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Home » Monthly Archive » December 2006

December 30, 2006

Happy New Site

To ring in 2007, I’ve added two new features to this site.

Each entry will now have tags, which are a more informal way of organizing posts. When you click on the “Tag” link below each entry you will be taken to this site’s Tag Cloud. When you click on a specific tag link you will navigate to a page with links to all the entries with the same tag.


Also, if you would like to add a comment in response to a previous reader’s thoughts, you may now respond directly thanks to Arvind Satyanarayan’s Movable Type plug-in Simply Threaded.


Part of my plan for next year is to help spread awareness for worthwhile charities and causes. I’ll be linking to at least one non-profit organization and placing its banner in the left sidebar. I did have a link to the Save the Internet folks before. With the recent elections, it seems that net neutrality is safe (for now), so I’ve changed the link to The Red Panda Project.

Happy New Year! Thanks to everyone for continuing to visit and welcome to any newcomers.

December 27, 2006

Innings During the Internment

Before Ichiro Suzuki and Daisuke Matsuzaka, before Hideo Nomo, even before Lenn Sakata, there was Kenichi Zenimura, a shortstop known as the Dean of Japanese American Baseball.

Executive Order 9066 authorized by Franklin D. Roosevelt allowed for the forced removal of approximately 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry from the West Coast. Around 62% of these people were American citizens. More than half were children or infants. While 10,000 were allowed to relocate, the remainder were sent to ten different War Relocation Camps scattered across Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Idaho, Utah, and Wyoming.

The great majority of these people were considered potentially disloyal to America only because of their ethnic heritage. Zenimura, along with his family, were among the internees.

So, what did these families and their children do, thousands of miles away from home, dispossessed of their former lives and liberty? They pursued happiness as best they could: going to school, creating art, having dances, and playing baseball.

To relieve the monotony and desperation of camp life, Zenimura had baseball stadia built and organized a 32-team league. The competition was so fierce and play so compelling, inhabitants of the towns came to watch their neighbors’ games.

If that were the only thing Zenimura had done in his life it would have been enough for everlasting recognition. But he had also founded a Japanese-American league in the 20s. The shortstop was so renown he was invited to play in the previously segregated Fresno Twilight League. When Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig barnstormed Fresno in 1927, he was invited to play against these titans of baseball.

Kerry Yo Nakagawa established the Nisei Baseball Research Foundation to memorialize Zenimura and other baseball players of Japanese descent. “Nisei” means “second generation,” children of first group of Japanese immigrants to the US. This past year Zenimura was also inducted into the Baseball Reliquary, an organization dedicated to honoring American culture through baseball history, along with Josh Gibson and Fernando Valenzuela.

Where I merely sketch a thumbnail, Don Malcolm’s “In Praise of Otherness” and Mikey Hirano Culross’s “They Led by Being” paint a canvas of the barriers society builds and baseball breaks down.


Baseball game, Manzanar Relocation Center, California by Ansel Adams.
Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.

December 23, 2006

Wreck and Runelvys-ation

Runelvys Hernandez, who was released by the Royals, signed a minor league contract yesterday and will complete for a spot in the bullpen during Spring Training next year. And the award for most likely to repeat Rudy Seanez’s 2006 performance goes to....

Honestly, you can’t have much hope for a guy whose Baseball Reference sponsor says: This page is dedicated to Chris P., aka [sic] “BOOTLEG”. Runelvys Hernandez is one of Bootleg’s favorite metaphors to use when describing “fast start gas cans” [sic]

December 22, 2006

Checks and Inbalances

The Yankees have until January 31 to pay their $26M luxury tax bill. Their taxable payroll was $201.5M, which was $65M more than the permitted threshold. There were a dozen teams whose payroll was less than $65M. The gap between the Yankee and Red Sox payroll was greater than $65M.

The Red Sox are the only other team to have exceeded the payroll limit this past season and must pay $497,549.


Daisuke Daisuki

I saw a segment on my local morning news where Japanese media were asked how to say certain phrases in Japanese so that Red Sox fans could make Daisuke Matsuzaka feel at home in Fenway. One reporter was asked how we would say “we love you, Daisuke” and he responded 愛してる [ai shite iru, literally there exists love] but emphasized that this is not said man-to-man.

The clip was cut short to fit time constraints, but I’m sure the Japanese reporter went on to explain that this phrase is rarely spoken, even between long-term companions.

Instead 好き [su ki], translated to “like,” is used. The first character is a kanji that combines the symbol for mother/woman and child together, implying the closeness of that relationship; the second symbol is from the hiragana syllabary.

If you really like someone, you could add the character 大 [dai], which means “big.” If that symbol looks familiar, it is indeed the first character from Matsuzaka’s given name, which I explained here. So, “Daisuke daisuki” is a bit strong for anyone but Matsuzaka’s wife to say, but “Matsuzaka-senshu ga suki desu” is appropriate. “Senshu” is an honorific, like “san,” but it is specifically added to athletes’ family names.

The sensation this box artist has caused remains remarkable. The Boston Herald, noting a huge increase in hits from Japan, will be publishing articles on Matsuzaka in Japanese.

Even Mike Plugh of Matsuzaka Watch will continue to follow his favorite pitcher despite the latter’s affiliation. I can’t say I would continue to follow a particular player if he were signed with a rival team, but I can see how Matsuzaka could inspire someone to do so.

I’ve also found a fellow Red Sox fan whose Japanese skills are much better than mine: Nichibei Red Sox Blog is a snazzy new blog headquartered in my birth state. 日米 [nichibei] means Japan-United States; the first symbol means “sun” and the second is “rice.” In his first post Kazuneko provides his translation of the press conference.

It seems like an odd thing that the US is called 米国 [beikoku] in Japanese as that would literally translate as “land of rice.” However, “beikoku” is actually a shortened form of 亜米利加 [amerika]. This particular way of spelling America, where kanji are used phonetically, is called ateji. Words are no longer created in this manner. Instead, the katakana syllabary, which equates each phoneme with a symbol systematically, quite unlike the ad hoc ateji method.

December 18, 2006

Nice Cup of Jose to Fire You Up

There’s been a bit of shift in the domains of the Red Sox blogiverse.

You can now find Jose Melendez’s KEYS TO THE GAME back at Blogger. What was formerly Wallball Single has evaporated into the interethernet; the URL now redirects to the redesigned Fire Brand of the American League.

It is not known at this time if part of Melendez’s move comes with a masseuse, trainer, translator, and personal assistant. MRIs of Evan Brunell and Zach Hayes’s knees are being evaluated by a second physician after injury concerns; the slick new MVN design has entailed quite a few tumbles.

December 17, 2006

Drawn and Quartered

I jumped the gun back on December 6 thinking that the five-year, $70M deal with J.D. Drew was fait accompli. Instead, the outfielder will undergo a second physical tomorrow because of concerns over the condition of his shoulder.

Drew failing a physical is as shocking as Adam Savage hurting himself in the course of busting a myth.

Tony Massarotti of the Boston Herald broke the story yesterday and even the official MLB site is carrying the news, albeit in a sanitized manner.

The original deal may be adjusted in a number of ways, from shortening the term or reducing the total value to adding performance clauses. Considering Drew’s injury history, these are all things that should have informed the parameters of the first offer.

Sometimes in life you do get a do-over.

December 16, 2006

Angels Want to Wear My Red Sox

The Red Sox acquired two former Angels relief pitchers in the wake of the Daisuke Matsuzaka signing.

Los Angeles traded Brendan Donnelly for the all but stalled lefty Phil Seibel. I interviewed Seibel this past summer and you would have a hard time finding a nicer guy. But nice guys don’t necessarily get the breaks they need to succeed in one organization, but perhaps they will get another chance with a change of scenery.

Donnelly is a one-time All Star coming out of his worst year in terms of ERA (3.94) and WHIP (1.344). The front office is wagering that a roughed-up AL reliever will perform better than an NL reliever moving from a pitcher’s haven to a hitter’s park. Given Rudy Seanez’s notable lack of success in 2006, it’s not an unreasonable bet to make.

The bespectacled one can also share pine tar prestidigitation tips with Julian Tavarez.

Southpaw Juan Carlos “J.C.” Romero inked a one-year, $1.6M contract with the Red Sox yesterday to further bolster the bullpen.

Using Baseball Reference’s Play Index tool, I made of a list of the top five hitters in OPS versus Romero with a minimum of ten plate appearances.

  1. John Olerud, 1.715
  2. David McCarthy, 1.423
  3. Kenny Lofton, 1.367
  4. Omar Vizquel, 1.334
  5. Magglio Ordonez, 1.289

Two in that list are retired and one is in the NL. B-R PI also shows that Romero has only given up three homers to Yankees. I had linked to B-R PI’s actual output of my queries, but the links only work if you are a BR-PI beta tester.

December 13, 2006

Matsuzaka Signs With Red Sox

The Boston Herald repeatedly scooped their competitors on major happenings during the Daisuke Matsuzaka negotiations, but did they have to use the deplorable “Dice-K” moniker in their headline announcing the signing?

Matsuzaka signed a six-year, $52M contract after passing his physical at Massachusetts General Hospital.

The Seibu Lions made their position known quite forcefully:

According to rumors that appear to have originated in Japan, word may have reached him that the Lions, who are counting on the enormous cash infusion from the Sox, were considering sending him to the minor leagues if he returned. That would have set back his free agency by another year.

Earlier today, another M-named player was secured by Boston. Doug Mirabelli signed a one-year, $750K deal to remain Tim Wakefield’s personal catcher. Are there no other minor league management positions in which 2004 team members may fade away gracefully? Gabe Kapler recently retired and became field manager for the Greenville Drive.

Safe Arrivals

Twenty years from now, thousands, maybe even tens of thousands, will say they were at Hanscom Civilian Air Terminal to welcome Daisuke Matsuzaka to Massachusetts. Only the hundred or so who were there with me can say this truthfully.

I work in Waltham, so Hanscom is not far. I left early knowing that I would get lost. My lack of navigational skills combined with the Bay State’s notorious lack of road signs conspired against the clock like Scott Boras’s negotiations tactics. The Google Maps route I had printed out was useless as I made a last-minute decision to use surface roads to get to 2A rather than 128 North because of traffic.

That maneuver saved me just enough time to get lost. I turned right instead of left at a crow-foot intersection onto a road that was helpfully labeled “2A.”

Alas, it was 2A East, not 2A West.

Fortunately, I had been lost in this area before. I reversed course and made my way to the air field. As I drove on 2A (in the correct direction this time), my friend Joe called. You might remember him from our post-game stalking sessions. I had convinced him to come, but it didn’t take much. Unlike me, he printed out the descriptive directions from Hanscom’s web site and read them out loud to me as I carefully cut through the dark Bedford night.

Joe took 128, so I beat him to the parking lot by a few minutes. While I waited, I attempted to get my bearings and decided the building marked “Hanscom Civilian Air Terminal” was the place to go. Luckily, he arrived and pointed out a conspicuous grouping of media vans replete with satellite dishes in the opposite direction. Inviting him was essential.

Since Joe is over six feet tall, I had to run to keep pace with his brisk walk. We made our way to the already-gathered crowd and saw John W. Henry’s Red Sox jet parked with stairs unfurled. Matsuzaka, Boras, Theo Epstein, and Larry Lucchino had already disembarked the plane.

We stood there grinning stupidly, me tiptoeing to try to see the dramatis personae get into their vehicles and Joe being able to see as much as the air traffic controllers in their tower thanks to his height. “Scott Boras sucks!” he pretended to yell.

A woman who probably worked for the Red Sox press relations office came by. “He’s in the first car after the police car. Cheer that one.” Fans with WEEI signs emblazoned with “youkoso,” which means “welcome,” began to stir. A few people toted hand-made signs.

“Cheer loud!” urged the PR martinet. But she couldn’t whip up a frenzy.

Instead, a quiet appreciation was extended. People applauded and a few exclaimed “Welcome to Boston!” I yelled “Welcome to Massachusetts!” and waved excitedly as he passed by. I chose that specific phrase because I didn’t want him to think this tiny airstrip was Boston proper. Right when he was in front of me, he waved...

To me? I like to think so.

His path to the Red Sox, like my drive to Hanscom, wasn’t arrow-straight. But we made it, and that is what matters.

Going to Hanscom

I work nearby, so why not? Unfortunately, I don’t have a camera with me to commemorate Daisuke Matsuzaka’s first visit to Massachusetts. But I’ll have the memories. More later.

Air Traffic Advisory

According to Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald, Daisuke Matsuzaka and Scott Boras are on John W. Henry’s private jet headed for Boston. Last night the gap between the Red Sox and Matsuzaka was only $3M a year (with the former at $8M and the latter countering with $11M) over a six-year deal.

It’s safe to assume Majestic is churning out number 18 jerseys as I type this.

December 9, 2006

Dodgy Accusations

“I’m rubber and you’re glue: whatever you say bounces off me and sticks to you,” said the Red Sox front office in response to the Dodgers’ allegations of tampering in the J.D. Drew signing.

Boston countered with charges that Grady Little and Dave Jauss, both former Red Sox employees, attempted to contact Manny Ramirez. The Red Sox allege that either Little or Jauss and perhaps both contacted a current Red Sox staff member to acquire Ramirez’s home phone number. I’m sure it was because they just wanted to wish the left fielder happy holidays and see how Juliana and the son were doing.

I don’t have a lot of confidence in the Dodgers’ executive decision making. They canned Paul DePodesta after just one season to go with the more conventional Ned Colletti. Whatever DePodesta may have lacked in media savvy he made up for in his statistical abilities (I found this fine and thoughtful analysis of his very brief tenure by Daniel Julien), but newbie owner Frank McCourt had not the patience to persevere with DePodesta.

There’s also the debt service McCourt assumed in acquiring the Dodgers. The real estate developer has to sell 24 acres of land to pay off the $145M loan he shouldered for his new toy.

It’s a nice trinket. But you know what happens when a little kid gets shiny tschokes: the big kids bully you around. The kid will either learn the street rules or call Uncle Bud for help.

December 6, 2006

Old and Unmoved

When there were rumors that the Red Sox front office may have engaged the Diamondbacks for a trade of Manny Ramirez, I was encouraged. I thought Boston would get a smattering of the young positional talent Arizona hoards.

Then there were stirrings of a deal with the Giants, and my spirit waned considerably. Steve Phillips’s outlandish conjectures that a Barry Bonds signing to replace Manny Ramirez was imminent played on ESPN in a Sisyphean loop. I very much regretted that I was not a religious person and could not resort to supplication against the repetition of such obvious drivel.

Instead, two players most recently of Dodger vintage were added to the team: shortstop Julio Cesar Lugo and right fielder David Jonathan (a.k.a. J.D.) Drew. The 31-year old infielder was signed to a four-year, $36M deal pending his physical. The outfielder, also age 31, has agreed to a five-year, $70M contract after opting out of his deal with the Dodgers. One season after the Dodgers had picked up several former Boston players, the tide has turned red.

By signing these free agents, the Red Sox did not lose prospects. A further depletion of their young talent was probably a concern, particularly after having seen so many of their former products perform brilliantly this past season. To name a few, Hanley Ramirez was elected NL Rookie of the Year, Anibal Sanchez threw a no-hitter, and Freddie Sanchez earned the NL batting title.

Lugo and Drew are obviously not the young though untested talent that a trade of Ramirez could net, but the length of their contracts stop them just short of their late 30s and perhaps tides the Red Sox over until the most recent round of irrational exuberance has expired.

December 5, 2006

Less is More

Lester May Attend Spring Training
According to ESPN, Jon Lester could make spring training in 2007. His lymphoma is in remission and his most recent CT scan showed him disease-free.

Arbitration Homesick Blues
On December 3 announced their arbitration preferences. Arbitration was offered to Keith Foulke, but not to:

  • Gabe Kapler
  • Mark Loretta
  • Doug Mirabelli
  • Trot Nixon

Lucky Lunch
Dana-Farber is auctioning a meal with Larry Lucchino. I could be satirical, but the item description is amusing on its own:

Lowest Acceptable Bid: $2,100.00
Starting Bid: $1,000.00
Bid Increment: $100.00
Quantity: 1
Condition: Excellent
Auction Ends: 12/8/2006 5:00:00 PM

Is the guarantee of excellent condition referring to before or after déjeuner?

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