Reading the article, you come to understand why many of the "fringe benefits" were given to Dice-K in his contract.
Edited by Return of the Dewey, 27 February 2007 - 04:21 PM.
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Posted 27 February 2007 - 04:14 PM
Edited by Return of the Dewey, 27 February 2007 - 04:21 PM.
Posted 27 February 2007 - 05:44 PM
Posted 27 February 2007 - 05:57 PM
That was a very good article. I love that part about Ichiro being frustrated about the Mariners making mental errors, and feeling that if they just practiced more these could be elimanted. It is militaristic, and you can already see it with Matsuzaka: the long and seemingly daily bullpens, the extra long-toss, the dedication to each pitch of his practice sessions. It's a refreshing attitiude to bring to the modern American pro sports scene. I can't wait to watch him pitch.
Posted 27 February 2007 - 06:53 PM
Interestingly, Bradford's take is that Matsuzaka and Okajima are having a better time because it's a bit more loose in Fort Myers. I've certainly been struck by how much they seem to be smiling and laughing.
One of the first things an American player would notice to be drastically different is the daily meetings the Hawks hold. Each morning at 7:40 all the players, coaches and staff meet outside of the team hotel in Miyazaki. Unlike in the U.S., all the players in major league camp stay at the team hotel.
With temperatures hovering around 38 degrees, not counting the wind that's coming from a couple of hundred yards off the Pacific Ocean, we begin with what amounts to a 2-to-3-minute stretch. Then one or two members of the team place themselves in the center among us and yell at the top of their lungs what their goals are for the season.
This ceremony, dubbed "the pep rally" by one of my American teammates, creates a serious level of accountability. The entire press corps, approximately 40 to 50 members, also is present at the ceremony, which is captured on video for the television stations back home in Fukuoka and around Kyushu Island.
When the players have concluded their declarations, we go back into the hotel and must be ready to board the buses to the spring training complex by 9:20. This type of tradition would certainly draw moans and groans and be dismissed as useless by many American players, but I have to be honest, it really isn't all that bad and the purpose behind it only benefits team chemistry.
Before you board one of the buses, you have a very important decision to make. This decision is one no American ballplayer in my generation has ever had to make -- get on the smoking or nonsmoking bus.
I was caught a little off-guard when I was presented with such an option. Around 40 percent of the players smoke, so separation is necessary.
Both Daisuke Matsuzaka and Hideki Okajima seem to be having more fun with this spring training than anybody. Okajima's former teammate Bryan Corey said that Okajima has talked and smiled more than the entire four months they were together in Japan.
Edited by Let it Flo, 27 February 2007 - 06:56 PM.
Posted 27 February 2007 - 07:12 PM
"Man," he drawled, "I couldn't speak Japanese if my life depended on it."
Posted 27 February 2007 - 09:23 PM
A while back, when Will Carroll was doing a chat at BP, I put in a question asking him if he thought the Sox should change the way Matsuzaka trains other than what's necessary to go from a 6 man to a 5 man rotation. But Will didn't answer that one. (In all fairness, he's amazingly quick and responsive about answering questions out of the blue that I send via their site)
Great article on a number of levels.
Have there been any sabermetric studies on the effect of all this extra throwing on pitching injuries in the NPB? I wonder whether the Japanese total disrespect for resting arms going back as far as early high school might actually benefit NPB pitchers in the long term (that is, benefit those pitchers whose arms don't burn out at 15 years old) - or at least, provide some benefit that mitigates the harm done to them later.
Posted 27 February 2007 - 10:03 PM
I think Tek also has a big adjustment to make. Bobby Valentine said, in an interview, that Matsuzaka might actually have better control of his breaking pitches than of his fastball. If this is true, it presents tremendous opportunities to pitch backwards, to start off with breaking pitches early in the count and to throw them even down in the count. Matsuzaka might be such an unusual pitcher that a lot of Tek's usual expectations for how to work hitters can be thrown out the window.
Posted 28 February 2007 - 12:46 AM
Posted 28 February 2007 - 09:05 AM
Varitek has always struck me as a guy who loves to call breaking balls, especially when he knows it's the pitcher's best pitch. I mean, look back at his pitch-calling for Arroyo. Sometimes it seemed like he went entire games without throwing any fastballs.
This is actually one of the reasons I think Varitek will be great for Matsuzaka.
Edited by Kevin Mortons Ghost, 28 February 2007 - 09:07 AM.
Posted 28 February 2007 - 09:11 AM
Interviewer: "What are your goals for this season?"
Matsui: "To reach 2000 hits (for his career NPB+MLB); I'm only a few away, that will be an unbelievable dream come true."
Interviewer: "What about facing Matsuzaka? Will you hit his fastball?"
Matsui: "When he throws me a good fastball...I'll swing...it will go deep...into the Red Sox bullpen...and into Okajima's glove, as he's warming up."
Posted 28 February 2007 - 09:23 AM
Put yourself in Matsui's shoes. You are a major league hitter, and a pretty good one at that, and someone just asked you if you would hit a pitcher's fastball. There is no serious way to answer that question. Well, I guess you could say sometimes (or maybe). But, the question was begging for a flippant remark along the lines of what Matsui gave. Especially considering the remark about Okajima, it's hard to take this comment as anything other than a joke.
TS, is it unusual for a Japanese player to engage in this type of trashtalking? My uneducated impression is that Japanese players would normally not say something like this. Is this a faulty stereotype. I also assume Matusui said he would take DM deep in a playful manner.
Posted 28 February 2007 - 10:11 AM
"Baseball is a common language," reliever Jonathan Papelbon said. "We all speak the same language, and it's baseball."
Posted 28 February 2007 - 11:35 AM
The thing I get from watching this guy is that he is very calm and driven by an inner confidence and a focus to succeed in US baseball. Given that he has succeeded on every big stage he has played on, high school, college, the Olympics, WBC, professional baseball in Japan, etc., coming to America, and pitching in the AL East-- this is really the last big stage for him to conquer.
Posted 28 February 2007 - 12:17 PM
This is potentially the most accurate, most well-written article on this subject that has ever appeared in the mainstream US sports press.
Edited by LawTown Fool, 28 February 2007 - 12:20 PM.
Posted 28 February 2007 - 03:37 PM
I would love if anyone could track down an online version of a piece S.I. did back in the late 80s/early 90s on the many differences between Japanese and American pro baseball. (I have the issues down in my cellar, but neither the time nor the desire to sift through them.) The angle was different, in that it was talking about Americans making the adjustments over there, but it was definitely as accurate and well-written as the story ESPN ran yesterday.
There was a passage discussing spring training, and drills that involved running from the leftfield line to the rightfield line and back again -- all while coaches sat near the foul poles, screaming all drill sergeant-like at the passing players. I also remember a long discussion about a particular star pitcher from that time and how his team's solution for his shoulder troubles was more off-day throwing, which naturally excaserbated the problem. One team solution had him visiting a temple, where, among other things, he had ice-cold water continually poured over his shoulder; finally, he made a trip the States to get it surgically repaired.
There are a lot of examples of the workouts expected.
Tobita created a system of training called shi no renshu, or death training (Whiting 1988: 38). His system included back breaking drills that would last for hours only to be followed by more vigorous drills that tested the physical and mental toughness of his players. He is known to have said he wanted his players to practice “until they were half dead, and motionless” (Whiting 1988: 38). Even though these methods may seem to be somewhat barbaric, they worked and Tobita produced many championship teams including one undefeated season in 1925.
Tobita left a lasting impression on Japanese baseball and the philosophies toward it. He actually laid the foundation for the Japanese baseball mentality which is the main cause of the differences between the game in America and Japan. Today the same sort of drills are used, now called gattsu or guts drills. In 1984 a 38 year old player named Koichi Tabuchi, pushed himself to the limit by fielding 900 consecutive ground balls for nearly three hours, when he finished he couldn’t move and simply fell to the ground (Whiting 1988: 60).
Pitchers may throw up to 300 pitches in a practice session while infielders and outfielders are hitting up to 200 balls each followed by a few more hours of fielding practice (Obojski 1975: 122).
Posted 28 February 2007 - 05:17 PM
Also wanted to say how great this article is; I think that one thing that a lot of fans and writers don't take into account is how much of a role the environment can play on an athlete that is trying to get to peak physical performance at certain times. Whether it be sleep or food or entertainment or the level of stress in a player's life, that even what we might consider minor things might cause a player to have a bad day or even a bad week or month of performance.
Just awesome. This is potentially the most accurate, most well-written article on this subject that has ever appeared in the mainstream US sports press. Incredible how aware of it all the Sox have been, apparently for a very long time. Color me very impressed with the front office.
Posted 28 February 2007 - 08:25 PM