Archive for November, 2011

I don’t normally respond angrily to ill-informed opinions on talk radio, but the tone of the criticism of Tsuyoshi Nishioka from the local media and the fan blogs is getting close to the sort of passive aggressive racism that Minnesotans are unfortunately known for. “Can’t make it playing against Americans” can be better explained by the actual events shaping his career than writing him off completely as being unfit for MLB.

On his offensive dropoff: He broke his leg at the beginning of the season. Some players do come back from that injury. Even shortstops. On the other hand, the worst-case modern scenario for broken shortstop is probably Dale Sveum. Nobody could say that Sveum wasn’t ready for MLB competition. You could say that his injury wrecked him for it.

On his defensive dropoff: Nishioka was posted two seasons too late. Let me explain. Nishioka played 8 seasons for the Chiba Lotte Marines. The Marines’ home park, like most stadiums both indoor and outdoor in NPB, features artificial turf. I recall many Twins fans in the good old days of the Metrodome explaining that the Dome was special, because only Twins players had the experience of both playing inside and playing on turf. Chiba Marines Stadium isn’t indoors, but it’s definitely carpeted in Japan’s finest fake grass. In fact, of the six-team Pacific League in which the Marines play, four of the teams play in domes. All the teams in the PL play on turf. (Only the Hiroshima Carp and Hanshin Tigers of the Central League play on grass.) 2011 was obviously Nishioka’s first wide experience with grass fields since high school. There’s interleague competition in Japan, too, but it’s not enough to give a player a good experience with the real green stuff. He’s had to learn an entirely new way of fielding.

(Hint to all US teams looking for Japanese defensive players: Unless the player is coming from the Carp or Tigers, or if it’s Toronto or Tampa Bay looking for players, it probably shouldn’t be done.)


Read Full Post »