Friday, August 31, 2007

Three Losses in a Row

Isn't being streaky fun?!?

First game of the Tigers series didn't go so well. Ishikawa got roughed up in his first start in what seems like forever (and now we know why he wasn't starting). Ishikawa only made it through four innings tonight. During that time, he gave up five runs off of seven hits (including three home runs), while walking one and beaning another against two strikeouts. Guess who's not going to be starting another game this season?

Final Score:
Tokyo 4--6 Hanshin

W: Vogelsong (7-4)
L: Ishikawa (2-6)

Silver Lining: Ramirez was a double away from hitting for a "cycle".


NOVA Being Bought Up By Someone...

Interesting rundown of current events regarding the NOVA meltdown over at Japan Economy News (click here).

Other background here.



Click here to watch some crazy dancing by a troupe of elementary school girls who were featured on "Japanese Kids Got Talent".


Tipness Oddballs

I exercise. I have to. Something must be done to keep all those beer calories from making a home around my belly-button.

A few times a week I work out at Tipness in Tanashi. Tipness is a chain of gyms that has a substantial presence in Tokyo.

The place is nice and clean, so I don't really have many complaints. Furthermore, they just redid the place with all-new machines back in May. Every single treadmill, climber, and exercise bike has its own TV monitor (which are all touch-screen, by the way). Finding something entertaining to watch is occasionally a challenge, but they have CNN so I can get my daily dose of half-assed news coverage.

The key to happiness at Tipness (for me anyway) is going when the gym is least populated. I'm not going to share my secrets at this point, but it's safe to say that I'm not as cliquey as some of the senior members of the gym, so I don't feel that it's necessary to be there at the exact same time as all of my friends. I like to work out by myself and then get the hell out of there in less than an hour.

There are some interesting folks at my Tipness branch. Yakuza types, wannabe yakuza types, corporate warriors, housewives, office ladies, college kids, 90-year-olds -- you name it! And then there's me. I'm not sure which of those groups I fit into.

While everyone at the gym is civil to each other (for the most part) and mindful of the fact that we are sharing the facilities, there are a few individuals who forget where they are and start behaving like they are at home.

Case in point: after my workout today I was in the locker room getting ready to take a shower. An older gentleman sharing the same corridor of lockers let one rip. I'm not talking about an SBD; this granddaddy let off a three second, two octave air biscuit. To make matters worse, he had just gotten out of the shower, so he wasn't wearing anything that might help filter the fumes.

I began searching my locker for a gas mask.

He didn't react. It's probably the smart way to go after you've just dropped a bomb like that. However, as a safety precaution he should have gone to the toilet because about a minute later he did the same thing again.

Or maybe he just didn't care. With five people glaring at him he just ignored us and proceeded to towel himself off. I waited until he tawdled off to the scale (I wonder how much of a difference in weight there was pre- and post-explosion) before I made my move for the showers. He was sort of blocking the way, and I didn't want to risk getting dusted.

That was one of the most creative displays of disregard for one's surroundings that I've seen in a while, but it's probably not the worst transgression (and certainly not the last). For safety, I won't be using that column of lockers anymore.


Thursday, August 30, 2007

Short Series vs. Yomiuri

Tokyo dropped both games against Yomiuri in a two game series that took place up in Nippon Ham's highly-modern domed stadium in Hokkaido.

Both contests were close, but neither worked out in Tokyo's favor. Once Uehara (1.59 era, 26 saves) comes on at the end of the game it's basically over. Furuta may have pulled Ishii a bit too early in the first game on Tuesday, and the bats got going a little too late during the game last night.

Tokyo is again 11.5 games behind third-place Hanshin.


My Paws are Killin' Me

Noo (Scott) standing in front of a storefront sign that advertises a range of spa-type services for weary hounds (photo taken near Azabu-Juban station).


Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Stinky Feet and Lots of Space

Seibu-Shinjuku line casualty.


Four in a Row

Tokyo somehow managed to sweep Yokohama this past weekend. That brings their streak to four straight wins.

After the extra-innings win on Friday, they followed it up with another walk-off outing on Saturday.

Tokyo 4 -- 3 Yokohama
W: Hanada (2 wins, 1 loss, 2 saves)
L: Kusano (4 wins, 5 losses, 1 save)

The game on Sunday wasn't nearly as close as the other two.

Tokyo 6 -- 2 Yokohama
W: Kawashima (3 wins, 0 losses)
L: Doi (7 wins, 8 losses)

A spot in the playoffs is still a bit of a long shot, but it's not impossible. If we can get a couple more guys to start pitching like they mean it, then there's definitely a chance that we could be playing some extra baseball in October.

Through games on the 26th of August, Tokyo is 11 games behind Hanshin and 3rd place in the Central League.


Saturday, August 25, 2007

First Shot at Video-Blogging

Update 2: The first video was removed because the quality was crap. Please have a look at the video down below.

This is kind of a test. I want to see what kind of sound and video quality are possible here. I also would like to test the potential of my phone's video camera when at it's lowest quality setting.

Anyway, I went to visit Ken and Miyuki at their beautiful place near Yoga station, and then we all headed down to the river for the fireworks show. It was my third one this summer, and I think it was probably the best of the three.

This video was taken toward the end of the show.

How did it look on your computer? Sound?

Update 1:

OK, if you haven't watched that first one, then you're lucky. It didn't go well. The video below was taken at a higher quality setting (on my phone). It looks OK in Quicktime, but (again) it might not work that well when Blogger messes with it.

This is a clip from the Awaodori Festival in Koenji this past weekend.

Please let me know how it looks on your computer.

Hint: Turn the volume (lower right corner) way down!


Walk-off Win

Last night was a long game.

It got off to a quick start, but then the pitching changes came and everything ground to a halt. After 10 innings and more than four hours it was still tied 2-2.

Tokyo threatened to score on several occasions, but Yokohama reliever Joselo Diaz (who was probably left in longer than he should have been) was able to get out of a couple of jams.

That finally changed in the bottom of the 11th when Aaron Guiel came up to bat with two men on. He smacked a walk-off double that nearly cleared the wall in right-center. It was a much needed late inning win!

Ramirez was intentionally walked just before in a bit of a "pick your poison" situation for Yokohama's manager. Needless to say, the decision blew up in his face.

Additional Good News: Ishikawa lowered his era to 5.02 (yes, he's had a couple of rough outings). He pitched seven innings and gave up only one run (solo homer) off of three hits. This is very surprising because he can generally be counted on to give up 4 or 5 runs when left in for seven innings (as suggested by his era).

Pacific League Standings (through games played Aug. 24th)

Hokkaido Fighters: 62 wins, 46 losses, 4 ties, 0 games back
Chiba Marines: 55 wins, 47 losses, 7 ties, 4 games back
Fukuoka Hawks: 58 wins, 50 losses, 3 ties, 4 games back
Seibu Lions: 53 wins, 56 losses, 2 ties, 9.5 games back
Tohoku Eagles: 50 wins, 60 losses, 2 ties, 13 games back
Orix Buffaloes: 49 wins, 60 losses, 4 ties, 13.5 games back

Central League Standings (through games played Aug. 24th)

Chunichi Dragons: 59 wins, 48 losses, 2 ties, 0 games back
Yomiuri Giants: 62 wins, 51 losses, 1 tie, 0 games back
Hanshin Tigers: 56 wins, 50 losses, 3 ties, 2.5 games back
Yokohama Baystars: 52 wins, 52 losses, 1 tie, 5.5 games back
Hiroshima Carp: 45 wins, 63 losses, 1 tie, 14.5 games back
Tokyo Swallows: 44 wins, 62 losses, 0 ties, 14.5 games back

By the way:
What is up with the interpretations of the post-game heroes interviews. Every third of fourth game one of our non-Japanese players makes it up there, and the interpreter slaughters the transition from English to Japanese. He did it again last night when they interviewed Guiel.

Now don't get me wrong, interpretation is a very difficult job. However, the guy at Jingu stadium (I don't know whether he is the team interpreter or if he's affiliated with Fuji TV or what) doesn't really have many excuses for messing it up that badly. Why? Because the interviewer always asks the same three or four questions, and the non-Japanese players always give the same three or four answers.

Something along the lines of:
Interviewer (in Japanese)-- "Wow, that was a great clutch hit! How do you feel?"
(accurate interpretation of question into English)
Player (in English)-- "I feel great! You know, we have a great team here and these guys work really hard every night. I'm just really happy that I was able to contribute to helping the team win tonight."
Interpreter (in Japanese)-- "I'm very happy. The team hasn't been playing very well recently, so I really wanted to get a big hit at that key juncture in the game. I think it worked out really well, and I'm glad that the rain held off for everyone tonight."

Most of the time the interpreter gets the first part right and then proceeds to just make the rest of it up as he goes. Granted, he's not working for the UN or anything like that, but he mangles a lot of very selfless comments where the non-Japanese guys are praising and giving credit to their teammates. Given the fact that the questions and answers don't really vary, I dare say that (with a little practice) I could do a better job.

And I'd do it for free.


Friday, August 24, 2007

Recent T-Shirt Sighting

That must be...awkward.


Thursday, August 23, 2007

Pitching is Important

Well, we won tonight.

You want to know why? One word: Greisinger.

I'm not trying to cut Yuichi out of the picture. After all, he went four for four in his first start of the season with six rbi's (including a grand slam). However, I think that we've seen time and time again that none of that would have mattered if it weren't for a solid starter like Greisinger (or Kawashima) keeping the opposition honest.

Greisinger gave up only one run off of three hits through six and two thirds innings. He would have stayed in longer, but Hanshin fouled off a whole mess of pitches and so he had already thrown 130 pitches by the time that Hanada came in to handle the last out of the seventh inning.

Final score:
Tokyo 8 -- 1 Hanshin


Lindsay Ann Hawker's Brutal Death

I don't know why it took so long for the Hawker's to gain access to the autopsy report, but it sounds like we have a serial killer on the loose.

Tatsuya Ichihashi, the only suspect in the case, must be caught before he strikes again.


The Game Sucked Tonight Thank You Very Much

I'm so glad that I paid to see the game in person rather than reading about it in the news tomorrow morning.

Long story short: we have only two steady starting pitchers. When it's someone else's turn to pitch, it is very quickly decided that there will be no stemming of the bloodbath. Humiliating games will be allowed to become even more so in the name of playing time for our weaker/younger pitchers.

It's lots of fun to watch.

Final score:
Tokyo 2 -- 12 Hanshin

Silver lining:
Sikorski was called back up from the farm team, and he pitched four innings in relief after our young starter, Takaichi, got pulled early. He walked four and struck out five. He lowered his era to 5.11.



Dave's friends from back home (Birmingham, England) were here the past two weeks.

I spent a couple of nights with everyone, and we had a great time.

Well, the baseball game we went to wasn't all that much fun (we got our asses whupped), but the yakatabune was a great time!

In case you're wondering, yakatabune means "floating bar that includes all-you-can-eat and all-you-can-drink for two hours".


Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Baseball (Fan) Imitating Art

It's kind of hard to tell from this angle, but this guy looks like the subject of a very famous work of art.

He's somewhat of a regular at Tokyo home games.

Anyway, I believe (or I did at the time) that he bears a striking resemblance to the person in Edvard Munch's "The Scream".

Am I right, or am I right?


Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Tokyo 7: Hanshin 9

Lot's of negative things to report about the game tonight, but I'll keep it short.

Tokyo was beating Hanshin seven to nothing after two innings. We lost the game seven to nine.

That's embarrassing.

I'll ask it again: can we please hire some new/real pitching coaches? Yes, we know that you're dealing with young talent. But you haven't done anything constructive with all that middle-aged and old talent that's lying around the bullpen either!


Wanted Poster: Tatsuya Ichihashi

This is the wanted sign for Tatsuya Ichihashi that I saw posted in Shinjuku-Sanchome subway station last week.
It's posted on the wall right outside the gates.
For more information about Tatsuya Ichihashi, and why he is the only suspect in the murder of Lindsay Ann Hawker, read this post and follow the links.


Sunday, August 19, 2007

Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB)

I just posted again over at Trans-Pacific Radio. This time I wrote about Japanese Professional Baseball.

Please swing by and have both a look and a listen. The podcast is in interview form (as are all the posts in the "Spotlight" section of that site), and it diverges sharply from what is written in the post itself.

You can listen to the podcast without actually downloading it. Just click on the little doohickey that says "listen now".


The Shinjuku Bully

It's the middle of August now which means that summer sale season is basically over [eyes become misty].

I was out shopping in Shinjuku on Friday. I picked up a Hyper-Cardioid microphone to help make voice recordings less awkward and more efficient. On my way to "Don Quijote" to look at undershirts, I noticed a large pear-shaped man dressed in a black tank-top and black shorts walking towards me. Just as he was weaving between myself and a young couple, he knocked into the girl.

She didn't really seem to notice, and her boyfriend was busy joking about something, so they just carried on their way. But I could have sworn that he reached out and elbowed her on purpose.

He had already passed me, so I turned around as the above thought process was still sliding around inside my head. Just as I turned I saw him do it again. Boom! This time the young woman noticed because it must have hurt. A forearm shiver isn't pleasant even when you are expecting it.

My immediate reaction was to get angry, but then I decided to just follow him. Approaching him about his behavior could have turned ugly, and since I'm a guest in this country it would quickly have been decided that I was in the wrong. So following him was about the best I could do.

I immediately noticed a pattern; he only targets young women. He never elbowed any men, and women who appeared to be over the age of 40 were off the hook as well. Only nicely dressed ladies who looked like they might be high school age or older qualified, and he would walk out of his way to tag some unsuspecting lady with his forearm.

I started following him near the ABC Mart (shoe shop) that is closest to the Don Quijote in Kabuki-cho. He forearmed at least 6 women (some could nearly be classified as body-checks because he was literally three times the size of some of his targets) before I stopped following him when he bought a JR ticket and got on the train at Shinjuku station.

I wonder what is going on in this guy's mind. He went about elbowing women like it was a very normal part of his day--almost like it was his job. Furthermore, he never looked back to see the reaction of the person he had just bashed into (and possibly bruised).

More importantly, I'm wondering how to video blog. I have video of him bumping into a woman in Shinjuku station that was taken with my phone. The quality isn't great, but it's enough to demonstrate what I'm talking about.

Does anyone know how to post video on blogger?


Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Wow, That Was Odd

Tokyo completely dismantled Miura and the rest of Yokohama this evening.

Final score:

Tokyo 15 -- 1 Yokohama

There was no dark cloud today, so I can't really speak of a silver lining. Everything seemed to go right tonight.

The only two innings we didn't score in were the 5th and 7th. Third year right-hander Kenichi Matsuoka scattered 10 hits over eight innings while giving up only 1 run in his sixth mound appearance of the season. He improved to 3-0. Meanwhile, Yokohama ace, Miura, was chased after only three innings of work. He gave up eight hits and six earned runs during those three long frames (71 pitches). Miura's record now sits at 9-10.

Picking a "hero" for this game would be tough. Matsuoka might be a logical choice, but several other guys had a very productive game as well. Iihara went 3 for 5 with one rbi. Aoki went 4 for 6. Ramirez went 2 for 5 with 2 rbi's, and Guiel clubbed his 24th dinger of the season. Tanaka, was 4 for 6 with 2 rbi's. However, the crown should probably go to Miyade who went 3 for 4 with five rbi's (including a three run home run).

Woohoo! Two in a row! I'm not going to get too excited though. It's only our sixth win since the break.


Lindsay Ann Hawker Update

The Hawker family was able to get the Japanese media (Japan Times) to run another article related to their frustration with the investigation into their daughter's murder.

The case has gone cold and Mr. and Mrs. Hawker are upset that communication with the Japanese authorities has been so vague and inconsistent.

Mrs. Hawker is quoted as having said, "Although we understand that there are some aspects of the case the police need to keep confidential, we don't feel that the standard of the investigation is the same as in the United Kingdom."

Sadly, Mrs. Hawker is completely accurate in her assessment of what is taking place in Tokyo and Chiba. There are allegedly 100 officers assigned to finding the prime suspect, Tatsuya Ichihashi, but very few of them have any real training or experience in investigating anything other than stolen bicycles.

Mr. Hawker cited the urgency of the hunt for Ichihashi when he said that "...we are concerned that he could strike again and leave another family facing a life sentence like we are." This very point has been argued before on several websites, including this one and Trans-Pacific Radio, as several key details of the murder bear a close resemblance to those of a sexual predator who is likely to strike again.

A website has been set up to facilitate global awareness of this case and to educate people that Ichihashi could be anywhere in the world right now.

For additional posts on this subject, click here.

To buy a t-shirt that will help in publicizing this case, click here.


Tokyo is Crap Again

It's been rough since the All-Star break.

We have done very little winning, and a whole lot of people have forgotten how to play baseball.

The tear that we went on at the end of the first half of the season has been reversed by a humbling slide back down toward the basement of the Central league.

Tokyo is now 18 games below five hundred.

We haven't won the series since the break, and more and more people are starting to blame Furuta for the slide. He has been uncharacteristically impatient with our starting pitchers as of late (although they have given him ample justification for his change of heart), and he isn't really trying to conceal the fact that there are certain players he likes more than others (even though their performances don't necessarily warrant the extra playing time).

In Furuta's defense, the parent company, Yakult, spends very little money on developing young talent through the farm system (why does Yakult have only one minor league team?!?!?!!!!), so he doesn't have a whole lot of options.

The bad news: our relief pitching, on the whole, has gotten worse. Veterans such as Endo, Kida, and Takatsu have blown several leads between them (Takatsu has since been sent to the minors), and Yoshikawa isn't nearly as effective as he was during the first half of the season. Also, Fukukawa has been given the most opportunities behind the plate since the break, but continues to swing for the fences. Perhaps even worse is the fact that he seems to call for a lot of pitches that end up in the bleachers. Our starting pitchers aren't the best in the league, but it's hard to call a pitch a "mistake" if it was headed right for Fukukawa's glove. Personally, I would like to see Kawamoto start a larger percentage of games. While we're on catchers, if Furuta doesn't plan to put the pads on any more, he should at least be pinch hitting more regularly. And might I add that when he does decide to make a plate appearance (as he did last week versus Yokohama), he needs to approach the at-bat with a bit more purpose (a la Manaka). There are several guys on the bench that are capable of weak dribblers to second base.

The good news: Kawashima's back in the starting rotation! He had a very strong outing last week (seven innings), and he will hopefully inspire some of our other starters to dig a little deeper. Ramirez and Aoki are still duking it out for two of the batting titles (hits and average). Riggs has returned, and he's slowly getting back into the groove at first base. Iihara and Tanaka are contributing more consistently at the plate, and Guiel leads the league in "taking one for the team" (actually he's been hit by a pitch 21 times so far this season).

So, despite the drubbing of Yokohama tonight (10-3: Hanada got the win in relief and Ramirez went three for five with two home runs and six rbi's), Tokyo has a whole lot of work to do. There's still a hefty chunk of season left, but that coveted third playoff spot is 12.5 games away (we are 15 games behind league-leader, Yomiuri).


Monday, August 13, 2007

End of Spring Term: July 2007

Preparing for whiskey.