Japan head coach Masataka Nashida said Monday he had no worries about his team getting involved in any brawls such as the one that marred Saturday’s first-round Pool D game between Mexico and Canada.
The first-round tiebreaker rewards teams for lopsided victories, encouraging Canada to stretch a six-run lead in the ninth with a bunt for a base hit.
The play, rare in a major league game, was followed by some close pitches, a warning from the umpire, a hit batsman and then a brawl that saw seven players ejected.
In discussing the success of one of Japan’s hottest hitters, Nashida talked about how Hirokazu Ibata had faked a bunt in one at-bat to read how the defense would respond.
“I think he understands not to bunt for a base hit if we have a big lead,” the coach joked.
Nashida said Japanese teams just aren’t riled by opposing players’ antics or tactics. Over-the-top home run celebrations are part of the game here that would draw a fastball to the ribs in the big leagues.
“One part of it is that there’s nothing you can do about your opponent’s tactics,” he said. “Yesterday we had a six-run lead in the third inning and no matter what, we wanted to get at least another run.
“If you think about how big this ballpark (Tokyo Dome) is, or rather how small it is, you never feel a lead is safe. In the seventh inning, bunting for a base hit with a big lead would still be a good play, as would a steal attempt. In Japan, you take that for granted.
“In the other game, it was the ninth inning . . . That’s difficult to compare because the unwritten rules are not the same everywhere.”
Japanese players occasionally get into confrontations, but don’t expect Samurai Japan to go looking for blood when the team plays the final round in the United States.
“We don’t want to fight,” Nashida said. “(If confronted by big leaguers, Japanese) players will say, ‘Run!’ We just have to look at the size of those guys, and we’ll stop in our tracks for fear. If something happens, it would be, ‘Run!’ That’s what my wife would tell me to do.
“Children watch this and get the wrong message. It’s really impermissible, especially for a sport that aspires to be in the Olympics. I don’t think this is a good thing.”