The Giants’ Japanese Initiative

The Giants are looking to do more in Japan:

If you can’t beat ‘em, recruit ‘em.

On a day the Giants lost to Japan 6-4, they announced a hiring that they think will help make them competitors for top Japanese talent.

Shun Kakazu, a Japanese native and Harvard grad who worked the past three years for Bobby Valentine’s Chiba Lotte Marines, was named the Giants’ coordinator of Japan operations and will scout and gather information on professional and amateur players.

Question: do they have 36 year-old corner players coming off of fluke seasons and demanding three-year deals in Japan? If so, Sabean’s interest here is obvious.

OK, that was a cheap shot. Good on the Giants for doing everything they can do to get better. They are only the fifth team to have a full-time Japanese operation, and the earlier you get in to any market, the better you’ll do. As far as wooing the Japanese, however, this may be the best thing they could possibly do:

Early Wednesday, Willie Mays was in the Giants’ clubhouse signing three dozen balls for Japan’s players and coaches. It was his idea, and one of the Japanese clubbies who brought back the balls called the gesture “unbelievable.”

One would think that based on the five-hour shorter flight time from Tokyo alone San Francisco would have a leg up on other teams trying to land Japanese players. Add in some Willie Mays schwag and you’ve got yourself a seriously cool hearts and minds campaign.

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  1. Mark R said...

    It seems strange to me that only five teams are in Japan full-time. It’s not like Nippon is some secret wellspring of baseball talent. I mean “Mr. Baseball” was released how many years ago?

    I guess it’s only been recently (thanks, Ichiro and Godzilla) that MLB has become hip to the fact that Japanese position players are worth something in this country. And that waiting 10 years while players enjoy their primes in Puro Yakyū isn’t exactly ideal.

  2. APBA Guy said...

    Hopefully this will improve the quality of Japanese and sushi restaurants in the Bay Area where we woefully lag LA. It’s too much to expect SF to out-scout teams that have been in that market for years, like LA and Seattle.

  3. tim said...

    i am too old, i guess. the writer should have slipped in the name of lefty o’doull if he was going to spend any time talking about the giants and japan baseball.  good grief, o’doull, an old giant,  gave birth to baseball in japan.  it could be more than time zones that may blossom here.

  4. Sal Paradise said...

    The reason that so few teams are in Japan are because of the distribution of talent and the contracts given in NPB.

    Japanese teams have 10 years of control over players (give or take) before they become free agents. And if you want a player before then, you have to do the whole posting thing, which really cuts in to whatever benefits you can get. Plus the player has to actually want to go to the majors and basically get screwed as half of what the team would pay for him will go to the team that currently holds his contract.

    The other major leagues are the Shikoku Island League and the Company Leagues. The Island League has spawned some decent talent, I suppose, but the level of play is nowhere near that of the NPB or the higher minor leagues. Same with the company leagues, which are further complicated by the fact that the players are employees of the companies they are playing for, which gives them security a minor league contract likely won’t.

    The biggest scouting opportunity in Japan is the High School baseball tournament (held twice a year, though the major one is in the summer) which is where players like Matsuzaka became famous resulting in them getting drafted early and immediately having a spot on a professional roster. Instead of getting a full-time professional job, they’d be relegated to the low minors in the US, and that’s probably far less appealing to most of them (especially since there are specials on Japanese TV about Japanese players in the minor leagues in the US, and how not-so-glamorous the lifestyle is).

    Then we would have to get into language and cultural barriers, etc. which just make it less cost effective than scouting in other regions.

    I’m not saying it isn’t worth it, or that there isn’t talent here, but it’s certainly not surprising that there are only 5 teams with scouts here. Which 5, exactly?

  5. BillyBeaneismyHero said...

    Is there anyone cooler than Willie Mays?  Seriously.  Anyone who says George Clooney loses a testicle.

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