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Tuffy Rhodes and the Japanese Hall of Fame

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Tuffy Rhodes played 225 games in six seasons in the majors. While a lot of people remember him hitting three homers on Opening Day in 1994, he’d only hit five more all season and would only hit a total of 13 in his entire big league career. Which is to say that he wasn’t anything special. But then he went to Japan for 13 seasons and, let me tell ya, he was something special over there.

In those 13 seasons he batted .286/.381/.559 and became the all-time NPB home run leader among foreign-born players, with 464 longballs. That also ties him for 11th all time among all NPB players. In 2001 he hit 55 home runs tying what was then the NPB single-season mark set by the legendary Sadaharu Oh in 1964. It’s likely he would’ve broken the record but, as was often the case with foreign players approaching records held by Japanese players, Rhodes was pitched around late in the season. (Wladimir Balentien later broke the record, hitting 60 homers, in 2013).

Rhodes’ career would seem to make him a prime candidate for the Japanese baseball Hall of Fame, but in four years on the ballot he has come nowhere close to election. This year he received 29.6 percent of the vote. And that’s a high water mark for him. There is just little support for the guy.

While many have suspected that his status as a foreigner is to blame, it’s not simply because he’s not Japanese. Randy Bass did not get elected but he did receive nearly 64% of the vote and he only played in five full seasons in Japan. It’s also, likely, not because of his race. A contemporary of Rhodes, Alex Ramirez, a Venezuelan with dark skin, also made his debut on the ballot this year and got 40.4%. Whether there are more subtle racial/ethnic politics at play than that is beyond me, of course, and is better left to people who actually understand racial politics in Japan. On the surface, though, race and nationality seem like less-than-satisfying answers.

Whether or not race has anything to do with it, there is almost certainly something else at work here: Rhodes’ attitude. Or what has been reported or perceived about his attitude by the Japanese baseball media and figures within the Japanese game.

Today Jim Allen — who has covered baseball in Japan for 20 years, currently for the Kyodo News — writes about Rhodes, his time in Japan and his difficulty gaining support on the Hall of Fame ballot. The anecdotes are pretty great. Certainly not the sorts of things we hear about often in America, where Japanese baseball is covered almost exclusively through a lens of “[Player] might be posted to come to the majors.” My takeaway: We’re not the only country with a Hall of Fame keeping deserving guys out for dubious reasons such as perceived attitude. My gut impression is that Rhodes’ candidacy is like Dick Allen’s candidacy here . . . if Dick Allen had, say, Mark McGwire’s career but no PED baggage.

Anyway, after you read that, spend some more time on Jim’s site and give him a follow on Twitter. He’s the best source for Americans seeking insight into baseball in Japan and will give you some fun reads on what is shaping up to be a slow baseball news day.

Giants beat Mariners again in road game playing at home

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SAN FRANCISCO — The nomadic Seattle Mariners are taking their bats from the Bay Area to Southern California for three more “home games” on the road.

Wilmer Flores hit a go-ahead, two-run triple in the seventh inning of the San Francisco Giants‘ 6-4 win Thursday that sent Seattle to a second home defeat played in San Francisco’s ballpark because of dangerous air quality in Western Washington.

The series was moved because of smoke from all the West Coast wildfires. Now, the Mariners are altering their air travel reservations once more and headed to San Diego for a weekend series at Petco Park.

“It’s disappointing, but its the world we’re living in in 2020,” Mariners starter Nick Margevicius said. “There’s a lot of things we can’t control, a lot of things in the season, a lot of things in the world right now.”

Darin Ruf homered in the second inning to back Giants starter Tyler Anderson, who hurt his own cause when he was ejected in the bottom of the third by plate umpire Edwin Moscoso for emphatically expressing his displeasure with a walk to Kyle Lewis.

“Tyler knows that that just can’t happen,” mangaer Gabe Kapler said. “It puts us in a really tough spot.”

Wandy Peralta followed Anderson and threw 49 pitches over a career-high three innings, and Rico Garcia (1-1) worked one inning for his first major league win. Sam Selman finished for his first career save, stranding two runners when Lewis lined out and Kyle Seager flied out.

“Peralta came up huge for us,” Kapler said. “As tough as that was it was equally rewarding and in some ways inspiring to see him come out and give us the length that he did and battle. It gave us a chance to climb back into the game. I thought our guys continued to be resilient.”

JP Crawford hit a two-run single in the second following RBI singles by Tim Lopes and Phillip Ervin, but Seattle’s bullpen couldn’t hold a three-run lead.

Margevicius was staked to an early lead but Kendall Graveman (0-3) couldn’t hold it. The Mariners capitalized in the second after Anderson hit Seager in the backside.

Seattle has fared better against San Diego this season after losing all four to San Francisco. Manager Scott Servais had prepared himself for the possibility his club might have to stay on the road a little longer.

“I think with our players and everybody else it was going to be a two-day trip. That’s what we were led to believe that everything was going to clear up in Seattle,” Servais said. “We can’t control the weather it’s bigger than all of us and with what’s going on there with the smoke. Certainly understand why we have to go but I don’t think anybody was really prepared for it.”

Brandon Crawford contributed a sacrifice fly and Evan Longoria and Alex Dickerson RBI singles for the Giants.

Austin Slater returned at designated hitter for San Francisco and went 0 for 2 with a walk as he works back from a painful right elbow. Luis Basabe singled in the sixth for his first career hit and also stole his first base.

“I didn’t think about it,” said Basabe, who will gift the special souvenir ball to his mother. “I was just happy to get the opportunity.”

Justin Smoak made his Giants home debut as a pinch hitter in the sixth facing his former club after he signed a minor league deal earlier this month following his release by the Brewers.

Anderson, who was trying to win consecutive starts for the first time this season, received his second career ejection. The other was Aug. 13, 2016, while with Colorado.