Every year about this time, I am usually asked two questions about the off-season.
One is, “What do you do over the winter when there is no baseball?”
The second is, “How do you find material for columns after the season ends?”
My answer to the first question is, I spend most of the time preparing my English-language media guide for the following season. This involves selling the ads, inputting statistics and other data and revising rosters as players leave, join or change teams.
As for the column material, believe it or not, it is easier to come up with ideas in the off-season, because there is always something going on.
Between Opening Day and the Japan Series, it’s pretty much who played who, who won and lost and what was the score. From November through March, though, there is always a flurry of activity revolving around Japanese and international baseball.
There is the Japanese amateur draft (to take place this year on Oct. 28), trades being made, free agents deciding their next move, foreign players being fired and hired, teams changing managers, next-season schedules being released and, this year, a franchise probably being sold and possibly moved.
Any or all of the above topics could provide material for a column.
There are several potential happenings of interest here in Japan and with Japanese connections in North America, and a number of questions to be answered during the coming weeks. Among them are the following:
Who will manage the New York Mets, the Seattle Mariners, Chicago Cubs, Atlanta Braves, Pittsburgh Pirates, Milwaukee Brewers and Florida Marlins?
Will Bobby Valentine or Trey Hillman get another chance to manage a major league team?
What will Marty Brown be doing in 2011?
How many Japanese players in the U.S. will elect to return home and play in Japan?
We know Hisashi Iwakuma will be posted for major league service by the Rakuten Eagles, but will Yu Darvish be posted by the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters?
Tsuyoshi Wada by the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks?
Is Chiba Lotte Marines free agent closer Hiroyuki Kobayashi going to try to go to the big leagues?
Will there be any interest from MLB teams in Fighters reliever Yoshinori Tateyama?
How about the Yokohama BayStars’ two domestic free agents (and the team’s best hitters) Shuichi Murata and Seiichi Uchikawa?
Will they jump ship and move to other Japanese teams or stay with the ‘Stars — or whatever that team will be called next season?
Most interesting will be the answers to two topics in the news this week:
Who will succeed Brown as manager of the Rakuten Eagles?
What will happen to the Yokohama BayStars franchise?
It appears former Chunichi Dragons and Hanshin Tigers (and Japan Olympic Team) skipper Senichi Hoshino is the Eagles No. 1 choice, but does he want the job?
Japanese sports papers, as they notoriously do in situations such as these, have speculated and pumped up the rumor mills. Since it was announced on Sept. 29 Brown was fired, the following have been promoted by the sports press as the next Eagles manager:
Current Yakult Swallows pitching coach Daisuke Araki, one-time Yomiuri Giants and Pittsburgh Pirates hurler and current NTV commentator Masumi Kuwata, and ex-Seibu skipper Osamu Higashio.
The Sports Hochi paper ran a front page story suggesting Leon Lee, a 10-year (1978-1987) player in Japan with the Lotte Orions, Yokohama Taiyo Whales and Yakult Swallows, would be a good choice.
Lee managed the Orix BlueWave for the last five months of the 2003 season, and the Hochi article implied Rakuten could score a big acquisition if they hire Leon as manager and get his son, ex-MLB All-Star Derrek Lee, to be the Eagles first baseman and cleanup hitter.
As for the Yokohama situation, it is expected the franchise will be sold this month, and it is good the current owner, Kiyoshi Wakabayashi, has said the team will remain in the city where it has played for the past 33 seasons and not move to Niigata.
Yokohama needs that team, and there is no reason it cannot operate successfully there under competent management — on and off the field.
The ballpark is centrally located, and the city and its populace are ready to support a halfway decent team. The fans would be there to pack the stadium for a winning ball club.
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