Friday, November 17, 2017

2017 Topps Now WBC Japan Team Set

With the year almost over it's pretty obvious now that Topps is not going to do anything more in the way of a World Baseball Classic set than what they issued back in March via Topps Now.  They ultimately issued 64 Topps Now WBC cards.  In addition, they issued four ten card team sets, one for each one of the teams that made the finals - Japan, USA, Puerto Rico and the Kingdom Of The Netherlands.  Each of these team sets cost $35 and were basically only available during the week of the semifinals and finals.

I had made the mistake of not ordering the Japan team set at the time because I mistakenly thought that Topps would issue a half way decent WBC set later in the season.  This has turned out not to be the case and so I've been trying to get one of these sets for the last few months. 

It has not been easy - there were only 143 sets issued.  I've only seen two complete sets up on Ebay - one is listed at $150 and the other is listed at $200.  I had picked up half the cards in the set from a seller in China but I way overpaid for them and I haven't seen the other five cards anywhere.  I had kind of resigned myself to not ever completing the set when I happened to search for WBC card on Yahoo! Japan Auctions and discovered someone selling the set for 6000 yen or roughly $55.  I was all set to grab the set via Noppin when I realized that the seller was an outfit called Good Eye Sports who is located in the New York City area.  It seemed kind of crazy to me to pay to ship the set from New York to Japan and then back from Japan to Maryland so I'd kind of decided not try to get the set when it occurred to me that the solution was to get Ryan to buy it and have them ship it directly to me.  Luckily for me Ryan was willing to do it and Good Eye Sports not only was willing to ship it directly to me but they didn't charge for the shipping!

The players in the set are essentially the main lineup for the team plus pitcher Shintaro Fujinami.  Fujinami is an odd selection since he only pitched two innings in the WBC but I'm sure Topps was selecting who they thought the most likely future MLB player was on the pitching staff.  The position players were all the players who got the most at bats during the tournament with the exception of Seiya Suzuki - Shogo Akiyama was included instead.

The set itself is beautiful.  Here's all ten cards:










My only gripe about the cards is that the backs are almost all identical.  There's no biographical information for the player.  All there is is pretty much the same text on each card: "[Player Name] helped Team Japan to a 6-0 record and a semifinal berth as [description of position].  Team Japan was defeated by Team USA in the semifinals, ending its quest to capture its third World Baseball Classic tournament title since its inception in 2006". 

So once again I need to thank Ryan for helping me out!  Thanks!

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Asian Players in the 2017/18 Australian Baseball League

The 2017/18 Australian Baseball League kicked off today with the defending champion Brisbane Bandits defeating the Canberra Cavalry 8-5.  As has been the case in previous seasons, there are a number of players on the rosters of the six teams that come from the professional leagues in Japan, Korea and Taiwan.

There are only three players from NPB in the league this year but they are a pretty significant trio.  For the seventh straight season (all of the seasons since the league restarted in 2010-11 other than the first) the Saitama Seibu Lions are sending players to the Melbourne Aces.  This year the players are Tomoya Mori, Kona Takahashi and Shunta Nakatsuka.  Mori was the first pick of the Lions in the 2013 draft and was an All Star in 2015.  He's one of the most promising young players in NPB.  Takahashi was the Lions first pick in the 2014 draft and is one of the Lions top pitching prospects.  Natatsuka was the Lions second round pick in the 2016 draft but since he was drafted out of college he's actually the oldest of the three players.  Graveyard Baseball has some more details on the trio's background.

2014 BBM Rookie Edition #010

2015 BBM Rookie Edition #039

2017 BBM Rookie Edition #029

There is one former or current KBO player in the league.  Former Doosan Bear and NC Dino pitcher Chang-Sung Ko is with the Sydney Blue Sox.  Ko was with Doosan from 2008-12 and NC from 2013-15 but I'm not sure where he's been the past two seasons - I think he was still with the Dinos but just in the minors but I don't know that for sure.

2014 Super Star Baseball Season Two #SBC02-094
There are five Taiwanese players in the league although only four of them are veterans of the CPBL.  Jin-De Jhang of the Sydney Blue Sox has played in the Pirates organization the past six seasons after signing with them out of high school.  His Blue Sox teammate Chih-Hsien Chiang is another player with US minor league experience - he spent the 2006-14 seasons in the Red Sox, Mariners, Rangers and Oriole organizations.  He's been with the Chinatrust Brothers for the past three seasons. He was also on the Chinese Taipei WBC team in 2009 and 2017.

2009 Konami Baseball Heroes WBC Edition #W09R046
Brisbane has two Taiwanese players - pitcher Pin-Jui Chiu and shortstop Chih-Sheng Lin.  I haven't been able to find out much about Chiu other than he pitches for the Chinatrust Brothers but Lin is a big star in the CPBL.  He played for the La New Bears/Lamigo Monkeys from 2004 to 2015 and then became the first player in CPBL history to change teams as a free agent when he signed with the Chinatrust Brothers in 2016.  He was also the CPBL's first 30/30 player in 2010.  He was a member of the Chinese Taipei national team for the  2006, 2013 and 2017 World Baseball Classics, the 2008 Olympic and the 2012 Premier 12.  In the 2012 Premier 12 he helped beat Cuba in a nail biter of a game by hitting a three run homer in the bottom of the eighth to break a 1-1 tie:

The final Taiwanese player in the ABL this season is 40 year old Tai-San Chang of the Adelaide Bite.  Chang is the career hit and home run leader for the CPBL.  He played for the Wei Chuan Dragons from 1996-1999, the Sinon Bulls from 2000-10 and the Uni-President 7-11 Lions from 2010-15.  He spent 2016 with the Tokushima Indigo Socks of the independent Shikoku Island League in Japan but I'm not sure he played anywhere during 2017.  He was a member of the Chinese Taipei national team for the Olympic in 2004 and 2008 and the 2006 World Baseball Classic.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Kentaro Takasaki

Kentaro Takasaki, a pitcher with the Yokohama DeNA Baystars, also announced his retirement at the end of the season.  Takasaki signed with the Baystars in the "preferred entry frame" of the fall 2007 college/industrial league draft - I'm not positive but I think this was a way for a team to come to an agreement with a player before the actual draft.  It looks like because they signed him they didn't get to pick until the third round of the draft.  Which would be a big disadvantage except that it looks like all the teams except the Eagles did the same thing. 

Anyway Takasaki (who had been playing for Nissan Motors in the industrial leagues when he signed with the Baystars) spent most of 2007 with the Baystars' farm team where he went 10-5 to lead the Eastern League in wins.  He got into a handful of games with the ichi-gun team that year and the next before becoming a workhorse out of the bullpen in 2009, getting into 56 games in middle relief.  He spent most of 2010 with the ni-gun team again but moved into the Baystars' starting rotation in 2011.  He was the team's Opening Day starter in 2012 and was scheduled to be again in 2013 but an injury forced the Baystars to give the start to Shugo Fujii instead.  His playing time with the top team started to diminish after that due to both injuries and ineffectiveness.  He spent all of 2016 with the farm team and only made it into one game this past year.

His BBM rookie cards are #85 from the Rookie Edition set and #429 from the 1st Version set.  His first Calbee card was #073 from the 2012 set.

2007 BBM Rookie Edition #85

2007 BBM 1st Version #429

2012 Calbee #OP-12

2013 BBM Genesis Jersey Card

2014 Front Runner Baystars Rookies & Young Stars #20

2017 BBM Baystars #DB12

Tetsuya Matsumoto

Giants outfielder Tetsuya Matsumoto retired at the end of the season.  Matsumoto was taken by the Giants in the third round of the fall 2006 ikusei draft out of Senshu University.  He was moved to the 70 man roster during training camp in 2007 and debuted with the ichi-gun team in 2008.  He became a regular in 2009, hitting .293 in 129 games and not only won a Golden Glove but was named Rookie Of The Year.  He made the All Star team for the first and only time in 2010 but injuries limited him to only 94 games that year.  Injuries took their toll in 2011 also as he only played in 20 games with the top team.  His playing time with the ichi-gun squad recovered somewhat over the next three seasons, appearing in 83 games in 2012, 91 games in 2013 and 75 games in 2014 but he spent most of 2015 and 2016 and all of 2017 with the farm team.  I don't know if it was injuries or ineffectiveness that kept him at ni-gun.  He played in three Nippon Series - winning championships in 2009 and 2012 against the Fighters and losing in 2013 to the Eagles.

Because Matsumoto was taken in the ikusei draft in 2006, he does not appear in the 2007 BBM Rookie Edition set as the ikusei players weren't included in the Rookie Edition sets until 20092011 (I think).  His BBM rookie card was #728 from the 2007 2nd Version set - it's in the "Update" subset so the card says it's a 1st Version card - I think this is the only time the "Update" subset did't say "2nd Version" on the cards.  His first Calbee card was #260 from the 2009 set.

2007 BBM 2nd Version #728

2010 BBM 1st Version #435

2010 BBM All Stars #A28

2011 BBM Tohto 80th Anniversary #86

2012 BBM Nippon Series #S30

2014 Calbee #215

2017 BBM Giants #G62

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Card Of The Week November 12

The Chiba Lotte Marines spent this weekend in Taiwan, playing a three game series against the (or "a") Chinese Taipei National team that included Yomiuri Giants outfielder Daikan Yoh.  The Marines swept the series pretty handily, winning 6-1 on Friday, 6-4 yesterday and 9-1 today.  I believe that the highlight of the series actually happened after Game Two when Takashi Ogino, the MVP of the game, got to (or was forced to) perform with the Lamigo Monkeys cheerleaders:
In fairness, he's being a good sport about the whole thing and does much better than I would have.

Here's a card of Ogino from his rookie year back in 2010 (BBM 2nd Version #708):

Tadahito Iguchi

Tadahito Iguchi of the Chiba Lotte Marines had announced his retirement back in June.  Iguchi had been the first pick of the Fukuoka Daiei Hawks in the fall 1996 draft out of Aoyamagakuin University.  He spent the next eight seasons with the Hawks before leaving as free agent following the 2004 season and spent the next four years in the US playing for the White Sox, Phillies and Padres.  He returned to Japan in 2009, signing with the Marines.

He led the Pacific League in steals in 2001 and 2003.  He was named to the Best 9 team and won Golden Gloves in 2001, 2003 & 2004.  He made nine All Star teams (2001-04 and 2009-13) and played in four Nippon Series (1999, 2000 and 2003 with the Hawks, 2010 with the Marines).  He won an "Outstanding Player" Award in the 2003 Series.  He also won a World Series with the White Sox in 2005 and got a ring with the 2008 Phillies although since he joined the team after September 1st that year he did not appear on the post-season roster.  He's one of only eleven players to win both a Nippon Series and a World Series championship and was the first Japanese player to do it.  He also suited up for the Japanese National team twice - playing in the 1996 Olympics as a amateur and the 2001 Baseball World Cup.  He is a member of the Meikyukai as he has over 2000 hits between MLB and NPB (I did a post commemorating him achieving this a few years back).

He went out with style, hitting a game tying two run home run in the bottom of the ninth of his retirement game on September 24th - a game the Marines would ultimately win in 12 innings.

The Marines created a web page for his retirement - scroll down past all the merchandise to find his career highlights.

It didn't take long for Iguchi to get a new job - the Marines named him as their new manager in mid-October

Iguchi's BBM rookie card is #477 from the 1997 set and his first Calbee card is #065 in the 1998 set.  He also had a card in the 1997 Takara Hawks set.

1997 BBM #477

2001 BBM Japan National Team #21

2002 BBM 2nd Version #GG13

2005 BBM 1st Version #BN4

2009 BBM 1st Version #127

2010 BBM Nippon Series #S18

2013 Calbee #AS-17

2017 BBM 1st Version #066

Masahiko Morino

Man, it's already mid-November and I haven't started on posts for the players who retired at the end of the season.  I need to get going on this or I'll still be doing them next spring...

Masahiko Morino announced his retirement in September, bringing to close a 21 year career spent entirely with the Chunichi Dragons.  Morino was the Dragons' 2nd pick in the fall 1996 draft out of Tokaidai Sagami high school.  He made his ichi-gun debut in the middle of the 1997 season but it wasn't until 2002 that he spent the majority of the season with the top team and not until 2005 that he became a regular.  He won a Best 9 award in 2010 and a Golden Glove in 2014 and made the All Star team in 2007 and 2010.  He played in five Nippon Series (2004, 2006, 2007, 2010 and 2011) and won an "Outstanding Player" in the 2007 Series (the only time the Dragons were victorious in the five Series he played in).  He also played for the 2008 Japanese Olympic team.

The Dragons had put up a web page showing highlights from his career and his retirement game on September 24th.

His BBM rookie cards was #492 in the 1997 set.  He also appeared in a BBM Dragons box set that year (#D36).  His first Calbee card was not until 2005 (#195).

1997 BBM #492

2002 BBM 2nd Version #580

2005 Konami Baseball Heroes Old White Edition #B05W026

2007 BBM All Stars #A57

2008 BBM Japan National Team #JPN26

2010 BBM Nippon Series #S54

2011 BBM 1st Version #373

2012 Calbee #185

2014 BBM Classic #059

2017 Epoch Dragons #21