Sunday, August 29, 2021

Card Of The Week August 29

Shugo Maki of the Yokohama DeNA Baystars hit for the cycle in last Wednesday's game against the Hanshin Tigers at Osaka Dome.  Maki is the first rookie in NPB history to hit for the cycle.  Here's the video of his four hits (H/T NPB Reddit):

Here's his "Cross Torrent" card from this year's BBM 2nd Version set (#CT65).  The set came out a couple weeks ago and I got mine on Friday.  I hope to have a post up about it in the next couple days.

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

September Sets

I wanted to do a quick post about several recently announced sets that will be released in September.

- Epoch will be releasing their latest collaboration with the OB Club, Career Achievement, on September 4th.  This is another of their ultra-high end sets with boxes of six cards selling for 16,500 yen (around $150).  The base set has 45 cards - all players who have at least 500 home runs, 2000 hits, 1000 RBIs, 400 stolen bases, 200 wins or 250 saves.  There are 45 serially numbered parallel cards and six different varieties of autograph cards which are also serially numbered.  I think there's a parallel version of each autograph card as well.

- The latest of Epoch's "Stars & Legends" sets - their team sets with both active and OB players - is for the Hanshin Tigers and will be out on September 25th.  This is another ultra high-end set that also retails for 16,500 yen a box but in this case a box only has four cards.  The base set has 73 cards - 38 active players and 35 OB players.  Each card in the base set is serially numbered although I don't know what the print run is for them.  There are three insert sets -  "Decomori Signature Black Vision" (three cards with parallel versions available), "Gem" (six cards), and "Black Gem" (six cards) - and all the inserts are serially numbered as well.  There are five varieties of autograph cards available - "Authentic", "Legendary", "Star", "Draft #1" and "Baseball" - the last of which I think is the player's autograph on a piece of a cut up baseball.

- Calbee's third set for 2021, which somewhat unimaginatively goes by Series Three, will be released around September 20th although it will likely start showing up on-line a few days before that.  The checklist doesn't really have any surprises as the base set contains 88 cards, just like Series One and Two did.  Those 88 cards break down to 72 player cards (six per team), 12 "Interleague Play" cards (one per team), and the usual four checklist cards.  There are also the usual 24 Star insert cards (two per team).  There's a 12 card "Total Victory" box set that's associated with the set available from Calbee's store.

- BBM annually releases a pair of sets for the team's cheerleader/dance squads.  The first "Dancing Heroine" set for 2021 - Hana - was released today while the second one - Mai - will be in stores in late September.  Mai will have a 78 card base set with each card having a holo parallel version.  There are also autographed cards and "cheki" cards available.  As with the Hana set, the Mai set only have representatives from eight of the eleven teams that actually have cheerleaders - the "Honeys" (Hawks), "M☆Splash!!" (Marines), "bluelegends" (Lions), "Tohoku Golden Angels" (Eagles), "FIGHTERS GIRL" (Fighters), "VENUS" (Giants), "Cheer Dragons 2021" (Dragons) and "Passion" (Swallows).  For some unknown reason, the dance squads for the Baystars, Tigers and Buffaloes are not in the set (the Carp don't have cheerleaders).  I believe that there is no overlap between the cheerleaders in this set and the ones in the earlier set.

Sunday, August 22, 2021

Card Of The Week August 22

Takeya Nakamura came up with the bases loaded in the first inning today against the Orix Buffaloes in Osaka and did what he's done 21 times before, more than any other batter in NPB history:

It was Nakamura's 10th home run of the season and the 434th of his career.  

I've been tracking Nakamura's progress towards 500 home runs for a number of years now and I have to say that I'm losing faith that he's going to get there.  He only had 9 home runs in 79 games last year and while he's hitting much better this year than last, he now has 10 home runs in 80 games this year which is essentially the same pace.  He turned 38 a week ago and he's...uh...not someone who immediately impresses you with his physical conditioning (it's not for nothing that his nickname "Okawari-kun" means "another helping").  I'd love to see him prove me wrong - it wouldn't be out of character for him to get those 66 home runs he needs before he turns 40 in two years - but I fear it isn't going to happen.

I thought I'd share the 2009 BBM 1st Version Leader card (#439) commemorating him leading the Pacific League with 48 home runs in 2008.  It was the first of six times that he led the PL in this category.

Kris Johnson

Former Hiroshima Toyo Carp pitcher Kris Johnson announced his retirement last week.  Johnson had joined the Carp in 2015 after sending nine years in the Red Sox, Pirates and Twins organizations.  He went 14-7 in his first season and his 1.85 ERA led the Central League.  He went 15-7 in 2016, helping the Carp win their first Central League pennant in 25 years and became the first foreign pitcher to win the Sawamura Award since Gene Bacque in 1964.  He missed a lot of the 2017 season with injuries but bounced back with an 11-5 record in 2018 and an 11-8 in 2019 (I saw one of those 11 victories against the Tigers in Hiroshima on June 1st).  He and the Carp parted ways after a poor season in 2020.  In six seasons in Hiroshima he went 57-37 with an ERA of 2.76.

Here's a couple cards from each year he was in Japan:

2015 BBM Classic #052

2015 Epoch Red Helmet 40th Anniversary #10

2016 BBM Fusion #033

2016 BBM Carp "Realization Of A Great Ambition" #10

2017 Calbee "Title Holder" #T-23

2017 BBM Carp "Successful Achievement" #14

2018 BBM 1st Version #172

2018 Epoch NPB #227

2019 Epoch NPB #227

2019 Calbee #184

2020 BBM Carp History 1950-2020 #82

2020 Epoch Carp Rookies & Stars #08

Sunday, August 15, 2021

Card Of The Week August 15

Carter Stewart, the Atlanta Braves top draft pick from 2018 who went unsigned due to the team lowballing him because he had a wrist injury and ended up signing with the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks in 2019, made his first ever start with the ichi-gun Hawks today.  It went extremely well - Stewart threw 80 pitches over five innings, striking out nine Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters, walking none and giving up no hits.  He did hit one batter which was the only batter to reach base against him.   After he left the game, five relief pitchers for the Hawks - Yuki Tsumori, Shinya Kayama, Yuki Matsumoto, Yugo Bandoh and Hiroshi Kaino - threw an additional four no-hit innings, completing a combined no-hitter.  This is only the fifth combined regular season no-hitter in Japanese professional baseball history and it by far had the most pitchers to ever combine for one.  The previous high was three which was done twice - by the Fighters in 2006 and the Giants in 2017.  It also occurred exactly a year after the last no-hitter in Japan - Yasuhiro Ogawa's one on August 15th, 2020.

There really are only two downsides to this story.  The first is that NPB does not recognize combined no-hitters as "official" no-hitters.  The second is that the Hawks themselves only managed to get three hits off of five Fighters pitchers and didn't score any runs, so the game ended as a 0-0 tie.

Here are the highlights of the game from Pacific League TV's YouTube channel:

And here's Stewart's card from the 2019 BBM Fusion set (#601):

First Card vs Rookie Card

Dan Skrezyna and I had a conversation* a week or so ago about what should be considered the "rookie card" (RC) for Korean players who pre-date the licensed KBO sets (which started in 2014).  Dan's interested in getting rookie cards for several players graded and was trying to figure out what cards those would be.

*"Conversation" in this case means we were texting back and forth via Facebook Messenger since he's in Korea and I'm the US.

Now I have not collected MLB cards for about 20 years now so I've not paid a lot of attention to how the hobby has defined what a "rookie card" is.  I'm apparently suffering under the misconception that it's the player's first card.  Since BBM has published a card of pretty much every player taken in the regular phase of the draft in the following year's flagship set every year since the 1993 draft, there's not a lot of question in Japan about what card is the player's rookie card.  Probably the biggest argument over the last 30 years or so is whether Hideo Nomo's 1990 Takara card is his rookie card or if it's his 1991 BBM and Calbee cards.  Since I go with the first card so I'm picking the 1990 card.  The difficulty with Korean cards is that there were only licensed cards for a couple years around the turn of the century and then not again until 2014.

The first player we talked about was Oh Seung-Hwan.  Oh made his debut with the Samsung Lions in 2005 and spent nine years playing for them before moving to NPB with the Hanshin Tigers in 2014.  He left Japan for North America in 2016 and spent two years with the Cardinals, part of 2018 with the Toronto Blue Jays and the rest of 2018 and 2019 with the Colorado Rockies.  He rejoined Samsung in 2020.  So which of these five cards should be considered his rookie card?

2009 Konami WBC Heroes #118

2010 KBO Game Set #AS-004

2014 BBM 1st Version #195

2016 Topps Chrome #98

2020 SCC Premium #SCC-P1-20/L05

I think there's an argument to made for all of these.  The 2009 Konami card is the earliest card that I'm aware of for Oh (and his only WBC card that I know of).  The 2010 KBO Game set is his first card showing him with his actual professional team although the set is unlicensed.  The 2014 BBM card is his first licensed card showing him with an actual professional team and his 2016 Topps Chrome card is his first card with an MLB team.  His 2020 card is his first licensed card showing him with a professional team from his home country.  So which one is his RC?

According to the BaseballCardPedia page on Rookie Cards:  "The 'Beckett Definition' of the rookie card (or "RC") states that a "rookie card" must come from a fully-licensed (both MLB and MLBPA), nationally-distributed set that is primarily focused on current Major League players. It must be a base card and cannot be an insert, parallel, or redemption card. A player may only have one RC per set. If he has more than one base set card in the same set, then the 'rookie card' tag is given to the 'regular' card (assuming that the other card is from a special subset). If a player has more than one base set card in the same set, but the two cards are produced in different quantities (i.e. one is short-printed and the other is not), then the more common card is given the "rookie card" label."  

Taking this at face value then the 2016 Topps Chrome card is his RC as it's the only card we're talking about here that's from a set licensed by both MLB and MLBPA (and, hey, it SAYS "RC" right on it!).  That seems like a rather provincial attitude to have.  My inclination would be to treat the 2009 Konami card as his "rookie" card (as opposed to the RC).

The next player Dan brought up was Park Han-Yi.  Park's professional career didn't start until 2001 with Samsung but as a collegiate player he played on the Korean team for the 1999 Asian Championship which was a qualifier for the 2000 Sydney Olympic games.  Because of this, he had a card in the "Korea Dream Team" insert set in the 1999 Teleca Premium set:

1999 Teleca "Korea Dream Team" #D-24

But wait - the Beckett Definition says the rookie card can't be an insert card.  What's his next card?  Well, Park had the misfortune of starting his career just after the two years Teleca did KBO cards and he didn't appear in the unlicensed 2010 KBO Game Set so it wasn't until the 2014 Superstar Baseball Season One set that he had his next card:

2014 Superstar Baseball Season One #SBC01-004

But wait - this card is a short-print!  I'm not sure if the hair-splitters over at Beckett will accept that or not.  His next non-short printed base set card is from the 2014-15 Superstar Baseball Blue Edition set:

2014-15 Superstar Baseball Blue Edition #SBCBE-173-N

My feeling is that probably the 1999 card should be considered his rookie card, even if it is an insert.  It kind of reminds me of how everyone treats the 1985 Topps Mark McGwire Olympic card as his rookie card although that's not directly comparable - the McGwire card is a base card in the 1985 Topps set.

Next up is Lee Bum-Ho.  Lee played for the Hanwha Eagles from 2000 to 2009 before joining the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks for 2010.  He returned to Korea to play for the Kia Tigers in 2011 and retired during the 2019 season.  He has a card from the 2000 Teleca set that's actually labeled as a "Rookie"card:

2000 Teleca #R9

But alas - this is also an insert card.  If this can't be his rookie card than one of these could:

2009 Konami WBC Heroes #130

2010 BBM 1st Version #306

2014 Superstar Baseball Season Two #SBC02-099

Again I'm inclined to go with the 2000 Teleca card despite it being an insert card.  (I've left out his 2020 KBO Game Set card because it shows him with the Hawks but that too would be a possibility.)

We talked about one last player who's a little easier - Lim Chang-Yong.  Lim's career started with the Haitai Tigers in 1995.  He was traded to the Samsung Lions before the 1999 season and spent nine seasons with them before moving to Japan and joining the Tokyo Yakult Swallows in 2008.  In 2013 he went to the US and spent a season in the Chicago Cubs' organization, including six games with the MLB club.  He returned to Korea for 2014 and spent two more seasons with Samsung before ending his career back with the Tigers who were now owned by Kia.

The first card I'm aware of for Lim is from the 1998 Pro Baseball Stickers set.  I don't have this card but Dan sent me a scan of it to use for this post:

1998 Pro Baseball Stickers #10

Lim also had a card in the 1999 Teleca set (with his last name spelled "Im" which I don't know whether it's a transliteration error or something I don't understand about Korean spelling and pronunciation).  I actually have this card but I'm using the scan Dan sent me of this card as well:

99 Teleca #69

So again my assumption would be that the "rookie" card would be the 1998 one.  But Dan questions about whether or not a sticker could be considered a "rookie" card so he kind of prefers to go with the 1999 card instead (although he admits that might be because he's a Samsung fan).

I'm curious what others think.  I mean this obviously is not one of the pressing issues of the day but I'd be interested in hearing what others think.  Are none of these RCs except the 2016 Oh (the image of which I swiped from the Trading Card Database)?

Monday, August 9, 2021


I wanted to do a quick post on a new proxy service that I've started using - ZenMarket.jpTwitter user Yeh had told me about them a couple months back.  

For those who don't know what a proxy service is, this is a company that will bid on and buy stuff on Yahoo! Japan Auctions for you.  Depending on the service, they may also allow you to bid on other auction sites or buy from on-line stores that do not ship to the United States.  They handle receiving your items from the seller and shipping them to you.  You'll pay a fee to them on top of the cost for the item, the domestic shipping (from the seller to them) and the international shipping (from them to you).  There may also be a fee for packing your stuff up for international shipping that's typically included in their quote for it. 

The upshot is that a proxy service makes a world of Japanese baseball card options available for a fee.

The proxy services that I have used the most - kuboTEN, JAUCE and Noppin - all charge fees that are based in part on the price of the item you're buying.  For example, JAUCE will charge you 400 yen plus 8% of the price of the item.  I got my 2021 BBM 1st Version set through them back in April.  I paid 5000 yen for the set itself plus 800 yen (8% of 5000 yen is 400 yen plus the 400 yen flat fee) along with a 300 yen "bank fee".  So my 5000 yen 1st Version set really ended up running me 6100 yen.

What's setting ZenMarket apart from the other proxy services is that they just charge a 300 yen flat fee for an auction.  This means that the 2021 Epoch NPB set that I got through ZenMarket back in June only cost me 300 yen above the 2500 yen winning auction bid.  ZenMarket's documentation says something about a 3.5% deposit fee for using a credit card or PayPal but I have never been charged this.

Had I used ZenMarket to buy the 1st Version set instead of JAUCE, I would have only paid 5300 yen for the set - the 5000 yen price plus ZenMarket's 300 yen fee.  I would have saved myself 800 yen.

Their international shipping prices seem to be in line with everyone else.  They will quote you a variety of shipping choices including SAL, EMS, Fedex, UPS and DHL - I'm not sure the other outfits have quite the range of options.

One other thing I like about them is they are pretty good about sending you emails to let you know when they've received your items and when they've shipped stuff out.  One of my few frustrations with Noppin was that I had to constantly log in and check if they'd received the stuff I'd bought yet.

From what I've seen, ZenMarket's only downside is that they will only store your items for 45 days before they start charging you.  Noppin and JAUCE will store your items for 60 days.  This may not seem like much of a difference but it's going to make me have to ship the four sets I expect to buy in August and September of this year in two shipments instead of one.

I again want to thank Yeh for letting me know about ZenMarket.

Sunday, August 8, 2021

Card Of The Week August 8

As you probably already know, Samurai Japan won the Olympic Gold Medal for baseball yesterday by defeating Team USA in a nail-biter of a ballgame 2-0.  Munetaka Murakami hit a solo home run in the bottom of the third and his Swallows teammate Tetsuto Yamada scored an insurance run in the bottom of the eighth to account for all the runs while five pitchers - Masato Morishita, Kodai Senga, Hiromi Itoh, Suguru Iwazaki and Ryoji Kuribayashi - combined to shutout the US, striking out eight batters while holding the US to six hits.  Yamada was named MVP of the tournament.

Atsunori Inaba was hired as the head coach of Samurai just over four years ago with the goal of winning the 2019 Premier 12, the 2020 Olympic Gold Medal and the 2021 World Baseball Classic.  He's succeeded with the first two goals but with the ongoing pandemic it's not clear yet when the next WBC is going to be played.  Whenever it is, however, Inaba won't be coaching the Japanese team - he apparently announced this weekend that he's retiring as head coach.  There's a rumor that he's in line to be the next manager of the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters should they finally part ways with Hideki Kuriyama after ten years (Kuriyama is currently the longest tenured manager in NPB).

Here are cards of Murakami, Yamada and Inaba from some of Calbee's Samurai Japan sets from the past couple years:

2019 Calbee Samurai Japan #SJ-33 (Murakami)

2017 Calbee Samuri Japan #SJ-29

2020 Calbee Samurai Japan #01 (Inaba)

Saturday, August 7, 2021

Stefan Romero

Stefen Romero of the Orix Buffaloes was the second foreign player to ask for and receive his release during the Olympic break.  Like Ernesto Mejia, Romero was unhappy that he was separated from his family.

Romero joined the Buffaloes in 2017 after spending six years in the Mariners organization.  He hit over 20 home runs in each of his first two seasons with the Buffaloes but injuries kept him off the field for about a third of the 2019 season and he only hit 18 home runs.  He left Orix as a free agent and joined the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles for the 2020 season.  He topped 20 home runs again in Sendai but returned to Orix this season.  He'd only played in about 20 games for the ichi-gun Buffaloes and was hitting .169 when the season paused for the Olympic break.

Here's a handful of Romero's cards.  I wanted to show one card from each of the five seasons he played in Japan but I don't have any of his 2021 cards yet (he's only in the BBM 2nd Version and Buffaloes team sets) so I picked two 2020 cards because I liked both of them:

2017 BBM 1st Version #151

2018 Calbee #092

2019 Epoch NPB #132

2020 BBM 1st Version #074

2020 BBM Eagles #E59

Thursday, August 5, 2021

RIP Yusuke Kinoshita

Stunning news today out of Nagoya - Chunichi Dragons pitcher Yusuke Kinoshita passed away earlier this week after collapsing during practice a month ago.  It's not clear what the cause of death was.  He had been doing "intense exercise" when he collapsed and initially was having heart issues that apparently affected his brain.  He had been on a ventilator when he died.  He was just 27 years old.  

Kinoshita had played college ball at Komazawa University but dropped out after suffering a shoulder injury.  He was recruited by Daiki Masuda to join the Tokushima Indigo Socks of the Shikoku Island League and played there for two seasons from 2015-16.  He was part of the League's All Star team that played in the Can-Am League in the summer of 2016.  The Dragons took him with their first (and only) pick in the ikusei portion of the 2016 draft and he spent all of 2017 on their development squad.  He was registered to the 70 man roster just before the 2018 season started and made his ichi-gun debut in April.  He played in 37 games for the Dragons between 2018 and 2020, all in relief.  He missed some time with an ankle injury last year and had a shoulder injury this season.  While getting his shoulder looked at he discovered that he also had an elbow issue that resulted in him getting Tommy John surgery in April, which required him to sit out for the season.

Kinoshita's rookie card was from the 2017 BBM Rookie Edition set (#114).  He never appeared in a flagship set from BBM, Calbee or Epoch but he appeared in the 2018-21 editions of BBM's Dragons team set and the 2018-19 Epoch Dragons Rookies & Stars sets.  Here are the cards I have of his - I don't have the 2021 BBM Dragons yet so I only have his 2018-20 cards along with the 2017 Rookie Edition card:

2017 BBM Rookie Edition #114

2018 BBM Dragons #D33

2019 BBM Dragons #D33

2020 BBM Dragons #D36

Monday, August 2, 2021

Recent Japanese Hideo Nomo Card?

I've mentioned numerous times that Hideo Nomo has not had a Japanese card - at least not one depicting him in an NPB uniform - since he left Japan for the Dodgers after the 1994 season.  Recently I learned that that's not completely true.  I saw a seller on Ebay who had listed a 2018 BBM card of Nomo (I hesitate to say he's "selling" it as I don't want to give any credibility to the ridiculously high price he's asking for it - over $600!).  I swiped the images of the front and the back of the card from the auction:

In fairness, this appears to be some sort of promotional card for a Meikyukai event at the Tokyo Dome in November of 2018 and not something that would have come out of a pack or a box.  But still, this is the first Japanese card that I've seen of Nomo in a Buffaloes uniform since 1994.

UPDATE - I got several responses on Twitter to my tweet about this card from folks who attended the Meikyukai event which was essentially an old timers game.  Apparently it was billed as a "Nomo vs Hiroki Kuroda" game.  RT_262 tweeted out a number of photos from the game which he was kind enough to give me permission to include in this update:


Kuroda (I think that's Makoto Matsubara in the background)

Isao Harimoto

Sadaharu Oh

Kazuo Matsui (I think)

RT_262 is a Marines fan and attended the game to see Kazuya Fukuura who had just joined the Meikyukai two months earlier and was still an active player at the time.

Fukuura in the field

Fukuura at the plate

Fukuura, Matsui and Kazuhiro Wada (I think)

Nomo and Fukuura (that might be Choji Murata to the left of Nomo)

The Nomo card was not the only card for the event.  RT_262 shared the card for Fukuura.  He said that the cards were given away when you entered the Dome.

Kicks82 shared the card he got of Harimoto:

He also shared the promotional image for the event:

I really like how the cards look.  I'd love to find some of these for myself.

Thanks to RT_262 and Kicks82 for sharing their photos!