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ESPN Article on Darvish

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ESPN Article on Darvish
A big splash - made the featured story today on ESPN.com, a piece about Yu Darvish. I poked around on these forums but didn't see any threads. The piece is by Jim Caple and is up right now. Any thoughts?
Comments
Re: ESPN Article on Darvish
[ Author: westbaystars | Posted: May 14, 2008 11:01 AM | YBS Fan ]

The reserection of the Darvish will be posted rumor. Wonderful.

Let's see how we can dismantle this one (yet again).

The author, Jim Caple, starts off talking about how teams are nothing more than corporate billboards taken to a new level compared to North America (although he fails to mention that the naming rights to stadiums was imported to Japan from MLB - something I wish the MLB would take back). Anyway, here's the heart of his argument as to why Darvish will be posted:
So whether the wildly popular Darvish remains Japan's best pitcher until he is eligible for free agency in five years or is posted earlier (and perhaps much earlier) for a major league team to sign depends on what makes the most financial sense for the Nippon Ham Group, and not necessarily what makes the most competitive sense for the Fighters.
What Caple clearly does not understand is that Pro Yakyu teams are not run based on any kind of logic like doing what makes the most financial sense for either the ball club or the parent company. Caple and the many before him who have used the argument assume that money is the only currency of value. They project what they would do in this circumstance, and greed is the only motivator that they can think of.

Do I have to read beyond this point? OK.

It depends on whether he wants to or not, blah, blah. OK, he got that part right.

But then Caple goes off with this:
The important questions, then, are not just whether Darvish will pitch in the majors or when he might pitch in the majors. The equally important issue is whether this wave of emigrants is good for pro baseball in Japan.
Is Caple just throwing the question of whether Darvish will or won't go to the Majors aside as an assumption that he will? And that he will go soon?

Hold on! You haven't convinced me of the premise of your argument yet! And now you're throwing the question out as it being a given? Why are you making me read this stuff?

Reading on, we get an idea about how Darvish is. Personal and public.

Is Caple saying that Darvish was passed over by the 11 other teams because he's half-Japanese instead of pure Japanese? That's just plain wrong. The 2005 Draft (in Fall of 2004) still had amateur and high school draftees together. Most teams had pre-arrangements for 1 or 2 college or Industrial League players to sign with their first two picks. Signing a high schooler with those picks was a risk, as college or Industrial players can often be used right away while high schoolers usually needed some time to develop. (Some excel, like Matsuzaka, Darvish, or Karakawa this year.) What I'm saying is that Caple does not take all variables into account in this accusation of discrimination. Some teams may have had fools decide against Darvish due to his heritage, but not all.

Anyway,
[Paraphrasing] Blah, blah, blah. They won't let Darvish be asked or say if he's interested in going to MLB. Blah, blah, blah. The only reason for that is to jack up the price of posting him.
And since reporters can't talk directly with Yu about going to MLB, they talk to Hillman-kantoku, Valentine-kantoku, and Yu's father, Farsad.

The only new bit of information I hadn't seen up to now was Farsad's desire to popularize baseball in Iran. I had been contacted from an Iranian news agency around the time of the Nippon Series last year, they were asking how to contact the team for an interview with Darvish. I passed on the Fighters' phone number and address, but never heard if they got the interview or not. But there does seem to be interest in Iran as well as North America in the young hurler.

Brief history of players going over to MLB - good.

Darvish will get the red carpet treatment - assumptive.

Quoting TV ratings as proof that NPB is losing popularity! Fraud! You don't know what you're talking about! I'm not about to go over this one again.

NPB is not marketed as well as it could be. OK, back on track.

NPB teams don't work together. That's changing in the Pacific League, but still quite accurate.

Jim Small, MLB International's VP for Asia gets it right:
"What we need to do as an industry -- and I'm talking about the NPB and Major League Baseball -- is make sure that those kids growing up are baseball fans. We don't want to lose them to video games. We don't want to lose them to television, to soccer, to other sports."
He takes the other entertainment options into account - which most reporters seem to overlook. The problem is with society changing and baseball not changing with it. But this is another aspect I've written a lot about and won't go on about further here. It is good to see that somebody else gets it, though.

Finally, Caple turns and has a look at the game's future players by talking with Matsuzaka's Little League coach. It's an interesting glimpse at how baseball is taught in Japan.

I still don't get all of these comparisons to some clown named Manny. Kids are taught to respect their elders in most societies, so it's not unusual for kids to be respectful toward their coach. That this Manny character is some sort of MLB showboat who shows no respect for anyone has nothing to do with it. Did he have this attitude when he was in Little League? When he was going through the minors? He's clearly got a reason to be cocky in the Majors (whether people like the way he shows it or not). But there is no comparing a 15 year old to this (mythical?) Manny Showboat.

Well, those are my thoughts on the article.
Re: ESPN Article on Darvish
[ Author: number9 | Posted: May 14, 2008 12:10 PM ]

Overall, I thought it was well written compared to most other articles about NPB and Japanese baseball by an American writer who doesn't live in Japan.
Re: ESPN Article on Darvish
[ Author: hillsy | Posted: May 19, 2008 5:09 AM | CD Fan ]

I understand your anger, Westbay-san, but this really was one of the better researched articles to come from the American media. I didn't really get the impression Caple was pushing aside the question of whether Darvish will come over, just that there are many factors to consider. I don't think the article automatically works off the assumption he'll come over, at least not the way I read it.

I also can see where Caple gets the discrimination impression from. If you watch the video on the page, Valentine-kantoku explicitly states that their former scouting director passed over Darvish because he didn't think he'd be as popular with the fans because of his ancestry. Granted, that shouldn't be used to make blanket assumptions.

As for red carpet treatment, recent big name imports have gotten that, though that may say more about the fan base of the Red Sox and Cubs. There's no reason to think one of the best pitchers in Japan wouldn't get the same treatment should he decide to come over.

You're right about the usage of TV ratings as any sort of barometer, and the assertion that the parent companies only base decisions off of monetary reasons, but overall, the article got a lot right.

You don't think your jadedness (I don't think that's a word) gets the best of you sometimes, do you Westbay-san?
Re: ESPN Article on Darvish
[ Author: westbaystars | Posted: May 19, 2008 9:52 AM | YBS Fan ]

Thanks, Hillsy-san. You are right. There was a great deal of good in that article, and my nit picking some parts of it probably wasn't necessary. My "jaded" view is to assume that any article on Darvish and MLB is yet another "Great Exodus" article, and I often read it in that context.

I'll try to be more careful in the future to keep an open mind. I need a reality check every now and then. Thanks.
Re: ESPN Article on Darvish
[ Author: Matches | Posted: May 21, 2008 4:54 AM ]

Manny Ramirez has grown into a showboat. I am a Cleveland Indians fan and you rarely, if ever, saw him do any of the "antics" that he has adopted since his defection to the Boston Red Sox. He was quiet, didn't speak much to the press, and went about his business. He went to Boston at age 28 and is now a 36-year old teenager.

Anyway, thanks for your responses.
Re: ESPN Article on Darvish
[ Author: Matches | Posted: May 22, 2008 5:40 AM ]

I should add that, while it is nice for MLB to have an influx of the top Japanese talent, in many ways it simply serves to highlight the competitive imbalance in the financials. No one in Big Media would even dream of it, but for every big time NPB star that gets posted, at most 5 teams have a legitimate shot at acquiring what could be an all-star level player. It would be hard for the average American fan to get excited about Darvish (were he to be posted) because at $50 million+, only the New York teams, Boston, and Los Angeles have the financial means to win the bidding.
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