Thursday, November 28, 2019

2019 Award Winners

NPB announced most of their major awards this past week.  Tomoya Mori of the Lions and Hayato Sakamoto of the Yomiuri Giants were the Pacific League and Central League MVPs respectively.

2019 BBM 1st Version #012

2019 BBM 1st Version #232
Speaking of Sakamoto I want to direct your attention to an article about him by Jason Coskrey in the Japan Times this past week.  In it Jason points out something I've been thinking for a while (and I think brought up with the Japan Baseball Weekly podcast a while back) - since Sakamoto is unlikely to go to MLB and he will likely become the youngest player to reach 2000 hits as 31 year of age next season, it's possible that Sakamoto could take a run at Isao Harimoto's record for career hits in NPB - 3085.  Harimoto is the only NPB player to ever reach 3000 hits - Sakamoto has a pretty good shot at becoming the second if he stays healthy.

Normally I post the Sawamura award winner here but there wasn't one this season.  The committee of five former pitchers that vote for the award didn't feel that any pitcher met the criteria for it this season.  This is the fifth time in the history of the award that this has happened - the last time was 2000.

The Rookies Of The Year were Rei Takahashi of the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks and Munetaka Murakami of the Tokyo Yakult Swallows:

2019 Calbee #155

2019 Calbee #120
The Best 9 teams were also announced this past week:

2019 Epoch NPB #049

2019 Epoch NPB #019

2019 Epoch NPB #022

2019 Epoch NPB #197

2019 Epoch NPB #025

2019 Epoch NPB #021

2019 Epoch NPB #029

2019 Epoch NPB #134

2019 Epoch NPB #168

2019 Epoch NPB #065

2019 Epoch NPB #290

2019 Epoch NPB #233

2019 Epoch NPB #385

2019 Epoch NPB #268

2019 Epoch NPB #380

2019 Epoch NPB #308

2019 Epoch NPB #240

2019 Epoch NPB #313

2019 Epoch NPB #348

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Kensuke Tanaka

We knew going into last season that it was going to be Kensuke Tanaka's final one as he had announced it last December when he signed his 2019 contract with Nippon-Ham.  Tanaka was the second round pick of the Fighters in the 1999 draft out of Higashi Fukuoka High School.  He spent most of the 2000 season with the farm team but made his debut with the ichi-gun team in September.  He spent most of the next five seasons bouncing between the farm team and the top team, missing time due to a broken leg in 2004.  He came into his own in 2006, taking over the starting second base job when new import Jose Macias didn't hit.  He kept the job for the next six seasons, although he missed time due to a broken finger and an ankle injury in 2011 and a broken arm in 2012.

In 2013 he decided to try his luck in MLB and signed with the San Francisco Giants.  He played most of the season at Triple A Fresno but he was able to get into 15 games with the Giants over about a three week span in July.  The timing of his stint with the major league team worked out perfectly for him as he was able to attend the White House ceremony honoring the 2012 World Series Champion Giants on July 29th - he was sent back to Fresno the next day.  He was released by the Giants a little over a month later but signed with the Texas Rangers for the 2014 season.  He spent all of that season at Triple-A Round Rock - well, all of it until he was released in July.

He returned to the Fighters in 2015 and pretty much resumed where he had left off, at least for the first two years.  His numbers started to decline in 2017 and his playing time started to fall off.  He considered retiring after 2018 but decided to stick around for another season.

He was named as the second baseman on the Best 9 team six times - 2006, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2012, and 2015) and won the Golden Glove award five consecutive years from 2006 to 2010.  He made the All Star team three times (2008, 2010 & 2012).  He played for the Fighters in threefour Nippon Series (2006, 2007, 2009 and 2016) but he missed the 2012 Series due to injury.

His rookie BBM card was #367 from the 2000 set.  His first Calbee card was #226 in 2006.  Here's some cards of his from across his career:

2000 BBM #367

2003 BBM Fighters #042

2006 BBM Nippon Series #S15

2008 Calbee #051

2009 Lawson Fighters

2010 BBM All Stars #A57

2011 BBM 1st Version #381

2011 Fighters Victory Card #021

2013 BBM 1st Version #373

2015 BBM Fighters #F81

2017 Epoch Pacific League #04

2019 BBM 2nd Version #344
I did a post for him back in early 2013 when he departed Japan for MLB.

Card Of The Week November 24

I did a post last week about NPB players playing in winter ball in Australia, Mexico and Puerto Rico.  I forgot about another winter league that kicked off this weekend that actually features more NPB players than those other leagues combined - the Asia Winter Baseball League. 

The Asia Winter Baseball League is run by the CPBL in Taiwan and features six teams - a CPBL farm team All Star team, the Wei Chuan Dragons (an expansion team for the CPBL) a KBO farm team All Star team, a JABA (Japanese corporate league) All Star team and two NPB farm team All Star teams - the red and the white.  The Red team features players from the Hawks, Eagles, Lions, Swallows and Buffaloes.  The White team has players from the Giants, Dragons, Baystars, Tigers and Marines.  CPBL Stats has all the rosters here - probably the biggest name on either NPB roster is Akira Neo of the Dragons on the NPB White team.  The league will play through December 15th and can be streamed live via CPBL TV.  It costs around $5 US to sign up - CPBL Stats has English language instructions on how to do it.

One other familiar name on the rosters is former Fukuoka Softbank Hawk Munenori Kawasaki, who is a player-coach for the Wei Chuan Dragons.  Taiwan is now the fourth country where Kawasaki has played for a team after Japan (Hawks), the US (Mariners and Cubs) and Canada (Blue Jays).  As far as I can tell, this is his first baseball action in about two years.  He was released by the Hawks in March of 2018 and said he was stepping away from the game due to a nerve disorder but he was not retiring.  He joined the expansion CPBL team this past July.

I'm not a big collector of memorabilia cards because I'm cheap and don't want to spend the money but every so often I come across a good deal.  I got a bunch of memorabilia cards from some Touch The Game sets from BBM from 2010 and 2011 on Ebay pretty cheap a couple years ago.  One of them is this ball card for Kawasaki (2011 BBM Touch The Game #B03):

Thanks to CPBL Stats for all the information on the Asia Winter League.  I signed up for the streaming service this afternoon.

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Scott Mathieson

Now that I'm done with the Card Shop posts it's time to get back to the retirement posts...

Yomiuri Giants pitcher Scott Mathieson announced his retirement at the conclusion of this year's Nippon Series.  Mathieson was originally drafted by the Phillies in the 17th round of the June 2002 MLB draft.  He spent the next 10 seasons in the Phillies organization, eventually appearing in 15 games at the major league level over three seasons (2006, 2010 and 2011).  He had Tommy John surgery in late 2006 and missed most of the next two seasons due to recovery.  The Phillies released him after the 2011 season so he could pursue opportunities in Asia and he signed with the Giants in December of that year.

The Giants moved Mathieson into middle relief and he had two very good years in that role in 2012 & 13, posting ERAs of 1.71 and 1.03 respectively despite missing some time due to an elbow injury in 2012.  He led the Central League in holds in 2013 with 40.  He was the Giants closer in 2014, notching 30 saves although his ERA was 3.58, his highest total of any season in Japan in which he appeared in more than 30 games.  He was back in middle relief the following season and his ERA dropped by almost a run.  He again led the Central League in holds in 2016 with 41 this time and was named "Giants Pitching Captain" before the 2018 season.  He suffered a knee injury in late August of that year and missed the rest of the season.  He opened the 2019 season on the farm team and didn't join the ichi-gun team until June.  He made the only start of his NPB career in Shinnosuke Abe's retirement game which was the Giants' final regular season game of the year.

In addition to leading the CL in holds in 2013 and 2017, he also led the league in "hold points" each season.  "Hold points" are compute by adding a player's holds and wins in relief.  He posted 42 hold points in 2013 and 49 in 2016.  He was named to the All Star team in 2016 and pitched in three Nippon Series - winning in 2012 over the Fighters and losing in 2013 to the Eagles and 2019 to the Hawks.  Mathieson has played for the Canadian National Team in the 2006, 2013 and 2017 World Baseball Classics and the 2019 Premier 12.

Despite announcing his retirement, Mathieson isn't quite done pitching.  He's hoping to pitch for Team Canada in next summer's Tokyo Olympics and will be helping them attempt to qualify in the America's Qualifier in Arizona in March and (if necessary) the "last chance qualifier" in Taiwan in April.

Here's a card of Mathieson from each season he spent in Japan:

2012 BBM Nippon Series #S04

2013 BBM 1st Version #004

2014 BBM Giants #G095

2015 BBM Memories Of Uniform #008

2016 BBM 2nd Version #501

2017 Calbee "Title Holder" #T-18

2018 Konami Baseball Collection #201810-R-G020-00

2019 Epoch NPB #294

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Card Shops In Japan: G-Freak

Please check my "Card Shops in Japan" page before planning a trip to this store to verify that it's still where it was when I visited.

When I wrote my post about Biblio recently I mentioned that it was the first of a couple shops that didn't fall into either the "Mall Store" or "Set Building Store" categories that the other stores I visited did.  The other store I visited that doesn't fall into either category is G-Freak.

G-Freak is located a couple blocks south of Okachimachi Station which is on the JR Yamanote Line in between Akihabara and Ueno Stations.  It's on the second floor of a jewelry store which doesn't really help narrow down its location as this area seems to be rife with jewelry stores.  It was raining and dark the evening that I went by this store so I didn't get a photo of the outside of the building. 

The good thing about this store is that it is packed to the gills with cards.  The bad thing about this store is that they aren't organized in any manner other than by team.  Basically each box you find here contains a bunch of random cards for a particular team.  These cards could be base cards, inserts, parallels or promos (although I don't think I saw any of the more rare, serially numbered parallels in the boxes I looked through) and aren't really pinned down to any particular time period (although most of their stuff is from the 1990's and later).  This isn't a store to stop by if you're in a hurry or if you're looking for something specific.  They have hits in display cases and other odds and ends but I didn't pay a lot of attention to them.

I had stopped by here with Ryan back in 2013 and I didn't really think much of the store.  I was in kind of a bad mood that day and was too impatient to take the time to really look at much, although I did pick up some good stuff.  As a result I put off coming by here until my last evening in Japan - visiting here was a "stretch goal" for the trip.  It turns out that this was really unfair to the store - I ended up having a great time going through some boxes and finding some interesting cards.  I went through boxes for the Dragons, Carp, Lions and Tigers and picked up a Lions team issued card of Tsutomu Itoh, a 1993 Kanebo card of Kenjiro Nomura, a 2003 BBM Sluggers card of Makoto Kozuro, a 2013 BBM Tigers card featuring Shintaro Fujinami and Kiyooki Nakanishi and a mid-70's "card" of Gail Hopkins that turned out to be a matchbook cover.  Total cost was 300 yen.

Beyond the cards, I also had a great time here talking with the owner and another guy in the store (not sure if he worked there or was another customer or just a friend of the owner).  I was here the evening after I had gone to the Fighters' farm team game in Kamagaya and they had the rebroadcast of the game going on the TV in the shop - they were very amused to discover that I had been at the game.  I was actually having a hard time explaining that I had been at the game until I pulled my ticket stub out.  The owner spoke English pretty well (as always it was MUCH better than the limited Japanese I know).  He was kind of excited when he discovered I was from the Baltimore area and made sure I saw what he called his "pride and joy":

He said he'd gotten Ripken to autograph it on one of the MLB All Star tours in the mid-90's.  I mentioned to him that when I had come by his store in 2013 he had a Ray Lewis jersey in the window.

Here's a couple other photos from the store - that's not the owner in the first photo:

Sorry for the blurriness of the second photo.

It's funny - after the 2013 trip I liked Biblio much better than this store.  After this trip I like this store much more.

I don't know for sure but I have a feeling that this store does not take credit cards.

Here's a map showing the store's location:


With this post I am finally done with posts about my trip.  It's taken me over 5 months to do it!

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Card Shops In Japan: Mint Shibuya & Card Fanatic

Please check my "Card Shops in Japan" page before planning a trip to this store to verify that it's still where it was when I visited.

I've written recently about several stores that are a bit of a haul away from central Tokyo.  This post is about two stores in the heart of Tokyo - Shibuya specifically.  The two stores are Mint Shibuya and Card Fanatic.

I will admit up front that I didn't spend a lot of time in either store.  I went to Shibuya on a Saturday night and it was packed with people.  I had low expectations for both stores and the crowds just made me want to check out the two stores quickly and then get out of the area.  So treat this post as more of a "here's where these stores are" post rather than a "here's what to expect at this store" post.

Mint Shibuya is located just west of Shibuya Station on Bunkamura Dori.  It's on the second floor of a building with a store called Mevius on the street level*.  UPDATE - The store has moved as of September 2021 to the Shibuya PARCO Department store about a third of a mile to the north of the old location.  It not longer has a bar.  The map below has been updated for the new location.  It's basically an upscale "mall store" featuring mostly recent releases and hits.  It also has a large selection of gaming cards - especially Magic - The Gathering.  One unique feature of the store is that it contains a bar - so you can order a drink while you bust boxes or play trading card games.

*I didn't get a picture of the outside of the building because I was a bit confused as to where the shop was at first and the crowded sidewalk wasn't helping.  And there was some sort of repair/refurbishing being done to the outside of the building next door which kind of added to the confusion.

The store takes credit cards.  I feel I should mention that this was the 14th and final Mint store that I visited in on this trip.

Here's a map showing the store's location.  NOTE - this has been updated to show the store's new location as of September 2021:

Card Fanatic is located on Meiji Dori to the south and east of Shibuya Station about a half mile from Mint Shibuya.  It is an area that is mercifully much less crowded than the area immediately around the station.  The store is located on the third floor of another building that features a Mevius store on the first floor: UPDATE 7/1/21 - the store has apparently moved one building over.  It's now in the building to the right of the photo below.  The map at the end of this post updated to the new location when they moved.

Here's the store entrance:

It's the larger of the two stores although it doesn't have a bar.  My impression was that the store carried more cards from the US than it did from Japan.  The store also seemed to be the only one I saw that carried memorabilia other than cards - they had figurines and autographed photos, balls and jerseys.  I don't think any of the memorabilia was for NPB players though - mostly NBA and European soccer stuff along with some Shohei Ohtani MLB items.  They take credit cards.

Here's the obligatory map showing their location: