One of the goals of Hanshin Tigers left-handed pitcher Trey Moore is to keep his batting average higher than his earned run average. You have to take out the decimal points, of course, and so far, he’s done a great job both on the mound and in the batter’s box in getting off to a brilliant start in the 2003 season.

Moore turned in seven strong innings last Saturday in beating the Yomiuri Giants, running his record to 3-0 and lowering his ERA to 2.25, third best in the Central League. He also smacked two hits, a single and a double, in the same inning, as Hanshin sent 13 batters to the plate in an eight-run top of the third. Following the game, his batting average stood at .500.

“Were you trying to hit for the cycle?,” I asked him on Sunday.

He laughed and went on to say he was just satisfied with his overall performance, especially against the Giants on the road.

Moore has always been proud of his hitting ability. He actually posted a 1.000 batting average in the major leagues in 2001, slamming a double in one plate appearance for the Atlanta Braves.

“Why waste an at bat?” is his philosophy and, when you see his aggressive style at the plate, you know he lives it.

Last season, his ERA with the Tigers was 3.33, and his batting average .274. Take away those decimals, and he missed his goal by 59 points. Right now he’s plus-275 points, and he’s got his “SSS pitch” (supersecret slider) working while his batting is in top form, so the chance for the rare BA-higher-than-ERA feat is very much alive.

Moore will likely get his next start over the coming weekend against the Yokohama BayStars at home in Koshien Stadium.

The following is a suggestion, a request, a plea, an appeal, to the schedule makers in Japan pro baseball and the major leagues: Please, please don’t start the season so darn early. In 2004, let’s go back to staging Opening Day in April, not in March, and especially in Japan where there are currently no postseason playoffs, please extend the season into mid-October.

Go back 10 years, and you will find the 1993 Japan pro baseball season began on Saturday, April 10. The cherry blossoms had come and gone, temperatures were rising and spring was truly in the air.

Since spring camps open Feb. 1 regardless of the date of Opening Day, the players had two months and nine days to get ready for the season, and injuries this year, such as those that have knocked out Fukuoka Daiei Hawks slugger Hiroki Kokubo (blown out knee, gone for the year) and Yomiuri Giants leadoff man Takayuki Shimizu (pulled calf muscle, sidelined at least three weeks) seemed less prevalent.

The 2003 Central League schedule ends on Sept. 21 (when the weather is still warm, sunny and generally a lot better than in blustery March, and 27 days before the Japan Series opening date of Oct. 18. Of course the rainouts will be made up between Sept. 22 and Oct. 17, but it sure seems to me in these days of supposedly dwindling attendance, the Central and Pacific Leagues would want to take advantage of the holiday (Autumnal Equinox) on Sept. 23 with a full slate of games that should be in the climax of an exciting pennant race stretch run.

I made a suggestion in the past, and repeat it here, Japanese baseball should consider making up the rainouts as the season goes along, and schedule the final regular-season games for Saturday, Sunday and Monday of the three-day weekend that includes the Sports Day holiday on the second Monday of October. Then start the Japan Series the following Saturday, five days later.

The Seattle Mariners-Oakland Athletics major league Tokyo openers that were canceled last month were due to take place on March 25 and 26, and exhibition games with the M’s and A’s against Japanese teams were to have been played March 22 and 23. That’s just too early.

To show how wacky this is, consider Seattle and Oakland would have been coming here after their “spring” training while it was still winter, and the 2003 Central League season will end before summer does!

Why is this? How did it get this way?

On the MLB side, those in North America may say they have to begin the season early so they can get in the entire 162-game schedule, then the two rounds of playoffs and the World Series before Halloween, but I was just in the New York area from March 28 to April 1, and it was cold. There was rain, a brutally cold wind blowing snow flurries in New Jersey on Sunday, March 31, and the Yankees home opener was snowed out on April 7.

The day (April 8) Hideki Matsui hit that grand slam, the temperature in New York was 35 F (2 C). Watching on TV, games at Yankee Stadium and in Philadelphia on April 11, you could see the players’ breath, and many were wearing hoods; all you could see was their faces.

It is no secret negotiations are in the works to have the Yankees and Matsui play their 2004 opening regular season games at Tokyo Dome, and the time to start planning the dates and coordinating everything with the respective opening days of the major league and Japanese seasons is now.

I would like to see the Yanks and whatever team comes with them play their exhibition games in Tokyo at the earliest on March 27-28 and the regular season opener on March 30-31, so they can go back and continue their regular season, not play exhibition games after the official ones, as the Mariners and Athletics were scheduled to do. Then start the Japanese season on April 2 or, better yet, April 9.

Thanks to all who have asked about my 2003 Japan Pro Baseball Fan Handbook & Media Guide. It will be available about April 25, and I’ll have instructions on how to order your copy in my next column.

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