Sunday, April 30, 2023

Card Of The Week April 30

Fighters pitcher Seigi Tanaka got the first save of his career last Wednesday.  Tanaka was the first round pick of the Hawks in the 2016 draft* and had spent six injury plagued years with them before moving to the Fighters over the winter as compensation for the Hawks signing Kensuke Kondoh.  His chronic elbow and shoulder injuries (which he appeared to have also missed time for in both high school and college) limited him to just 36 innings in 34 appearances during his tenure with Softbank.  It's been a tough road for him and he got very emotional during his Hero Of The Game interview.

*Tanaka was picked by five teams in the draft - the Marines, Hawks, Carp, Fighters and Giants.  After Softbank won the lottery for him, all four losing teams (along with DeNA who had lost out on Yuya Yanagi) selected Chihaya Sasaski with Lotte winning his lottery.

Here's a card of Tanaka from the 2017 BBM Icons - Japan Pride set (#04).  That year's set, which came out around the time of the 2017 World Baseball Classic, featured players who had played for Samurai Japan at some level - Tanaka had played on the collegiate version of the team in both 2014 and 2015.

Friday, April 28, 2023

Topps Retro NPB Cards

When Topps initially announced their license with NPB about a year and a half ago, I said that I thought the most interesting thing they could do would be to use their classic card designs, maybe doing an Archives or Heritage style set.  While they have yet to do a full scale set like that, both of their NPB "flagship" sets have featured an insert set using one of their old card designs (and the Chrome sets have had ugly Chrome versions of the same insert cards).  

For their first set in 2021 they included a 24 card (2 cards per team) insert set that used the 1986 design.  Well, it's the 1986 design with a slight modification - they added a white square with the team's logo in it to the lower right corner of each card.  I really liked how these turned out and I decided to pick up all 24 of them.  Here they all are:

























I thought Topps did a pretty good job with these.  The photos all look like ones I could have expected to see on an MLB Topps card from 1986.  My one complaint about the fronts is that I don't understand why the Eagles cards had to say "Rakuten Eagles" on them - it looks really cramped.

The backs are the standard Topps NPB "least amount of effort" backs but at least they made them look a little like the backs of the original.  

For last year's set they included another 24 card insert set that used the 1958 card design.  They got even closer to the original front design with these cards - as far as I can tell, the main difference is the inclusion of a "Topps' logo in the lower left corner.  When I heard that Topps was doing 1958 style cards, I wondered if they'd actually get posed shots like they had had on the original cards or if they'd simply superimpose an action shot against a colored background (kind of like BBM's "Cross-Whatever" cards").  I was pleased to see that they did the former but they did it in the most monotonous way possible.  The original set had a mixture of head shots of the players as well as them posing with bats or in fielding positions.  For these cards they just did head shots of the players.  I found that just a little too boring to get more than a couple cards from the insert set:





They made a slight improvement of the backs - they included cartoon figures similar to how the cartoons on the back of the original 1958 cards looked like.  But the cartoons are just generic and don't tell any story about the player on the card.  It looks like there's two different sets of cartoons - one for batters and one for pitchers.  Here's the backs of Murakami and Sugano's cards so you can see what I'm talking about:

It looks like this year's set will have an insert set using the 2001 design.  It'll be interesting to see how it looks.

Monday, April 24, 2023

Chinese Players On The Baystars

Last year when I did a post reviewing 20 years of BBM's Rookie Edition sets I discovered that the Baystars had signed two Chinese players to development (ikusei) contracts in 2009.  And by "Chinese" I mean mainland, People's Republic of China (PRC) as opposed to Taiwan.  I did a little research on the players and discovered that they both been signed from the Tianjin Lions of the China Baseball League and ended up spending two years each with the Baystars before getting released.  Neither player ever moved onto the 70 man roster.  I thought this was interesting enough that I decided to look for any cards the players had - luckily BBM was still including the ikusei players on their team sets in 2009 and 2010 so they both appeared in their Baystars team sets those years.  I found one of the four cards myself but Ryan tracked the other three down for me.

I had originally thought that these were the first two Chinese players in NPB but that's not the case - the Giants had signed Xu An (who would go on to play on China's 2013 WBC team) to an ikusei contract in 2006.  But I still thought this was interesting enough to do a post on the players.

20 year old outfielder Wang Jing-chao had played three seasons with Tianjin before signing with the Baystars.  He got into only four games in two years with the Baystars farm team (known at the time as the Shonan SeaRex), going 2 for 9 with three strikeouts.  He returned to Tianjin and played another three years for them.  Here's his baseball cards:

2009 BBM Rookie Edition #095

2009 BBM Baystars #YB69

2010 BBM Baystars #YB73

I should say that those are his only Japanese cards but because he was on China's roster for both the 2006 and 2009 World Baseball Classics, he has a couple other cards.  He only had two at bats for the 2006 team but he got a hit in one of them.  Upper Deck included him in the Future Watch insert set from the 2006 SP Authentic set:

2006 Upper Deck Future Watch #WBC-16

He didn't get into any of the games in the 2009 tournament but Topps included him in a couple of their WBC-related sets that year.  Or did they?  Officially he's in the WBC insert sets in the Topps Chrome and Bowman Draft Picks & Prospects sets but I'm not entirely sure the photos are him.  Here are the cards in question:

Topps Chrome WBC #W69

Bowman Draft Picks & Prospects WBC #BDPW15

The Topps Chrome card might be him (although I'm not convinced it is) but I'm pretty sure the other card is actually the similarly named Wang Chao as the photo on this card looks very similar to the one on Wang Chao's Bowman Chrome WBC Prospects card (which TCDB has listed under Wang Jing-chao's cards).  This isn't the most egregious mistake that Topps made with their WBC cards in 2009 (that of course being using a picture of Korea manager Kim In-Sik on Kim Hyun-soo's card) but it's still pretty sloppy.

The other player was 26 year old pitcher Chen Wei who had played for Tianjin since 2000.  He also only got into four games with the SeaRex in his two season, posting a 3.86 ERA in 4.2 innings worth of work, giving up two runs on nine hits and two walks while striking out one.  He also returned to Tainjin after the Baystars released him but only spent one season with them before apparently retiring as a player.  His 2009 BBM Rookie Edition card erroneously lists him as an outfielder.  Like Wang, he was on the 2009 China WBC roster but didn't play in the tournament,  Unlike Wang he didn't have any WBC baseball cards.  Here's the three he had with the Baystars:

2009 BBM Rookie Edition #094

2009 BBM Baystars #YB67

2010 BBM Baystars #YB70

Sunday, April 23, 2023

Card Of The Week April 23

It was a weekend of walk offs for the Eagles and it extended to former Eagles players as well.

On Friday night Tsuyoshi Yamasaki came to bat in the bottom of the ninth with the bases loaded and the Eagles and Fighters tied at 7 runs apiece and did this:

A similar situation occurred in Mexico City the same night.  The Tigres de Quintana Roo were leading the Diablos Rojos del México 10-8 with two outs in the bottom of the ninth.  The Diablos had fought back from being down 10-0 to load the bases with two outs when former Eagle Japhet Amador stepped to the plate and unloaded them:

And finally today Ryosuke Tatsumi hit a walk off double to break a 3-3 tie in the bottom of the eleventh.  I can't embed the video but you can see it here.

Here are cards of Yamasaki, Amador and Tatsumi:

2018 Eagles Team Set 2nd Version #155

2017 BBM Eagles #E52

2019 BBM 1st Version #155

Friday, April 21, 2023

2013 BBM Tokyo Big Six Set - Where Are They Now?

Ten years ago this month BBM released the 2013 edition of their Tokyo Big Six set.  It was their tenth and final set for the league and eleventh (and also final) collegiate set overall.

This was a box set that contained 37 cards - the 36 card base set plus one "special" insert card.  The base set was split evenly between the six schools so each school had six cards - five player cards plus a team card.  The "special" insert cards were either a "Tokyo Big6 Heroes" insert card (one of six possible cards - one for each school) or an autographed version of one of the player cards.  

Of the 30 players in the set, thirteen of them went on to play in NPB.  That's the largest number from any of the ten Tokyo Big Six sets - the previous high was eleven in both the 2009 Spring and Autumn sets.  Only two of those thirteen - Kohei Arihara and Hiromi Oka - had previously appeared in one of the card sets.  Eleven of the players are still active in NPB (now that Arihara has returned from MLB).  Here's the list of future NPB players from the set:

Player College Year Drafted Notes
Arihara, Kohei Waseda 3 2014 Fighters 1st Played for Fighters 2015-2020, Texas Rangers 2021-22, Hawks 2023-present.  2015 Rookie Of The Year.  Lead PL in wins in 2019.  All Star in 2016 & 2019
Hakumura, Akihiro Keio 4 2013 Fighters 6th Played for Fighters 2014-2020.  Drafted as a pitcher, switched to outfield in 2019
Kinoshita, Takuya Hosei 4 2015 Dragons 3rd Played for Toyota after graduation.  Played for Dragons 2016-present.  All Star in 2021-22
Mogi, Eigoro Waseda 2 2015 Eagles 3rd Played for Eagles 2016-present.  All Star in 2019 (also 2017 but he declined to participate)
Nakamura, Shogo Waseda 3 2014 Marines 1st Played for Marines 2015-present.  Won Best 9 in 2021. Golden Glove in 2018 & 2021.  All Star in 2018 & 2021
Nishiura, Naomichi Hosei 4 2013 Swallows 2nd Played for Swallows 2014-present
Ohshiro, Koji Rikkio 2 2015 Buffaloes 3rd Surname spelled "Ooshiro" in set.  Played for Buffaloes 2016-present
Oka, Hiromi Meiji 4 2013 Fighters 3rd Played for Fighters 2014-18, Marines 2018-present.
Saitoh, Shunsuke Rikkio 2 2017 Baystars 4th Played for JX-ENEOS after graduation.  Played for Baystars 2018-21
Sakamoto, Seishiro Meiji 2 2015 Tigers 2nd Played for Tigers 2016-present
Takayama, Shun Meiji 2 2015 Tigers 1st Played for Tigers 2016-present.  2016 Rookie Of The Year.  All Star in 2016
Uehara, Kenta Meiji 2 2015 Fighters 1st Played for Fighters 2016-present
Yokoo, Toshitake Keio 2 2015 Fighters 6th Played for Fighters 2016-2021, Eagles 2021-present

Here's each of their cards from the set as well as a card of them in NPB.  As usual I tried to get the most recent card of theirs that I hadn't already shown when possible.  I'm also showing Hakumura's "Tokyo Big6 Heroes" card since I pulled that from the box I bought.  Ohshiro and Oka also had cards in that insert set but I don't have those.  Hakumura and Oka are shown as pitchers on their Tokyo Big Six cards but outfielders on their NPB cards.  Hakumura was drafted as a pitcher but converted to being an outfielder in 2019.  Oka had been a two way player in college but was drafted as a position player.

2013 BBM Tokyo Big Six #10

2020 Epoch NPB #149

2013 BBM Tokyo Big Six #16

2013 BBM Tokyo Big Six #SP03

2020 BBM Fighters #F65

2013 BBM Tokyo Big Six #05

2022 Topps NPB #88

2013 BBM Tokyo Big Six #11

2022 Calbee #050

2013 BBM Tokyo Big Six #08

2022 BBM 1st Version #203

2013 BBM Tokyo Big Six #04

2022 BBM Swallows #S43

2013 BBM Tokyo Big Six #26

2013 BBM Tokyo Big Six #B43

2013 BBM Tokyo Big Six #20

2022 BBM Marines #M62

2013 BBM Tokyo Big Six #28

2021 BBM Baystars #DB12

2013 BBM Tokyo Big Six #23

2022 Epoch NPB #052

2013 BBM Tokyo Big Six #22

2022 BBM Tigers #T61

2013 BBM Tokyo Big Six #21

2022 BBM Fighters #F09

2013 BBM Tokyo Big Six #15

2022 BBM Eagles #E54

Of the remaining 17 players in the set, had their only appearance on a BBM card in this set - Kazuki Funamoto (Hosei), Makoto Horino (Keio), Yuta Iida (Tokyo), Takushi Kasahara (Tokyo), Takudai Koo (Rikkio), Toshiya Kurozawa (Tokyo), Shori Ohkido (Hosei), Asahi Satoh (Keio), Masatsugu Seki (Tokyo), Wataru Tohjoh (Waseda), Yuho Yabe (Rikkio), Seigo Yada (Keio) and Kentaro Yoshinaga (Waseda).  The other four players appeared in at least one other BBM Tokyo Big Six set - Naoto Hatsuma (Tokyo), Yota Hirahara (Rikkio),  Kanji Kawai (Hosei), Hiroki Nakashima (Meiji), 

I should point out that at least two of the players that I said had their only BBM collegiate card in this set have other cards.  Shori Ohkido of Hosei appears in the Japanese Collegiate team autographed inserts for the 2013 Panini USA baseball set (as does Kanji Kawai of Hosei) and Sashi Satoh of Keio appears in the 2021 JABA corporate league set:

2013 BBM Tokyo Big Six #03

2013 Panini USA Baseball Japan Collegiate Autographs #9 

2013 BBM Tokyo Big Six #14

2021 JABA Player Cards #079

I don't have a checklist for either the 2021 or 2022 JABA sets so it's possible that some of the other 17 non-professional players from this set appear in them.