Friday, November 22, 2013

2013 BBM Fighters 10th Season In Hokkaido set

Following the 2003 season, the Nippon Ham Fighters, who had shared a ballpark in Tokyo with the Yomiuri Giants since 1964 (when they were the Toei Flyers), moved to Sapporo on the island of Hokkaido, the northernmost of the four islands that make up Japan.  To commemorate this event, BBM has issued a card set with the somewhat unwieldy title of "Fighters 10th Season in Hokkaido".

The set contains 90 cards.  The first 19 cards in the set are for the 2013 team and feature most of the better players on the team such as Atsunori Inaba, Shinya Tsuruoka, Shohei Ohtani and Daikan Yoh as well as manager Hideki Kuriyama.  I was a bit surprised to see Yuki Saitoh included as he barely played at the ichi-gun level this year but I guess BBM decided that he was still popular enough to have him in the set.

The next 53 cards in the set are for former (OB) Fighters who had played for the team in Hokkaido.  As usual, this includes not only retired players (Yukio Tanaka, Tsuyoshi Shinjyo) but former Fighters playing for other teams both in Japan (Michihiro Ogasawara, Yoshio Itoi) and the US (Kensuke Tanaka, Hideki Okajima).  It also includes both of the previous Fighters managers since 2003 - Try Hillman and Masataka Nashida.  Surprisingly, it does NOT include the most significant active ex-Fighter, Yu Darvish.  I don't know why, but Darvish has not appeared in a BBM set since 2011.  (He lead the league in strikeouts in 2011 but did not have a leader card in the 2012 BBM 1st Version set which is practically unprecedented.  The only similar instance I'm aware of is Bobby Rose not agreeing to have a leader card in the 2001 BBM set.)



The next subset is three cards labelled "Great Sensations".  The three people so honored are Trey Hillman, Tsuyoshi Shinjyo and...Yuki Saitoh.  *SIGH*  I know I said I wouldn't make fun of him anymore but sometimes BBM just makes it hard...


The next subset is "Historic Highlights" - the 14 most significant events in the Fighter's 10 season in Sapporo, arranged in chronological order.  They are the first home game on 4/2/2004, Shinjyo's retirement announcement on 4/18/2006, winning the pennant in 2006 (first pennant for the Fighters in 25 years), winning the Nippon Series in 2006 (first championship since 1962), Yukio Tanaka's 2000th hit (5/17/2007), winning the pennant in 2007, Makoto Kaneko going seven straight games with a double in 2009, clinching first place in 2009, Terrmel Sledge's game winning grand slam in the Climax Series in 2009, Hisashi Takeda's 52 consecutive scoreless inning streak in 2011, Atsunori Inaba's 200th hit (4/28/2012), Hirotoshi Masui setting a record for most holds in 2012 (I think), winning the pennant in 2012 and Shohei Ohtani homering in a game that he was the winning pitcher in this past season (7/10/2013).


There's one last card in the set - a checklist card showing the Fighters' three mascots.


It may not sound like it, but I actually like this set quite a bit.  Generally I don't think BBM's Anniversary sets cover specific highlights in a team's history as well as this set does.  I'd like to see more of that sort of thing.  Really the only way this set could be better is if it had Yu Darvish in it instead of Yuki Saitoh.

You can see all the cards at Jamabalaya (and I will admit to leaning heavily on the translation of their card descriptions for the info on the highlight cards).  Ryan has also done a post for this set.

UPDATE - I neglected to mention that this is the first team-based OB set for the Fighters.  Now the only team that has not had any sort of anniversary set done for it is the Eagles.  I'm betting that since next year will be the Eagles' tenth season, BBM will be doing a set for them.


Ryan G said...

It would be really nice to see Darvish in another BBM/NPB set. But like Ichiro and Matsui, he's too important in the MLB to be able to get away with a card in Japan. I'm sure contract (or other) agreements - either through MLBPA or the card companies themselves - prohibit or restrict them from using MLB player likenesses. With Tanaka and Okajima in the set (currently released but probably active when this set was printed) there are some questions unanswered. I wonder if the players have any say in it or if they're restricted somehow.

Meanwhile, I wish BBM would find a way to get Nomo into some historical sets.

I could argue that Saitoh is/was a great sensation. Much like Harper, Puig, Strasburg, Pujols, Van Poppel... Some of them fade and others remain, but as far as 10 years in Hokkaido (other than Darvish) who else is the biggest name as a Fighter?

And, finally, are there really no other OB sets for the Fighters franchise? They've been around forever.

NPB Card Guy said...

Matsui and Ichiro have appeared in BBM sets while they played in MLB, including (but not limited to) leader cards the year after they left for the US. The same with most of the other Japanese players. Hmm, I feel a post coming on...

I think a case could be made for Sho Nakata as one of the biggest names for the Fighters. He was a big prospect coming out of high school (he holds the career home run record for high school students) and, after a couple years of growing pains, has established himself as a star. Shohei Ohtani was/is also a "Great Sensation".

But I'll grant what I think your larger point is - it was certainly a big deal that the Fighters got Saitoh, even if his subsequent performance hasn't lived up to the hype.

I think the problem with the Fighters is that while they've been around forever, there hasn't been a convenient anniversary to do a set for them before now. Nippon Ham bought the team after the 1973 season so maybe BBM could have done a 30th or 40th Anniversary for them then but if the team isn't celebrating the milestone, I don't think BBM does a set.

Ryan G said...

I remember Matsui and Ichiro appearing in leader cards right after they left - actually, your post would be quite informative. It'd be interesting to see who had Japanese cards while playing in the MLB. And I am curious about licensing requirements (and how they've changed or might have been tweaked) as more NPB players come to the MLB.

Perhaps the Fighters will have an anniversary set before the end of the decade - depending on what you consider their start, they started in '46/'47 or so.