Saturday, May 05, 2007

Tokyo Swallows Continue Dive

Tokyo just wrapped up another big loss at the hands of cross-town rivals, Yomiuri.

Our pitching is in shambles. We don't have two of our starters, Kawashima and Gonzales, and that has hurt us dearly. What's more, past greats like Ishii and Ishikawa, who represent the old and the new of Tokyo's bullpen, are not getting it done. Matsui, a rookie (and not our best rookie), was handed the ball again tonite. It didn't go well.

Only a few of our hitters are pulling their weight at the moment. Aoki (despite a sore neck), Ramirez, and Miyamoto are playing very well. Other than that, the lineup leaves a lot to be desired. Iihara and Tanaka, two of Tokyo's prized up-and-comers, are still a year or two from valuable production from home plate. Riggs's absence from the lineup has further complicated things by leaving a gaping hole in the business-end of the order. Guiel still sways between moments of brilliance and utter stupidity when he's up to bat. I think it's fair to say that consistency isn't really our strong suit.

And can we please buy a catcher who can hit?

At sixth in the central, it seems like we'll be content to win one out of every three games for the next few weeks. No run support was offered tonight (final score Tokyo 0 - Yomiuri 8), and that definitely needs to change. But run support is largely ineffective when your starter's era is above six (which is true for several of our starters [wipes away tears]).

Names that won't be back next year if this continues: Furuta, Ishii Kazuhisa, and Ramirez [even though he's playing very well right now. The foreigner will probably take one for the team (ie. not be offered a new contract) if Tokyo stays in the cellar all season].

PS. Hoshino, famed former Hanshin and future national team head coach, was an annoying guest announcer this evening during NHK's oft-interrupted telecast of the game. Perhaps I'm being overly sensitive due to the big loss this evening, but he managed to dance all over one of my pet peeves. Bear with me...

I think he explicitly mentioned that a player was a foreigner (gaikokujin senshu) at least two dozen times during the game. Sounds innocent enough because they are, by all accounts, not Japanese, but it just seems like more of the same.

Is it really important that these men, who pay taxes here in Japan, are repeatedly differentiated as foreign? Some may argue that it is. I say it isn't. I think that the repeated reference to a person being foreign (and therefore un-Japanese) belies ignorance, and when repeated often enough, it belies an attitude of superiority.

In his defense, Hoshino is a man that operates in the pro sports world of us and them. Soon this rhetoric will sound all too acceptable when the Beijing Olympics roll around. Perhaps we want this sort of attitude from the skipper of our national side--he may be able to instill a sense of nationalism in his charges that will help inspire them to reach the gold medal game. Also, there were a few times when he was referring to all foreign players in Japan (as in, "The foreigners are brought here to hit"), and I can't really think of a more efficient way to say that in Japanese than the way he did.

But I would be surprised if Hoshino could come up with the nationalities of the three position players on Tokyo's roster (Ramirez is from Venezuela, Guiel is from Canada, and Riggs is from the United States of America). For him, they are all foreigners. Every time he repeated the differentiation, it seemed to be more out of habit and less out of necessity.

Perhaps it's too small a gripe for me to dedicate half a post to, but this guy is a role model. I think that many people, particularly folks who have spent part of their lives living in a foreign country, will agree that Hoshino's words are emblematic of a larger problem. Japanese, Venezuelans, Canadians, and Americans don't outrank each other in any way, shape, or form. It would be nice if everyone, especially people who spend a lot of time coaching foreign players, realized that.

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