Slices of Japanese business, politics and life
The modernity as well as the occasional indifference to change in Japan bookmarked my week, with both moments anchored in the countryside about one hour from Tokyo.
On Monday in a rice field converted into a school parking lot, a 6-year-old, Boston Red Sox cap-wearing Japanese youngster stormed my way. We had chatted in the past, although our last conversation consisted of “Chase me!”
Today it was all business: “The Red Sox came in second, but Daisuke Matuszaka didn’t pitch for them in the play-offs,” he said, adding that Dice-K had hurt his arm during the regular season.
“Yes, they lost before he had his chance,” I said. “The Red Sox actually have four Japanese pitchers.”
Daisuke Matsuzaka’s second trip to the disabled list this season is making some forget the Japanese pitcher’s heroics and wonder if he has been worth the investment of his Boston Red Sox team.
The “Dice-K” sweepstakes dominated Japanese baseball in late 2006, as the Boston Red Sox pursued the rights to negotiate with Matsuzaka — who’s now sitting – by commiting over $51 million to his then team, the Seibu Lions, and another $52 million to the pitcher and agent Scott Boras to sign.
Sports rivalries are bred by proximity, culture and history, and few match ups in Asia have more baggage or bragging rights at stake than baseball games between Japan and South Korea, the respective World Baseball Classic and Olympic titleholders.
Both crowns were sources of national pride, but Japan’s came in 2006 after losing twice to Korea before a semifinal victory over the Seoul side, which wasn’t enthused that a team it had beaten more than once could become tournament champions.
Half-Japanese, half-Iranian, but possibly Major League Baseball’s most coveted Asian prospect, Yu Darvish is pitching the opener of the World Baseball Classic tournament in Tokyo, the main question for many is how long he will continue to be only a local player.
The template for exports was set by Japan teammate Daisuke Matsuzaka, who followed his MVP effort in the 2006 WBC with an eye-popping $103 million contract with the Boston Red Sox, some $50 million of which went to his Seibu LIons, just for letting the right-hander leave Japan.