The NPB All Star rosters were released this past week and one of the selections by Central League (and Yomiuri Giants) manager Tatsunori Hara sparked a little bit of controversy. Hara left the current Central League home run and RBI leader - Kazuhiro Hatakeyama - off the roster and included pinch running specialist Takahiro Suzuki of the Giants instead. Hara's explanation for leaving Hatakeyama off the roster is apparently that since he "has" to include Shinnosuke Abe as catcher (he was elected on the player's ballot) but he doesn't want Abe to actually catch (Abe was supposed to move to first full time this year but he's actually played twice as many games at catcher than first base so far) so he's effectively ended up with three first basemen on the roster - Abe, Takahiro Arai of the Carp (the fan's ballot winner) and Jose Lopez of the Baystars (the player's ballot winner). Including Hatakeyama would have given him four first basemen and he wanted a little more roster flexibility than that. Which makes sense (it's similar to the numbers games that kept Rafael Palmiero off the AL All Star team in the mid-1990's - it was hard to break through the Mark McGwire-Frank Thomas-Mo Vaughn-Jim Thome-Tino Martinez blockade at first) except for it not explaining why he would pick Takahiro Suzuki. At this point in his career, Suzuki is basically only a pinch runner. He's gotten into 30 games this season but only had 11 plate appearances. He's never really been a regular (he's only had 10 BBM flagship cards in the past 15 years) and there are more deserving outfielders not on the roster - Yuhei Ohshima of the Dragons or even Kosuke Fukudome of the Tigers to name two.
Well, anyway, here's a card of Hatakeyama from the "The Brightest Hope" subset from the 2005 BBM Swallows team set: