Baseball, Apple Pie & Lobster
While still behind the modern US American game in terms of global appeal, Japanese baseball does have a special place in the universe of our national pastime. Indeed it has evolved much beyond the infant and fundamentally challenged Chinese game and the linguistically worldly fella in me likes to think that even Japanese basebrawls tend to be a bit more aggressive than their Korean counterparts’ elusive yet intriguing pitcher’s mound chicken dance routine. Still, there is more to it than that.
During my first year in China, I had a Japanese roommate named Hayashi Nobuhide. Nobby — as we white devils called him because, well, it was easier to pronounce — was a rabid baseball fan. In fact, our friendship, which was predestined to be rocky due to 60 years of bad history, was solidified by our matched passion for the game.
Some of my fondest memories revolve around us getting up at 5am to watch the 1999 World Series during which he vehemently professed his equally tired hatred of the New York Yankees — for they were, to Nobby and his Japanese brethren, holistically representative of “all that’s bad with America” (his words, not mine, though most probably true, especially when considering the likes of Roger Clemens, Chuck Knoblauch and Tony Tarasco).
And that year, Nobby cheered on the Atlanta Braves just like any other rabid Japanese nationalist: while wearing a Seattle Mariners cap.
Ichiro! Ichiro! Ichiro!
“But what about Hideki Irabu?” I asked.
“**** that traitor! Go Ichiro!” he replied.
“But Ichiro’s not playing.”
“He should be! ICHIRO!!!”
To hear Nobby tell it, Ichiro Suzuki was more popular, more influential, more inspiring than Jesus Christ himself (not to mention having a better stylist). Everything about Ichiro, from his odd pregame warmups to his ritualized on-deck routine to his classic power pose at the plate was unequivocally all-things Japanese: systematic, graceful and proud.
Consider the fact that this undying allegiance came during the height of the steroid era, and I gotta admit, Nobby had a damn good point:
Sensationalized as the above may be, the truth remains: Ichiro is powerful.
And now, that power has multiplied. The Japanese gifts continue to grace diamonds all across US America. From Ichiro Suzuki to Takashi Saito to
Kaz Matsui Kosuke Fukudome Hiroki Kuroda, the game has plenty of room for Japanese imports.
If we’re lucky, maybe someday we can even borrow the Hiroshima Toyo mascot; ‘cuz nothin’ says powerhouse baseball like a wet, smelly Carp.
Don’t hate me ‘cuz I’m right.
Instant replay may be here for good but that doesn’t mean I have to like it; nor does it mean I have to support it. Because I don’t.
And I won’t.
Before you get all sassy (Mr. Krause), let me just say that my basis for detesting this technological intrusion is not rooted in science. It does not rely on tangible evidence. It is based on one simple cosmological principle:
The baseball gods are pissed off.
For it is my strong belief that in baseball everything happens for a reason and eventually the inequalities of umpiring decisions (though visible and often game-altering) will be settled at a later time, when appropriate, when it’s most necessary. This is how it has been for over a hundred years — or in other words: a long friggin’ time.
Had the argument against instant replay in baseball not been so stringent in the past perhaps I wouldn’t be so upset about it now; but to maintain the party line for so long only to crumble under the pressure of a few whiny millionaires is quite embarrassing. Baseball is not football. It is not basketball. It is not hockey.
It does not need instant replay — at all. Ever.
Of course, now people like my colleague Mr. Allen Krause have embraced this technology because it will supposedly ensure that each homerun call is made correctly. And though they say it will be reserved only for homerun calls, we all know that you can’t just have one cookie. Before long everything from close plays at first to suspected trappings in the outfield to balls and strikes will soon be up for review by some Geek Squad reject in the New York main office, thus eliminating the human umpire element entirely, not to mention extending what many already consider a game that goes on too long.
This is not good, folks. It’s not good at all. And Mr. Krause, you’re completely wrong in your steadfast embrace of this electronic eye-in-the-sky Pandora’s Box.
You will be sorry. You see, the baseball gods — now raging in their defiance towards this atrocious innovation — have myriad unfinished business in equalizing the poor calls of the past. But now, since MLB has gone against its purist principles, all those yet to be righted face the harsh and difficult reality that they may never see justice on the field again. Fate has been tested and one ought to know better than to mess with fate, or the supernatural.
Just ask Pete Rose.
Ever wonder how a barely-above mediocre Cardinal squad won the 2006 World Series? Ask Don Denkinger. He knows. He took it away from them 21 years earlier.
Ever wonder how a pompous autocrat like me got to write a hit blog? Ask Greg Altmix, my high school baseball coach who sat me on the bench because I couldn’t hit the ball to the opposite field. He knows. I was a pull hitter. You can’t change a pull hitter.
Dear readers, for every wrong there is a right and the baseball gods know exactly what the hell they’re doing.
Call me a purist, call me old-school, call me Suzie… I don’t give a s***. Go ahead. Hate me if you must.
…but don’t hate me ‘cuz I’m right.