Fans in Japan are embracing Wladimir Balentien’s assault on the NPB home run record

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A good story in the New York Times about changing attitudes among Japanese baseball fans and players with respect to foreigners who threaten hallowed Japanese records. In this case, Wladimir Balentien’s chase of Sadaharu Oh’s home run record.

An online survey published late last month by the business daily Nikkei found that 69 percent of its 1,300 respondents said they were enthusiastic about Balentien’s bid to surpass Oh, and 27 percent said they were resigned to a new home run king. Fewer than 1 percent of respondents said that Balentien needed to be stopped at all costs. Fans now boo pitchers who appear to be shying away from throwing Balentien strikes. This week, the Yakult Swallows added a “Coco Meter” — using Balentien’s nickname — to count down to what would be a historic home run No. 56.

Balentien is still at 52, but has a lot of time to pass 55.  If he does, and if he is embraced as he does it, he will break a longstanding anti-outsiders sentiment among Japanese fans, which is well laid out by the Times article.

Good stuff all around.

Astros’ Verlander to have elbow surgery, miss rest of season

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Houston Astros ace Justin Verlander will undergo Tommy John surgery and miss the rest of the season.

The reigning AL Cy Young Award winner announced the news Saturday on his Instagram account in a 1½-minute video.

“In my simulated game a couple days ago, I felt something in my elbow, and after looking at my MRI and conversing with some of the best doctors in the world, we’ve determined that Tommy John surgery is my best option,” Verlander said.

He threw to hitters on Wednesday for the first time since he was injured in the team’s opener on July 24. He threw 50 pitches in the bullpen before throwing about 25 pitches to hitters in two simulated innings.

“I tried as hard as I could to come back and play this season,” Verlander said. “Unfortunately, my body just didn’t cooperate.”

Verlander has been on the injured list with a right forearm strain. He went 21-6 with a 2.58 ERA in 2019.

“Obviously, this is not good news,” Verlander said. “However, I’m going to handle this the only way I know how. I’m optimistic. I’m going to put my head down, work hard, attack this rehab and hopefully, come out the other side better for it.

“I truly believe everything that everything happens for a reason, and although 2020 has sucked, hopefully, when this rehab process is all said and done, this will allow me to charge through the end of my career and be healthy as long as I want and pitch as long as I want and accomplish some of the goals that I want in my career.”

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