For several years the MLB and the MLBPA has promoted an All-Star Series in which MLB players tour Japan in November. It has taken on various forms and is a modern day version of old barnstorming series in Japan that have gone on for over a century. Today they announced this year’s version, along with some of the big names taking part:
Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association jointly announced today that MLB All-Stars Robinson Cano of the Seattle Mariners, Adam Jones of the Baltimore Orioles, Yasiel Puig of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Albert Pujols of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim will be among the group of accomplished Major Leaguers who will travel to Japan this November to play a five-game series against “Samurai Japan” (Japan’s National Team) in “All-Star Series 2014.” The MLB All-Stars will be led by Texas Rangers manager Ron Washington, who led the Rangers to back-to-back American League pennants in 2010 and 2011.
There will be three official games, played in Osaka’s Kyocera Dome, Tokyo’s Tokyo Dome and Sapporo’s Sapporo Dome. There will also be two exhibition games, with one in Osaka’s Koshien Stadium and the other in Okinawa’s Okinawa Cellular Stadium.
So, as of November, Yasiel Puig will have disrespected the game in two different hemispheres. Cool.
Fox Sports Detroit has named Matt Shepard their new full-time play-by-play guy for Tigers games. Shepard will work with analysts Jack Morris and Kirk Gibson, who will split time.
This is the move in response to former longtime announcers Mario Impemba and Rod Allen getting suspended and later fired following an in-booth altercation in Chicago last September. The two of them, who weren’t exactly friends, reportedly fought over a chair, with conflicting reports of how serious the fight was. An anonymous witness said Allen put Impemba in a choke hold. Allen recently gave an interview in which he denied that and said it was only some pushing and shoving. Either way, it ended their 16-year team-up for Tigers games.
Shepard has worked for Fox Sports Detroit for nearly 20 years, doing fill-in play-by-play for the Tigers — he replaced Impemba for the last few weeks of last season — and for Detroit Pistons games. Gibson has been a part time analyst for the network for the past couple of seasons, splitting time with Allen. Morris has done Tigers, Blue Jays and Twins games over the years, sometimes even splitting time between the Twins and Tigers, which is rather unusual.
Shepard is pretty good at his job. While Tigers fans liked and were familiar with Impemba, there won’t be a falloff in quality. Gibson makes some good analytical points and has a surprisingly sharp and biting sense of humor about him, but his gruff and monotone delivery is not everyone’s cup of tea. You get used to it. Morris is not my cup of tea — he tends to do a lot of the “back in my day” stuff former players often do — but I’m pretty sure he could recite the dictionary on TV in Detroit and a lot of Tigers fans would tune in. Such is life.