Sunday, May 30, 2021

Short Term Stops

This is kind of a follow up to the post I did earlier this week about Hall Of Famers on unfamiliar teams.  While I was doing the research on that post, I kept coming across additional, non-Hall Of Fame (or Meikyukai) players who only had a brief tenure with a team.  I decided to do a post on these "short term stints" (to use the term that I think Dime Box Nick coined) although I expanded the definition to include two year stints so that I could include a couple ones that I found interesting.

For the purposes of this post I only considered stints in the "modern" (1991 and later) era, mostly because I was much more likely to have cards showing the player on the team.  I also only considered foreign players who had established themselves with an NPB team at some point either before or after the featured stint.  So I didn't consider someone like Kevin Youkilis, who appeared in 21 games for the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles in 2014 but never played for any other NPB teams.  

I had originally intended to break these down by team but that became quite difficult to do without expanding the "short term" to be longer than I wanted.  For example, I always felt that Tomohiro Nioka's stint with the Fighters was "short" but it was actually five years!  So instead I'm doing them in chronological order.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of stints.  But I'm hoping that they're an interesting batch.

1992 BBM #364

Boomer Wells had spent nine seasons with the Hankyu/Orix Braves/BlueWave from 1983 to 1991.  He was the first non-Japanese player to win the Triple Crown in 1984 and had a number of outstanding seasons with Hankyu (and Orix after they bought the Braves in 1988).  But he had a falling out with new Orix manager Shozo Doi in 1991 who dropped him in the batting order (this is the same Shozo Doi who said Ichiro Suzuki would never hit with that batting stance).  Wells took a pay cut to play with the Hawks and hit .271 with 26 home runs and 97 RBIs in 129 games in 1992.  However the Hawks wanted to go with younger players and parted ways with the 38 year old after what ended up being his sunset season.

1995 BBM #439
Hiromichi Ishige had a very productive 14 year career with the Seibu Lions before moving to the Hawks as a free agent before the 1995 season.  He had been the 1981 Pacific League Rookie Of The Year and the 1986 MVP as well as an eight time Best 9 winner and a 14 time All Star.  His two year tenure with the Hawks was not as successful - he hit .200 in 52 games in 1995 and just .130 in 18 games in his sunset season of 1996.  He later managed Orix in 2002 and first part of 2003 and is the founder of Japan's first independent minor league - the Shikoku Island League.

1995 BBM #422
Tom O'Malley had spent 12 years in the organizations of the San Francisco Giants, Chicago White Sox, Detroit Tigers, Balitmore Orioles, Texas Rangers, Montreal Expos and New York Mets, getting into 466 MLB games during that stretch, before joining the Hanshin Tigers in 1991.  He spent four season with the Tigers, hitting over .300 each season and leading the Central League in batting in 1993.  He moved to the Yakult Swallows for 1995 and didn't miss a beat - hitting .302 with 31 home runs to win the Central League MVP while helping Yakult beat Orix in the Nippon Series.  He hit .315 in 1996 but his home runs dropped to 18 and he headed back to the States after the season ended with a spring training invite from the Rangers.  He retired when he didn't make the team.

1998 BBM Tigers #T220
Alonzo Powell joined the Chunichi Dragons in 1992 after playing in the Giants, Twins, Expos and Mariners organizations.  He led the Central League in batting for three straight years from 1994-96 and was named to the Best 9 team those three years as well.  When his batting average dropped to .253 in 1997 - under .300 for the first time in the six years he had played in Japan, the Dragons didn't renew his contract.  He signed with the Hanshin Tigers for 1998 but only hit .255 in 78 games before being released in August.  He returned to the US in time to get into 15 games that summer with Toronto's Triple-A farm team in Syracuse.  He played two more seasons in the Yankees and Rockies organization before retiring after spending 2001 with the Newark Bears of the independent Atlantic League.

1999 BBM #387
Makoto Sasaki spent nine seasons with the Hawks (both Nankai and Daiei) before being traded to the Seibu Lions after the 1993 season in the deal that sent Koji Akiyama to Fukuoka.  He spent another five years with the Lions.  He'd been a star for both teams, leading the Pacific League in batting in 1992 and steals in 1992 and 1994.  He was a six time All Star, a six time Best 9 award winner and a four time Golden Glove award winner.  But a serious of injuries in 1998 (back, ankle and knee) limited him to only 75 games in 1998 and the Lions sold him to Hanshin after the season.  Between his age and his health issues, he didn't get much playing time in two seasons with the Tigers - 30 games in 1999 and 16 in 2000 - and he retired midway through the 2000 season.  He reconsidered retirement the following year and traveled to the US, hoping to catch on with an MLB team.  He eventually signed with the Sonoma County Crushers of the independent Western League, hitting .290 in 83 games before retiring for good.

2002 BBM 1st Version #75
Hiroo Ishii had a handful of solid seasons with the Kintetsu Buffaloes in the early 1990's, making the All Star team three times, winning two Best 9 awards and leading the Pacific League in RBIs.  Injuries cost him the better part of the 1995 and 1996 seasons and he got traded to the Yomiuri Giants after that.  He spent three years with the Giants before being traded to the Chiba Lotte Marines.  He left the Marines as a free agent after the 2001 season and signed with the Baystars.  He spent 2002 as a pinch hitter and hit just .208 in 34 games before retiring.  He's now a politician and serves as the Member of the House of Councilors for his home prefecture of Akita.

2003 BBM Nippon Series #33
After six years in MLB, Hideki Irabu returned to Japan with the Hanshin Tigers in 2003.  Initially he did well, going 9-2 during the first half of the season and making the All Star team before tailing off to 4-6 in the second half.  Overall he went 13-8 with an ERA of 3.85 in 27 starts.  He made two starts in the Nippon Series that year and got lit up by the Hawks, posting an ERA of 12.60 in five innings and taking the loss in both games.  2004 didn't go as well, as he only made three starts and went 0-3 with a 13.11 ERA before being released.  He retired although would later attempt a comeback in 2009 first with the Long Beach Armada of the Golden Baseball League and then the Kochi Fighting Dogs of the Shikoku Island League.  He retired for good after that and sadly took his own life in 2011.
2003 BBM 2nd Version #603
Satoshi Nakajima played in NPB for 29 seasons - a record he holds with Kimiyasu Kudoh.  He spent 11 seasons with Hankyu/Orix, five years with the Seibu Lions, 12 seasons with the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters and ONE year with the Yokohama Baystars.  He was traded to Yokohama by the Lions after the 2002 season and hit just .214 in 19 games.  He was sold to the Fighters after that season and eventually retired after the 2015 season.  He's currently the manager of the Orix Buffaloes.

2003 Calbee #162
Takeshi Yamasaki was a slugging star for the Chunichi Dragons in the 1990's but his numbers had tailed off somewhat as he entered his 30s and the new century.  The Dragons traded him to the BlueWave after the 2002 season and he basically put up the same numbers he had in Nagoya in his first year in Kobe, hitting .232 with 22 home runs in 110 games.  He was publicly unhappy with how new manager Haruki Ihara was using him in 2004 which got him banished to the farm team for much of the season, hitting .245 in just 62 games.  Yamasaki got the last laugh, however, as Orix allowed him to join the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles as part of the Orix-Kintetsu merger/Rakuten expansion musical chairs at the end of the season.  He went on to have a number of outstanding seasons for the Eagles before returning to the Dragons for the last two seasons of his career.  He retired after the 2013 season.

2007 SCM #88
Masato Yoshii had returned to Japan from MLB in 2003 and joined the then Orix BlueWave.  He stayed with Orix through their transformation into the Orix Buffaloes after 2004.  He was in the team's starting rotation in 2007, going 1-6 with an ERA of 5.75 in ten starts.  Buffaloes manager Terry Collins wanted to move him into the bullpen but Yoshii requested a trade because he wanted to remain a starter.  Orix fulfilled his request, dealing him to the Chiba Lotte Marines in late June.  He made four starts with Lotte, going 0-3 with a 13.14 ERA and retired at the end of the season.  It would not be his last time wearing a Marines uniform, however, as he has been the team's pitching coach since 2019.

2010 Giants Pride #30
Masahide Kobayashi pitched for 12 years with the Chiba Lotte Marines before joining the Cleveland Indians for 2008.  He played two seasons in MLB and then returned to Japan, signing with the Yomiuri Giants for 2010.  He pitched well on the Giants farm team, getting into 16 games and posting an ERA of 2.25 but he didn't do as well with the ichi-gun squad, putting up an ERA of 5.14 in 12 games.  The Giants released him after the season and he moved on to have a second "short term stint" in 2011 which we'll get to in a minute.

2010 BBM Hawks #H48
Roberto Petagine had spent six years in NPB - four with the Swallows and two with the Giants - between 1999 and 2004.  He played extremely well, winning the Central MVP in 2001, four Best 9 awards, three Golden Glove awards and leading the CL in home runs twice and RBIs once.  He returned to MLB in 2005 and spent a year with the Boston Red Sox followed by a season with the Seattle Mariners before he announced his retirement.  His retirement didn't stick, however, as he first joined the Diablos Rojos del Mexico of the Mexican League to start 2008 before moving on to play in the KBO with the LG Twins for the rest of 2008 and 2009.  He returned to Japan for 2010, playing in 81 games and hitting .261 with 10 home runs.  He was interested in coming back for 2011, but Softbank decided they didn't need a 40 year old back up first baseman/DH and he retired instead.

2010 Bandai Owners League 04 #088
Keiichi Yabu played for the Hanshin Tigers for eleven seasons before heading to MLB and the Oakland Athletics in 2005.  He had been the Rookie Of The Year in 1994 and made six All Star teams.  He ultimately spent 5 seasons in North America before returning to Japan in 2010.  He signed with the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles at the end of July, the last day teams could add new players.  He had been a starter in his days with the Tigers but had switched to the bullpen while overseas.  He made 11 appearances over the last two months of the season, posting an ERA of 4.91.  The Eagles released him after the season and he announced his retirement.

2011 BBM 1st Version #117
Back to Kobayashi.  After being released by the Giants, he took part in the 12 team tryout in the fall of 2010 and signed on with the Orix Buffaloes.  He got into six games at the beginning of the 2011 season but when he had a 13.50 ERA he was banished to the farm team for the remainder of the season and he retired after Orix released him.
2011 Bandai Owners League 04 #093
Saburo Ohmura had a 22 year NPB career from 1995 to 2016 that was spent entirely with the Chiba Lotte Marines EXCEPT for half of the 2011 season.  The Marines traded him to the Yomiuri Giants in late June and he hit .243 in 48 games for them.  He left the Giants as a free agent after the season ended and resigned with the Marines.  He's unique in that he changed his name for his "short term stint".  Because there was another player on the roster with his surname when he originally joined the Marines, his registered name with the team was always just his first name "Saburo".  When he became a Giant though, he went by his full name for the first time.  He went back to "Saburo" when he rejoined the Marines.

2011 BBM Carp #C15
Kobayashi was not the only member of the 2010 Yomiuri Giants bullpen who had a "short term stint" the following year.  Kiyoshi Toyoda was going into his 19th season for 2011 - he'd spent 13 years with the Seibu Lions before joining the Giants for five seasons.  The Giants released him after 2010 and he joined the Carp.  He pitched pretty well for them out of the bullpen, going 2-1 with a 3.08 ERA in 32 games but they let him go when the season ended and he retired.  He's currently the pitching coach of the Lions.

2011 BBM Buffaloes #Bs56
Tomochika Tsuboi burst onto the scene in 1998 with the Hanshin Tigers, setting a record for highest batting average for a rookie with a .327 mark.  After five seasons with Hanshin he was sent to the Nippon-Ham Fighters.  He hit .330 in his first season with the Fighters, becoming the first player ever to hit .300 in his first season in each of the two leagues.  He played well for the Fighters but he had a lot of difficulty staying healthy.  The Fighters released him after the 2010 season and he joined Orix.  He spent most of 2011 on the farm team, getting into just 3 games with the top team.  After Orix released him he spent the following three years playing for various independent league teams in North America.  He retired after briefly playing for the Atlantic League's Lancaster Barnstormers in 2014.

2012 BBM Lions #L13
Micheal Nakamura had pitched in the major leagues for the Twins and Blue Jays before moving to Japan.  Because of his dual citizenship (his father is Japanese) he was able to choose to be considered a domestic player in NPB.  He was drafted by the Fighters in the 2004 draft and spent four years with them before being traded to the Yomiuri Giants.  He spent three seasons with the Giants working out of the bullpen (making him the third player from the Giants 2010 bullpen to appear in this post) before being released after the 2011 season.  He had offers from both the Lions and Fighters for 2012 and ultimately decided on the Lions because of the location of their minor league ballpark - the ni-gun Lions play right next door to the ichi-gun ballpark so he wouldn't be separated from his family if he had to play on the farm team.  Ultimately he played 23 games on the farm team and only 17 with the top team.  His numbers with the top team weren't bad - he went 0-3 with an ERA of 2.86 - but he decided to retire at the end of the year.

2015 Front Runner Giants Game Used Bat Edition #01
After 16 years with the Chunichi Dragons, Hirokazu Ibata was released by the team after the 2013 season.  He signed with the Giants and spent two seasons with them, hitting .256 in 87 games in 2014 and .234 in 98 games in 2015.  He was pretty close friends with his teammate Yoshinobu Takahashi and when Takahashi retired and became the Giants new manager after 2015, Ibata decided to retire to become a coach for him.  He's been a coach for the Samurai Japan since 2017.

2014 SCM #282/BBM 2nd Version #707
Yoshinori Tateyama pitched for 12 years with the Fighters before joining the Texas Rangers in 2011.  He spent about two and a half years with the Rangers until he was traded to the Yankees in the middle of 2013.  The Yankees released him in early 2014 and he returned to Japan.  He signed a contract with the Hanshin Tigers in late June and pitched out of the bullpen for them, getting into eight games and posting an ERA of 3.68.  He retired at the end of the season.  He's also been a coach for Samurai Japan since 2017.
2019 Epoch NPB #295
I hesitated to include some of the more recent players on this list but figured why not - they're still "short term stints".  When Hisashi Iwakuma returned to Japan after seven years in the Mariners organization, he signed with the Yomiuri Giants.  He was still suffering from the shoulder injury that had severely cut into his playing time his last two seasons with Seattle though and he ended up barely pitching for the Giants.  He made just two one inning appearances with the Giants farm team in 2019 and no appearances at all in 2020.  He retired after losing the better part of four seasons to his injury, having never made an appearance with the ichi-gun Giants in the two years he spent with them.

2020 BBM Fusion #608
Wei-Yin Chen had expected that he would spend 2020 pitching for the Seattle Mariners, the team he had signed a contract with in the 2019-20 offseason after eight years with the Chunichi Dragons, four years wth the Baltimore Orioles and four years with the Miami Marlins.  But with everything up in the air due to the pandemic, Seattle released him in June and he eventually ended up back in Japan, signing a contract with the Chiba Lotte Marines in September (the deadline for teams to sign players was later last season since the season started three months late).  He made four starts for the Marines and didn't get any breaks - he went 0-3 despite putting up a 2.42 ERA.  He started Game Two of the Climax Series against the Hawks and got his clock cleaned - giving up five runs in 3 1/3 innings on two two run home runs from Akira Nakamura and a solo shot from Nobuhiro Matsuda.  He left Lotte for the Hanshin Tigers in the off-season.

2020 BBM Fusion #607
Chen was not the only pitcher on the 2020 Chiba Lotte Marines experiencing a "short term stint".  After almost ten seasons with the Yomiuri Giants, Sawamura was dealt to the Marines in early September last year.  He pitched very well in his two months with Lotte, posting a 1.71 ERA in 22 games out of the bullpen.  He left Japan for North America in 2021, joining the Boston Red Sox.

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