Linden, Johjima, Japanese Baseball

Central Kitsap grad Todd Linden and Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles are about six hours away from playing Game 3 of the Pacific League Climax Series against the Nippon Ham Fighters. (The game starts 2:15 a.m. PST, Thursday). The Ham Fighters lead the best-of-seven series 2-0. Because of its first-place finish in the regular season, the Ham Fighters — great name, eh — started the series with a 1-0 advantage.

The switch-hitting Linden, who started the season with the Yankees Triple-A team, hit .292 for the Golden Eagles, but evidently a sarcastic comment to his 74-year-old manager, a Japanese legend named Namura, in the final game of the regular season got him in hot water. Linden was deactivated for the first round of the playoffs, but he’s apologized and he’s back in the lineup.

Stage 2 of the Pacific League Climax Series gets underway this Wednesday at the Sapporo Dome, home of the Nippon Ham Fighters.  Just like the crazy CFL compared to the NFL, the playoff format is slightly different in Japan.  Since the Fighters are the higher seed, they will not only get home field advantage for all games, but will even begin the series with a 1 win advantage.  This means that the Fighters will only have to win three games to advance to the Nippon Series, while the Eagles will have to win four.  It won’t be easy for either team though.  There are a couple of interesting subplots that have been brewing since the end of the regular season for both teams, let’s take a look at those first before diving into the head-to-head numbers.

Thanks to Linden’s dad, Dave, here’s the best site to follow Linden and the Eagles. It’s a fan blog, titled Where Eagles Dare.

There’s some interesting insights to Japanese baseball. Consider this paragraph by the blogger:

I had planned on circulating around the stadium this afternoon to conduct a small poll, the question being, “Do you want Todd Linden to return to the Eagles next season?” My better half contacted the Rakuten Eagles to see if I would be allowed to do this, and the answer was no. Apparently I need to get permission from the Miyagi Prefectural government to conduct a public opinion poll. To better put it into perspective, if I wanted to conduct a poll in, say, Palm Springs, California, about whether or not water is wet, I would have to contact the California State government in Sacramento to get permission. Living in Japan continues to amaze me.

You’ll find some Kenji Johjima news and notes at this site. This is what Sadaharu Oh had to say about the catcher who just told Seattle he was leaving two years of guaranteed money to go back home to Japan:

On Johjima leaving the Mariners…

He must have had a really good reason to return to the Japan in the middle of a 3-year deal, but regardless, his return is good for baseball in Japan.  He’s a player with character and poise.

He’s a student of yours…

I know his story from his start with the team.  I even visited his school for his team entrance application.  So in that sense, I do have some memories of him.

The club still hasn’t said anything about what they might do…

The whole club needs to think about what to do.  The COO Takeuchi and the manager Akiyama have had conversations on it, but we’re not in a place where we can make a decision right away.

Your personal opinion…

I think we need his presence.  He has baseball skills and has the ability to pull a team together.  There’s something special about him.  He was popular here.  I think it would be great if he can return to Fukuoka wearing a Hawks’ uniform.

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