Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Changing The Game? - Give me a Break!

Source: SF Chronicle

Baseball fans are disillusioned, and here's why: Pumped up with money and medication, the sport has gotten ever bigger and badder -- and more boring. The one thing that has always distinguished baseball is the feeling of history in the making: Each season, records fall, milestones are passed, boundaries are broken. That's all been eclipsed by the asterisk of cash and steroids; it's hard to feel excited at new benchmarks when the bench is dipped in 24-karat gold and the marks are injection scars.

Two recent events, however, are enough to refresh one's faith-because they're reminders that the game exists beyond the sport; that its history reaches past the margins of the MLB, or even, for that matter, America…and that there's still plenty of room ahead for real and remarkable change.

On November 16, the Kobe 9 Cruise of Japan's new Kansai Independent League drafted an unlikely prospect: 5'0", 114-pound Eri Yoshida would have been a jaw-dropping choice even if she weren't a 16-year-old schoolgirl, and the nation's first-ever female to play in a men's professional league.

Two days later, on this side of the Pacific, the Seattle Mariners announced they'd chosen a new helmsman: Don Wakamatsu, the first Asian American ever hired as a major-league manager. His pick was as solid as Yoshida's was surprising; a journeyman catcher and veteran coach, Wakamatsu is considered a brilliant student of the game. The real question, perhaps, is why it took so long for him to get his chance: A contender to manage the A's and the Texas Rangers, he lost out narrowly both times.

What a crock. You say you are a lifelong fan who has been turned off by recent developments in baseball from the 1994 strike, to the overpaid players to the steroids. I know you are not alone as many many fans feel the same way. But the two issues that will bring you back to the game are a fourth-generation Japanese-American who is now the manager of one of the worst teams in the league, and a 16-year old publicity stunt in some minor-league team in Japan? This is what is bringing you back? Does a story have to involve Asians in order for you to notice? I'm so tired of this attitude. This is almost as bad as, I'm not interested in baseball anymore because Kim Ng isn't a GM.

So you bash the selection of a GM because he's not an Asian woman and then turn around a week later and celebrate the fact that this same GM hired a Japanese-American manager? Such hypocrisy.

As for being a disillusioned baseball fan, Hideo Nomo didn't bring you back? Not Ichiro, Not Daisuke, Not Fukudome, Not Iwamura? Not The Tampa Bay Rays? But a 16-year old publicity stunt gives you renewed faith in the game of baseball? Ridiculous.

Your comparision of Yoshida and Kenichi Zenimura is comical. Kenichi was lightning fast and played in an era where speed and guile dominated the game instead of size and power. And he was a man! A 60mph knuckleball thrown by a girl would get absolutely crushed by even college players. This is a publicity stunt to get attention for a new league. No different then when the NHL's Tampa Bay Lightning recruited Manon Rheaume in a pre-season game. She took a few pucks to the head and quickly went away. The difference between men and women in sports is astronomical.

Baseball is a wonderful game in all of its forms. It's true that MLB might not be to your liking because of the ongoing problems (which by the way I don't consider as problems) but there are many other forms. There's minor league baseball all over California. There's college baseball with Fresno State's incredible run to the title last year. Or even the Little League World Series where kids from Hawaii won for the first time ever. All these are wonderful stories that should have brought you back into the game it you weren't back already.

Baseball, as old fashioned as it is, cannot be accused of discrimination. Yes the Negro League was unfortunate but those were the times. Since then, baseball has been a pioneer in welcoming blacks, latinos and asians without any fanfare. Blacks in the 50s, Latinos in the 60s and Asians in the 90s.

If you really really needed a hard-on and wanted to talk about an Asian baseball story, the most important development in the past few weeks is the Pirates signing two Indian pitchers. This is a much more important development because MLB would be marketing in a new area of the world (Selling Willie Stargell caps in Mumbai) and these guys were scouted and have fantastic arms. A 16-year old Japanese girl throwing a knuckleball? Come on....

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