for his handling of the situation.
“I’ve caused a lot of trouble for the fans, players and people connected to the game,” Kato said. “Baseball is very important in Japan’s sporting culture and I have to carefully reflect on my responsibility to the game.”
Offense has gone crazy in Japan this year thanks to the rabbit ball. There were 939 home runs in 2011 and 881 in 2012. This season’s tally stood at 512 as of Tuesday, on pace for a season total of 1,297.
In the United States this would lead to accusations of steroids and things because we have decided that that’s the only thing that increases offense, it seems. But the story from Japan shows how even the slightest of changes in the context in which the game is played, be it the baseball, the bats, the ballparks or what have you, can lead to dramatic changes in offense.
José Bautista hasn’t appeared in the majors since 2018 but the 39-year-old isn’t done playing just yet. Last month, we learned via a report from ESPN’s Jeff Passan that Bautista is hoping to come back as a two-way player. He spent the winter working out as a pitcher.
Bautista had also been working with former Blue Jays teammate Marcus Stroman. Back in January, Stroman tweeted, “My bro @JoeyBats19 is nasty on the mound. We been working working. All jokes aside, this man can pitch in a big league bullpen. I’ll put my word on it!”
In March, Passan added some details about Bautista, writing, “I’ve seen video of Jose Bautista throwing a bullpen session. Couldn’t tell the velocity, but one source said he can run his fastball up to 94. His slider had legitimate tilt — threw a short one and a bigger bender. @STR0 said in January he could pitch in a big league bullpen.” Stroman retweeted it, adding, “Facts!”
Stroman reiterated his feelings on Tuesday. He tweeted, “Since y’all thought I wasn’t being serious when I said it the first time…my bro @JoeyBats19could EASILY pitch in a big league bullpen. Easily. Sinker, slider, and changeup are MLB ready!” Stroman attached a video of Bautista throwing a slider, in which one can hear Stroman calling the pitch “nasty.”
Stroman attached another video of Bautista throwing a glove-side sinker:
Replying to a fan, Stroman said Bautista’s body “is in better shape than 90-95% of the league.”
I am not a scout and won’t pretend to be one after watching two low-resolution videos. And Stroman’s hype is likely partially one friend attempting to uplift another. That being said, I’ve seen much worse from position players attempting to pitch. It’s a long shot, especially given his age, that Bautista will ever pitch in the majors, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see him get an opportunity to pitch in front of major league scouts.