Japanese under manned at World Baseball Classic
by Joe Nixon
While the Japanese openned as the favorite amongst bookmakers to win the WBC this is likely to change. The Japanese, who won the tournament in 2006 will be with out many of their star players.
While it is not surprising that the Yankee will keep outfielder Hideki Matsui from the WBC as they did in 2006 due to injury. The Yankees have also moved to keep Mariano Rivera and Jorge Pasada for similar reasons.
It is suprising however that the Japanese will be without out the service any players from the Chunichi Dragons of the NPB Central League.
Chunichi's Hitoki Iwase, the anchor in the Dragon's bullpen and infielder Masahiko Morino will be held from the March tournament which has Japan facing the other Asian nations in the first round. Iwase, is one of the most dominate players in Japan at his position and his loss will be a serious blow to Japan's efforts.
Tatsunori Hara manager of the Yomiuri Giants will lead the Japanese side this year.
In 2006, Japan was lead by Sadaharu Oh, the 68 year old manager of the Fuokaka Soft Bank Hawks. As a player Sadaharu Oh hit 867 homeruns while playing for the Yomuri Giant. That record is the most of any living player.
Sadaharu Oh led Japan to its shocking 2006 World Baseball Classic Championship but, will sit out this year due to health considerations.
The choice of Hara who will replace Oh is slightly ironic because Hara was drafted in 1982 by the Yomiuri Giants to replace the retiring Sadahuru Oh as a power clean-up hitter for the Giants.
This years Japanese side will represent slightly lowered expectations a fact reflected in the choosing of "Samurai Japan" as the teams official name.
Though the team will feature outfielder Seattle Mariners Ichiro Suzuki and starting pitcher Boston Red Sox Daisuke Matsuzaka who was MVP of the 2006 tournament will both participate however.
It has also been announced that the San Francisco Giants will travel to Japan and play
exhibitions against Japan, Taiwan, China and Korea prior to the start of the World Baseball Classic.
The team will be known as "Samurai Japan"and will feature Seattle Mariner Ichiro Suzuki and starting pitcher Boston Red Sox Daisuke Matsuzaka who was MVP of the 2006 tournament will both participate however.
Yu Darvish a future MLB star and current starting pitcher for the Nippon Ham Fighters is also likely to participate.
Joe Nixon is a free lance journalist who has written for print magazines in the United States in Jordan. He is also a Chunichi Dragons fan.