Sunday, December 9, 2018

Card Of The Week December 9

Hisashi Iwakuma is returning to Japan after seven years of playing in MLB with the Seattle Mariners (although he missed much of the past two seasons due to injuries).  It was up in the air for a while what team he would sign with but it was announced last week he'd be joining the Yomiuri Giants.  He's 30 wins away from the 200 win milestone and Yomiuri might provide him the best path to reach it (although I don't have any insight into his decision making process or what his other options were).

Here's a Jersey card of Iwakuma from the 2011 Touch The Game set from BBM (#M11) - 2011 was the last year he played in Japan and the last year BBM issued the Touch The Game set:

Saturday, December 8, 2018

RIP Jose Castillo

Tragic news out of Venezuela yesterday - former major league baseball players Jose Castillo and Luis Valbuena were killed in a car accident that was apparently caused by bandits who then robbed them.

Castillo came up in the Pirates organization and played for them from 2004 to 2007.  He split 2008 between the Giants and Astros and spent 2009 in Taiwan playing for the Uni-President Lions.  He spent 2010 in Japan playing for the Yokohama Baystars.  He began 2011 in Mexico playing for the Diablos Rojos del Mexico but made a mid-season return to Japan, landing on the other side of Tokyo Bay with the Chiba Lotte Marines.  He spent the next five years in the Mexican League and has been playing winter ball in his native Venezuela since at least the 2006-07 season (the earliest season Baseball-Reference has player rosters and stats for that league).

Castillo had a number of baseball cards with the Baystars in 2010 but I only know of one of him with the Marines from 2011 - it's from BBM's set celebrating the 20th Anniversary of Lotte's move to Chiba and being renamed the Marines.

2010 BBM 1st Version #205

2010 BBM 2nd Version #613

2011 BBM Marines 20th Anniversary #30

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Masahiro Araki

Masahiro Araki of the Chunichi Dragons announced his retirement back at the beginning of October.  Araki's another guy that I've already done a retrospective post for - I did one for him when he got his 2000th hit back in June of 2017 - so like Takahiro Arai yesterday I'm just going to show some more of his cards here:

2002 BBM All Time Heroes #031

2003 Calbee #016

2007 BBM Dragons #D061

2012 Calbee #110

2015 BBM Classic #057

2018 Epoch NPB #379

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Takahiro Arai

Back to the posts for retiring players...

Takahiro Arai of the Carp announced his retirement back at the beginning of September.  I'm going to cheat a little here because I'd already done a retrospective post on Arai in mid-2016 when he got his 2000th hit so I'm just going to show some more cards here:

2001 BBM #351

2006 BBM 1st Version #BN13 (Gold Parallel Version)

2007 BBM Draft Story #142

2008 SCM #99

2011 Calbee #OP-08

2016 BBM Carp Autographed Edition #19

2018 Calbee #ES-07
The card showing Arai and Tomoaki Kanemoto commemorates the game on April 12th 2008 in which Kanemoto got his 2000th career hit and Arai got his 1000th.

Arai's brother Ryota retired after last season.  The two of them were teammates with Hanshin from 2011 to 2014.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

More Asian Players In The 2018/19 Australian Baseball League

As I expected when I did my post a few weeks ago about Asian players in the Australian Baseball League this winter, I missed a few.  I got a message from Steve Smith on Twitter updating me on some of the guys I had missed.

Former MLB and KBO pitcher Byung-Hyun Kim is with the Melbourne Aces.  Kim pitched for the Diamondbacks, Red Sox, Rockies and Marlins between 1999 and 2007, most famously blowing saves against the Yankees on consecutive nights in the 2001 World Series.  After being released by the Pirates in spring training of 2008 I think he was out of baseball altogether for the next two seasons.  He spent 2010 with the Orange County Flyers of the independent Golden Baseball League and 2011 with NPB's Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles although he never made it off the Eagles' farm team.  He moved on to Korea and spent 2012-13 with Nexen and 2014-15 with Kia (actually I think he spent 2016 with Kia as well but never got off the farm team). 

2014 Super Star Baseball Season 2 #SBC02-112
Former Tokyo Yakult Swallows pitcher Shogo Nakashima is on roster of the Sydney Blue Sox.  Nakashima was the first (and only) pick of the Swallows in the ikusei portion of the 2014 NPB draft out of Fukuoka University.  He made Yakult's 70-man roster in 2016 and made his ichi-gun debut that season.  He only got into 5 games with the top team over the next two seasons however (3 in 2016 and 2 in 2017) before the Swallows released him.  He spent 2018 with De Glaskoning Twins of the Dutch Major League (Honkbal Hoofdklasse).

2017 BBM Swallows #S35
Steve also mentioned that the Adelaide Bite have a couple corporate league pitchers on their rosters - Tohru Kikue and Ryo Takeuchi.  He thinks both of them play for the Honda team.  The Auckland Tuatara have a Shikoku Island League player - Yuki Harada of the Kagawa Olive Guyners.  There's also a couple Mainland Chinese (aka the Peoples' Republic of China) players in the league - Gui Yuan Xu (Auckland) and Bruce Wang (Adelaide) - Xu is from the Orioles organization.

About a week and half ago Geelong-Korea announced that it had signed three new former KBO players - Joon-Suk Choi, Dong-Gyun Woo and Geon-Yeop Heo.  Choi is the most famous of these three, known for his prodigious bat flips as well as his prodigious belly.  He hit 31 home runs a few years ago for the Lotte Giants but was released after a poor season this past year with the NC Dinos.  Woo was the top pick of the Samsung Lions in the 2008 draft (which was actually held in 2007 I think) who was released by the team after the 2017 season - he spent some time this past season with Kagawa of the Shikoku Island League.  Heo was the fourth round pick of the SK Wyverns in the 2012 KBO draft - he got into just 11 games with them over the past few seasons and was released after this past season.  There are baseball cards for Choi and Woo but I don't know of any for Heo. (H/T MyKBO for the news story.)

2010 KBO "Game set" #AD-007

2016 Diamond Winners #PA02-SA008 (Woo)
In addition to the players there are a couple guys of interest on the sidelines.  First and foremost is Geelong-Korea manager Dae-Sung Koo.  Koo is a veteran of the KBO (Binggrae/Hanwha Eagles 1993-2000, 2006-10), NPB (Orix BlueWave 2001-04) and MLB (New York Mets 2005).  He also spent five winters pitching for the Sydney Blue Sox.

2000 Teleca #78

2003 Calbee #165
He's not listed on the Ace's roster but according to Steve Eiji Kiyokawa, the roving pitching coach for Seibu, has accompanied Lions pitchers Hiromasa Saitoh and Hayato Takagi to Melbourne.  Kiyokawa had a 15 year career with the Hiroshima Toyo Carp and Kintetsu Buffaloes between 1984 and 1988.

1994 BBM #423
I suspect that there are Japanese coaches accompanying the Marines players with Auckland and the Baystars players with Canberra but I haven't been able to find out who they are.

Card Of The Week December 2

Yoshihiro Maru of the Carp was named Central League MVP last week and by the end of the week he was no longer a member of the Carp.  Maru announced that he was signing with the Yomiuri Giants as a free agent, disappointing Hiroshima fans who had hoped he would remain with the team and Marines fans who hoped he would sign with his home prefecture team (and disappointing the large number of people like myself who don't like Yomiuri).

This is the third time in the past 20 years that the Giants have picked up a reigning MVP as a free agent.  Kimiyasu Kudoh won the 1999 Pacific League MVP after helping the Hawks win their first Nippon Series in 35 years (and their first in Fukuoka) and signed with the Giants that off season.  He subsequently helped the Giants beat his former team in the 2000 Nippon Series.  In 2006 Michihiro Ogasawara helped the Fighters win their first Nippon Series since 1962 and picked up the PL MVP award in the process.  He signed with the Giants that offseason and, like Kudoh, helped Yomiuri defeat his old team in the Nippon Series, although it wasn't until 2009 (and again in 2012).

BBM used to include a subset in their flagship set each year that featured the statistical leaders and award winners from the previous year.  They stopped doing this in 2013 - they've included a statistical leader subset in the Fusion set they've released in November of the past few years but that set goes to press too early to include the award winners.  Here are the cards commemorating the MVP awards for Kudoh and Ogasawara from the following year's BBM set along with their regular player cards from that set showing them with the Giants:

00 BBM #1 ("Readers" error version)

2000 BBM #185

2007 BBM 1st Version #445

2007 BBM 1st Version #338
There was only two other times in NPB history* that a reigning MVP did not return to his team the following season.  Hiromitsu Kadota won the 1988 PL MVP while playing for the Nankai Hawks.  1988 was the Hawks' final season in Osaka as Nankai sold the team to Daiei who moved them to Fukuoka.  Kadota didn't want to leave Osaka and convinced the Hawks to trade him to the Orix Braves who played in Nishinomiya.  Masahiro Tanaka won the PL MVP award in 2013 and moved to MLB and the Yankees the following season.  Maru is the first CL MVP to switch teams for the following season.

*NPB history starts in 1950 - I didn't look at the Japanese Baseball League (JBL) MVPs between 1937 to 1949

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Ending The Year On A High-End Note...

I was a little premature a few weeks back when I announced what I thought were the last of the 2018 card issues.  Turns out there were a few more coming out, all of which fall into the "ultra high end" category.

- It's been 15 years now since the Fighters abandoned Tokyo for Sapporo and Epoch is commemorating this by issuing a combination active/OB player set called "Fighters Season Achievement & 15th Anniversary Legends".  Each six card box runs around 15,000 yen.  The base set contains 57 cards - 36 active players and 21 OB players (which includes Shohei Ohtani but not Yu Darvish I think).  Each base card has at least one parallel version.  There's also a 24 card "Holo Spectra" insert set (don't know if Ohtani is included in that) that also has parallel versions.  Each box will contain 2 "special" insert cards (I think at least one of them is an autograph card).  Each player in the set has two possible autographed cards (horizontal and vertical versions).  There's also 2 possible multi-player autograph cards and six different types of memorabilia cards (uniform, patch, number, letter, foil signature with uniform) - there's six cards for each type so there's 36 different memorabilia cards total.  I assume everything's got a serial number on it but I don't know what they're limited to.  The set will be out on December 15th.

- Epoch's latest collaboration with the OB Club will also be released on December 15th.  This set is called something like "Batting Leaders" and will retail for 16,000 yen for a six card box.  The base set has 33 cards.  As you might expect from the set's name all the players included are OB batters, including Shigeo Nagashima, Katsuya Nomura and Tuffy Rhodes.  28 cards from the base set have a parallel versions.  Each box contains at least two autograph cards - there are three different types of on-card autograph card and two different types of autographed ball card.

- Epoch is releasing their fifth "Stars & Legend" set for the year - this one is for the Tigers.  A six card box retails for 15,000 yen (although Discount Niki has it for 13,300) - at least one of those cards will be an autographed card.  The base set contains 32 cards - 23 for active players and nine for OB players.  There's a parallel version of each base set card that is serially numbered to 10.  There's four or five different types of autograph cards available plus a multi-player autographed booklet.  There's also a variety of memorabilia cards available including ones featuring more than one player.  The set will be out on December 29th.

- Not to be left out, BBM is issuing their own ultra high end set.  This is the third year in a row that they have issued one of these in December and this is the second year in a row that it's being called "Glory".  Boxes retail for 15,000 yen and like the Epoch sets only contain six cards (which is guaranteed to include an autograph card and a memorabilia card).  The base set has 36 cards and of course there's a parallel version of each one.  The set only contains cards of active players.  There's two insert sets - "Golden Greats" (36 cards) and "Glorious 3D" (12 3-D cards) - and a variety of possible autograph and memorabilia cards.  The memorabilia cards include "bat grip end" cards, patch cards and multi-player jersey cards.  The set will be released in late December although the cards will be labeled as 2019 cards.

- Also not be left out, Daewoo Media is issuing a high end KBO set in the near future.  I don't have many details about the set but it's called SCC Premium.  What I do know about the set I learned from this tweet from Dan Skrezyna (who else?) - the set will have 150 "Normal" cards, 60 "Rare" cards, 30 "Holo" cards and 30 "Facsimile Autograph" cards along with 10 Jersey cards (serially numbered to 30), 10 "Hidden Holo" cards (numbered to 30) and 250(!) autograph cards (numbered to 5).

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

2018 Award Winners

NPB announced most of their major awards this week.  The league MVPs were Hotaka Yamakawa of the Lions and Yoshihiro Maru of the Carp:

2018 BBM 1st Version #042

2018 BBM 1st Version #181
I'll also mention here that Tomoyuki Sugano was named the Sawamura Award winner for the second year in a row a few weeks back:

2018 BBM 1st Version #245
Kazuki Tanaka of the Eagles and Katsuki Azuma of the Baystars were the Pacific and Central League Rookie Of The Year winners respectively:

2018 Calbee #161

2018 Calbee D-09
Calbee was the only company that had a flagship card of Tanaka this year.  He was taken in the 2016 draft so even though he was still officially a rookie this year all his rookie cards were from last year.

The Best 9 teams were announced this week as well.  Here's the Pacific League team:

2018 Epoch NPB #39

2018 Epoch NPB #51

2018 Epoch NPB #56

2018 Epoch NPB #53

2018 Epoch NPB #20

2018 Epoch NPB #55

2018 Epoch NPB #26

2018 Epoch NPB #66

2018 Epoch NPB #134

2018 Epoch NPB #160
And the Central League team:

2018 Epoch NPB #328

2018 Epoch NPB #232

2018 Epoch NPB #385

2018 Epoch NPB #410

2018 Epoch NPB #309

2018 Epoch NPB #342

2018 Epoch NPB #242

2018 Epoch NPB #245

2018 BBM Genesis #079
I had wanted to do the Best 9 teams with just the Epcoh NPB cards but unfortunately Neftali Soto was not in that set so I used his Genesis card instead. 

I thought I'd add the KBO Award Winners as well.  Kim Jae-Hwan of the Doosan Bears was named MVP:

2018 SCC #SCCR-01/046
Kang Baek-Ho of the KT Wiz was named Rookie Of The Year:

2018 SCC #SCCR-01/239