I have to admit that the more I get into baseball the more anxious I am for the season to begin. I was following the off season moves very closely thanks to the great mlbtraderumors.com crew who write their postings so even newbies like me can understand what’s happening around the league.
Let’s see, I shouldn’t really go into predictions and all that stuff since I really don’t know anything about how the game works. Yet. Or maybe I’ll never really get behind it and I’ll just enjoy watching the games instead. But I was extremely pleased when I read that Joe Mauer signed his new contract with the Twins. See, what I always like is when there’s a balanced league with lots of teams who have the chance of winning it all. When you compare the American system with what we have in European leagues you have to like the way how even small teams can have a shot at winning the championship. I’m thinking of the 2008 Tampa Bay Rays here. In Europe in general it’s always the big clubs with lots of money who get all the great players, be it either because their scouting system is way better (because they can afford to spend a lot more money on it than smaller clubs) or simply because they can outbid every other team for any player they want. Real Madrid paying over €90 mio for Christiano Ronaldo is just one example. Only in very rare moments when a number of young players have a breakout season for their small club there is a chance that the champion will not be one of the usual suspects. True, there might always be the same names in the playoffs in MLB, but by looking at the different champions in the past 10 years to me the league looks a lot more balanced than the European football championships.
So I am really looking forward to how the Twins will do this season, especially with their new stadium. In Germany the new stadiums which were built for the 2006 World Cup gave a huge boost to the respective teams. I’m also curious how Seattle will do. I have to admit, because I closely follow how the Japanese players do in the big leagues (heck, I even look up the stats for Igawa Kei from time to time) I was always interested in the Mariners. But with the acquisition of Cliff Lee thing should get interesting in the west. I was getting a bit bored with the Angels winning the division all the time.
I wasn’t paying that much attention to the NL but even I am interested in how Roy Halladay will fare with the Phillies. You might have noticed that my knowledge of Amercian baseball only reaches as far as the big names so I cannot give any detailed analysis of what I think will happen over the season. But with Halladay pitching in what seems to be like the “easier” league it will be interesting to me to see what he can do.
I am also excited about the two Japanese pitchers the Mets brought into spring training. From what I am reading at least Takahashi Hisanori is doing pretty well, although I haven’t had a chance of watching him throw in a game. I am also curious to find out how Matsuzaka Daisuke will bounce back from his horrible season. After all that guy was responsible for getting me interested in baseball. I started watching MLB games in 2007 because I read something about some legendary pitcher from Japan who now joined an American team. It’s funny with all the misunderstandings he and his team seemed to have had when I look back at reading “You gotta have Wa” by Robert Whiting. Seems not only is there a problem for forgein players to adopt the Japanese style of playing the game but also vice versa. From what I know about Japanese culture to me it’s totally understandable that someone like Matsuzaka doesn’t want his team to know about an injury but instead try to move on and do his best any way possible. I can’t quite remember anything as “taking it slow” with sports when it comes to Japan.
Which brings me to the Koshien tournament of which the spring version is taking place right now. I haven’t had a chance to watch any games until now (it’s the 3rd day of play today) but fortunately the website of the broadcasting station allows you to watch all the games after they finished. You can either watch the whole game or select a preferred inning. Today high school powerhouse Chiben Wakayama thrashed their opponents 6-1 easily advancing to the next round. Last year’s summer champions Chuukyoudai Chuuykou (without their ace Doubayashi Shouta, who was drafted by the Hiroshima Carp and will play the infield there) also made it through to the next round. But the most exciting game of the day seems to have been the first one which was a very close affair between Kochi and Shinkou Gakuen. Kochi tied it in the 9th with Shinkou Gakuen striking back in the bottom of the last inning to win it before the game had to go to extra innings.It’s those close games which I love about the Koshien tournaments.
So far there don’t seem to be any upsets in the tournament and I hope that on the weekend I will find some time to watch at least one full game. And if you are looking for inning-by-inning reports with lots of atmosphere then be sure to visit the “kokoyakyu” blog Goro Shigeno is writing, it’s great!