Let’s be honest. When you hear that there’s a story involving A) Japanese wrestlers and B) a monkey, the immediate expectation is that there’s going to be all sorts of hilarious hijinks and that the monkey makes their lives more difficult by, like, hiding things and doing monkey laughs, and the wrestlers act all bewildered and overact like Japanese wrestlers so often do in the ring.
(This is a cute, non-abused macaque. We prefer to think of them like this.)
Um, not so; this is just some straight up animal abuse. Authorities are letting prosecutors decide whether to charge three current wrestlers and one former wrestler from the “Dragon Gate” wrestling group with violating animal protection laws. The investigation started with images of the abuse being posted online. While the picture isn’t brutally graphic - it’s not like the monkey’s dead or anything - it’s certainly unsettling enough that we’re keeping it below the fold. Proceed at your own risk.
Two days, two monumentally impressive Japanese victories. Less than 24 hours after eliminating the inventors of the game, the Japanese baseball team knocked off their Asian rivals, South Korea, 5-3, in extra innings, saved by Ichiro Suzuki, the Jesus of their baseball chapel himself.
If you actually watched the game, you know it was an October-worthy classic in March. Hitashi Iwakuma, the Japanese Greg Maddux, pitched into the eighth inning. Korean bats went into hibernation right up until the bottom of the ninth, when Bum Ho Lee (yes, that’s his actual name, how he missed out on the NAME OF THE YEAR brackets, we’ll never know), knocked in the tying run off starting pitcher-turned closer-turned scapegoat-toward title game winner Yu Darvish.
Naturally, Ichiro would find his way at the plate in the top of the 10th with two men in scoring position with two outs, and he’d knock them both in, never mind the fact that first base was open. If Joe Torre took that chance for the Dodgers, he would have been skewered for weeks. We’ll see if Korean manager In-Sik Kim faces similar criticism.
But, despite all the heroics and histrionics, there’s a bigger question worth asking here: Does anyone care? If a manufactured tournament that’s been met mostly with apathy in the U.S. breeds an incredibly compelling game, does it really matter? It’s hard to tell. Clearly, it mattered more than most military actions in the nations that played in it, with Korea’s Jamsil baseball stadium in downtown Seoul packed with fans. That’s on top of the rabid fans of both national squads that packed Dodger Stadium far past the reaches it filled with for the U.S.-Japan semifinal on Sunday.
At the end of the day, it’ll probably matter a lot more two decades from now, when the event is a more established part of the annual baseball calendar. For now, we’ll have to settle for Japan’s second straight WBC title as much more culturally relevant in far-flung locales than where the action actually went down.
That’s right folks, that’s what the Orange Bowl has become: a parcel of land on which the city of Miami can keep a sports franchise that absolutely no one cares about. (And just think! That retractable roof will come in handy for a team that hasn’t had a rainout in four years!) That’s because the upside isn’t really for the Marlins, or for the city of Miami. It’s for Major League Baseball.
If you read between the lines of the story, it’s the nonstop lobbying of major league officials that really broke through the latest stalemate in negotiations. And how, pray tell did MLB convince the city of Miami that they need baseball? By proving that South Florida is the league’s “Gateway to the Caribbean”.
Really, that’s why MLB is so invested in Miami. It knows that the Marlins are mere hours away from oceans of baseball talent, and that Major League Baseball has to be there to keep pressure on those countries to keep serving as the league’s talent cash cow.
At the end of nine and a half hours of negotiations, that argument finally won out, sweetened by one significant addendum: Miami will host the finals of the 2013 World Baseball Classic. Maybe by then people here will care.
Our very own Arizona correspondent, Tuffy, tripped across a true gem late yesterday, when he discovered that the Phoenix Coyotes are handing out free tickets to Smirnoff vodka drinkers on his most recent run to the beer and liquor barnadult beverage drive thru alcoholic beverages outpost.
That’s right, so few fans actually want to see the Coyotes that the team is willing to give tickets away. All you have to do is buy another product. How much of that vodka sale is actually going to the Coyotes? Probably a couple bucks, at best. Still, that’s a better pull than they’re getting from most of those empty seats. After all, when you lose over and over and over again, even the greatest face in the history of your sport can’t maintain relevancy forever.
That makes the U.S. 0-for-2 in these quadrennial shindigs, while the Japanese get a shot at 2-for-2 on Monday night, in the team’s fifth faceoff with Korea in this World Baseball Classic alone.
Of course, that’s hardly the story here. Instead, this is a tale of how A) Roy Oswalt couldn’t hold a lead, B) the U.S. couldn’t mount a rally off of Daisuke Matsuzaka and C)Jeter made a horribly costly error in the bottom of the eighth, just as the U.S. seemed to be getting back in the game.
In fairness, the Oswalt-Matsuzaka matchup played out much the way it should have, just perhaps in a slightly adjusted time frame. The Americans got on the board in the first inning, but by the time he was done, it was Matsuzaka who had held the U.S. in check, while Oswalt had folded repeatedly to Japan’s litany of slap hitters.
As for Jeter, in the end his error didn’t affect the decision in the game. But his error, a badly off target throw on a jumping play as he wheeled to his right, gave the Japanese a crushing three-run lead — which soon ballooned to the final five-run margin — when the U.S. could have gotten out of the inning with the heart of the team’s order coming up in the top of the ninth.
It all goes to prove that nothing is certain in baseball anymore, especially in the World Baseball Classic, as much as it really may be a money-grubbing, made-for-TV event. Then again, we already knew that, thanks to our friends in the Netherlands.
That’s right, the only women’s basketball program powerful enough to copyright their team name as its own brand was eliminated in the first round of the NCAA Tournament for the first time ever. In fact, before Ball State stunned record-breaker Pat Summit’s team in Bowling Green, Ky. last night, the Vols had never lost in either of the first two rounds. That made them a whopping 42-0.
Not anymore. Of course, Summit was as much a realist about the loss as she is about anything else, shining a pretty stark light on her team’s shortcomings.
“I thought we were tentative, maybe uptight,” Summitt said. “But you have to give credit where credit is due and that’s to the Ball State basketball team. They had a lot more toughness. They beat us to loose balls. They made shots.”
Evidently that still makes all the difference between wins and losses, whether you’re Pat Summit or a nobody like Ball State Coach Kelly Packard, who has a whopping 26 career wins.
There had to be some winners on Sunday, and there were plenty in men’s college basketball. But of all the teams going where the Tennessee women (and men, for that matter) fear to tread, none can truly be called “Cinderella.”
Sure, there’s still a 12-seed out there in Arizona. But to call the Wildcats a Cinderella team is as unfair as it would have been to call Wisconsin a slipper-wearing team. In fact, ESPN’s Andy Katzmakes a pretty compelling case that this season’s Sweet 16 is about as chalk-filled in any of recent memory. Sure, it makes for some pretty strong matchups, but that doesn’t help us glorify the next Cinderella. If only Siena had held on …
If we were to tell you that Lou Holtz is doing something very weird, you’d probably think something like, “Oh God, he’s dishing out sex advice on those “Dr. Lou” segments, isn’t he? Oh, and it’s terrible advice, like ‘chicks who have been to prison will do anal,’ isn’t it? It was only a matter of time.” But no, this news is weirder than that. He has taken to the Internet to announce that he’s returning to coaching. And recruiting old Notre Dame players to play as Notre Dame. To play against Japan. In outer space*.
(Wait, this is real?)
WITH LEATHER, which last I checked doesn’t even sell leather, has the bizarre story. It looks like there’s some Notre Dame alumni meeting in Tokyo**, and to mark the occasion, Lou Holtz is bringing over a bunch of the Golden Domers to play an exhibition football game against some Japanese all-star team. But little do they know… Japanese football is actually this! Well, okay, no it isn’t.
There’s a particularly surreal video of Dr. Lou trying to recruit these alumni, via YouTube, after the break. Read more…
Throughout the history of baseball there have been many great hitters who could double as pitchers, and many great pitchers who weren’t pushovers with the stick in their hands either. The greatest example of this type of player will always be Babe Ruth, who won 89 games as a member of the Boston Red Sox before being sold to the Yankees where he became the Sultan of Swat and started smacking homers in between shotgunning beers and hot dogs (sometimes doing all three at the same time).
It’s not surprising considering that most young pitchers also play the field and bat through college, and don’t become one or the other until they turn pro. Of course, even though Ichiro Suzuki didn’t grow up in the United States, that didn’t keep him from knowing how to pitch as well as hit, and there’s a possibility Ichiro may be used as an emergency pitcher on Japan’s WBC team. Which is why he’s been working on his fastball.
Planning to travel to Japan and worried there won’t be any low-grade hot dogs, stale nachos, and warm beer for you to eat? Don’t worry about it. Major League Baseball is opening an official restaurant in Tokyo that will feature “cuisine” found on the menus at ballparks throughout the league.
(Finally, Bobby Valentine will have somewhere to eat)
From the description, the place sounds like a slightly more ridiculous version of “Americatown,” the eatery patronized by the Simpsons during their trip to Japan.
It’s time for your Saturday afternoon bats**t insane break. And if you want bats**t insanity, there’s nowhere to go except Japan, land of Segway chimps.
Courtesy of UNCOACHED comes this gem. Basically, the hot girls spin around with a bat to get nice and dizzy, then go bowling. And for some reason they’re all wearing maid uniforms. And then for some reason they all put on bikinis and sing some children’s song in a hot tub. WTF, Japan, WTF. (Video after the jump, naturally).
In a move designed to discourage a flood of young Japanese baseball players from shunning their domestic leagues and moving to the U.S., baseball execs over on the islands have enacted a three-year ban on amateur players who leave Japan should they decide to return and attempt to play professionally.
The ban doesn’t cover major-league players who choose to relocate in the middle of their career, like Ichiro Suzuki or the wildly popular (at least in Los Angeles) Kosuke Fukudome. But it does cover players like 22-year-old Junichi Tazawa, who was considered to be one of the top players available in this fall’s Japanese baseball draft. Tazawa has decided to forgo Japanese baseball altogether to come play in the states.