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The Uehara Conundrum

Baseball news from Japan and Asia

Welcome to the Bayside West: Yokohama Blog

Featuring Michael Westbay (a.k.a. westbaystars)

Michael Westbay has been blogging about Pro Yakyu since before the word "blog" entered the vernacular. Here he writes about Pro Yakyu in general, and the Yokohama BayStars in particular.

The Uehara Conundrum

2 replies. Most recent reply: Aug 7, 2008 8:45 PM by westbaystars

I know that having Koji Uehara named to the Japanese Olympic team had left a lot of people scratching their heads. After all, the impression that everyone has is that Uehara has been struggling all season.

After being given the closer role last season, much against his own will, Uehara returned to the starting rotation this season, starting 5 games in April. During that April stretch, Uehara had no wins to 4 losses and a 6.75 ERA. After throwing 4.1 innings against Hanshin on April 26th, giving up 5 earned runs on 10 hits, Uehara was sent to the farm team to work out his problems.

Two months later, missing inter-league play all together, Uehara reappeared with the ichi-gun Giants in the role of set-upper for Kroon. Despite Uehara only giving up 6 earned runs in 14 games (17 innings, 3.18 ERA), the general impression from most people has been that he really hasn't been pitching as well as he has in the past. So why was he chosen for the Japanese Olympic team?

Well, there was this new rule that I'd heard about nagging at me - that teams sending 3 or more representative to Beijing may employ 5 foreign players at ichi-gun during the period that the Olympic participants are away. This is to make up for the loss of talent representing Japan (and other countries). Why would this rule bother me so much? Well, when one then applies the algorithm that no new rule is allowed without the approval of the Giants, and the Giants wouldn't approve of a new rule that they couldn't take advantage of, the Giants must have assumed that they would be sending at least three representative to Beijing.

This evening, catching up on a few days of transactions, I came across the following notice:
De-registered: Giants: Uehara Koji Pitcher, Abe Shinnosuke Catcher, Lee Seung-Yeop Infielder (each for participating in the Olympics)
Wow, that's just three Giants. Coincidence? Losing Abe will hurt, but Uehara and Lee? Uehara hasn't looked like his old self for a long time. Lee has been a terror in international competition, but he hasn't contributed much to the Giants this season.

Did the Giants just send one main player and get the benefit of this new rule? Was taking Uehara a favor for getting this rule rubber stamped by the Giants?
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Re: The Uehara Conundrum

[ Author: Christopher | Posted: Aug 7, 2008 7:52 PM | Posts: 3481 | From: Tokyo | HAN Fan | Registered: Sep, 2004 ]
The Tigers have immediately started taking advantage of this rule.

Have you thought that the rule could also be a prelude to increasing the number of foreigners in NPB? It does set a precedent.

Re: The Uehara Conundrum

[ Author: westbaystars | Posted: Aug 7, 2008 8:45 PM | Posts: 35252 | From: Yokohama, Japan | YBS Fan | Registered: Aug, 2001 ]
Yes, I have thought that this was a move by the owners to expand the foreign player limit. They're going to get an ear full from the Players' Association, though.

They wanted to push the Asian player exclusion rule through for several years, and I even incorrectly reported that it was done. But after going to talk with the KBO (Korea) and CPBL (Taiwan) with a "we won't take 'no' for an answer" attitude, the objections about poaching their players were too great for NPB to ignore. So they returned home and quietly let the Asian exclusion rule die.

But, no, I don't think that they've given up on expanding the foreign player rosters yet.

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