Japan World Baseball Classic Article
- A Look at Japan's WBC Roster
By Patrick Gordon
December 24, 2005
Chiba Lotte manager Bobby Valentine publicly challenged the Chicago
White Sox just days after winning the Japan Series, stating that his
club could possibly defeat the Major League champions in a seven-game
No one listened.
Now, with the inaugural World Baseball Classic a little more than
four months away, all Valentine has to look forward to is seeing the
top Japanese players' face-off against the best America, and the rest
of the world for that matter, has to offer.
"It will be a very tough competition," said Japan World Baseball
Classic manager Sadaharu Oh. "The level of play will be very high and
there will be teams that want to beat us, so we know we have to go
with a strong team."
Oh unveiled the nation's 30-man roster for the tournament in early
December, with current major leaguers Ichiro Suzuki, Tadahito Iguchi
and Akinori Otsuka all selected to participate.
The wildcard remains however New York Yankees outfielder Hideki
Matsui, who has yet to decide if he will play. However, Oh believes
the temptation to represent his country will be too much for Matsui
"I'm 100 percent sure he will join us," said Oh. "I spoke to him
recently and told him we really want him to be a part of our team."
If Matsui does participate, he will start in Oh's outfield along side
Ichiro and 2005 Pacific League batting champion Kazuhiro Wada.
Outfielders Tatsuhiko Kinjo (Yokohama), Hitoshi Tamura (Yokohama) and
Norichika Aoki (Yakult) were also selected by Oh to participate.
Meanwhile, Central League MVP and Hanshin standout Tomoaki Kanemoto,
who batted .327 while cracking 40 homers and 125 RBIs and Chunichi
right fielder Kosuke Fukudome were curiously passed over and not
Behind the plate, Oh wanted Kenji Johjima to perform catching duties
but the ex-Fukuoka catcher decided his time would be better spent
working with his new teammates in Seattle while sharpening his
Therefore, Yomiuri catcher Shinnosuke Abe, who batted .300 with 26
homers and 86 RBIs, will start while Motonobu Tanishige (Chunichi)
and Tomoya Satozaki (Lotte) add depth to the position.
Michihiro Ogasawara (.282, 37 HR, 92 RBIs) and Nobuhijo Matsunaka
(.315, 46 HR, 121 RBIs) will likely alternate between first base and
the designated hitter position while Iguchi, a member of the World
Champion White Sox, will start at second base and work with either
Munenori Kawasaki (.271, 4 HR, 36 RBIs) or Toshiaki Imae (.310, 8 HR,
71 RBI) at shortstop.
Imae, the Japan Series MVP, batted .310 last season with eight
homeruns and 71 RBIs while Kawasaki, known more for his defensive
skills, hit .271 with four homeruns and 36 RBIs for the Hawks.
At third base, Yakult's Akinori Iwamura (.319, 30 HR, 102 RBI) looks
to be the probable choice to start for Oh's squad with Hiroshima's
Takahiro Arai (.305, 43 HR, 94 RBIs) the likely choice to perform
Oh's pitching staff will be led by Seibu Lions ace Daisuke
Matsuzaka. The former first-round pick hurled 215 innings last
season and went 14-13 while finishing with a 2.30 ERA. The flame
throwing righty has a varying repertoire of pitches, including a mid-
90s fastball, a slider and a nasty forkball.
Behind Matsuzaka is Yomiuri ace Koji Uehara (9-12, 3.32 ERA), Lotte
submariner Shunsuke Watanabe (15-4, 2.17 ERA), Hiroshima's Hiroki
Kuroda (15-12, 3.17 ERA) and Fukuoka's Toshiya Sugiuchi (18-4, 2.11
ERA) round out Oh's rotation.
Otsuka, Fukuoka's Kyuji Fujikawa (7-1, 1.37 ERA) and Yakult's
Hirotoshi Ishii (4-3, 37 Svs.) will helm Oh's bullpen which is
believed by some experts to be his best asset.
However, the talent selected by Oh may not be enough for Japan to
compete with the likes of the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Puerto
Rico and the United States.
"I'm not sure how far they are going to go in the tournament," said
Gary Garland, writer and founder of Japan Baseball Daily. "But I
don't think they are going to win it all, that's for sure."
Japan will host Korea, Chinese Taipei and China when Pool A play
begins on March 3rd at the Tokyo Dome.
"If the Japanese team pulls off the upset and takes the tourney, it
will be for them what the Miracle on Ice was to the U.S. during the
Cold War," added Garland.
- On Dec 25, 2005, at 5:04 AM, northeast_baseball_review wrote:
> Meanwhile, Central League MVP and Hanshin standout Tomoaki Kanemoto,Fukudome's omission is odd but many Dragons players, following the lead
> who batted .327 while cracking 40 homers and 125 RBIs and Chunichi
> right fielder Kosuke Fukudome were curiously passed over and not
of their no-nonsense manager Hiromitsu Ochiai, have been cool to
anything that might distract them from the pennant race. Last year,
Ochiai snorted when asked what kind of fan service his players would
take part in, saying his only fan service was to win games.
Because the WBC's eligibility restrictions are fairly loose (Mike
Piazza will play for Italy because his name 'sounds Italian'), Kanemoto
could have played for Japan. He was born in Japan, after all. However,
his citizenship was perhaps an issue. This is not the case for
Fukudome, who has played for Japan in the Olympics.