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Team Japan Repeats

We read a blogger once marvelling, "Ichiro's going to get 4,000 hits."  A snarky reply followed instantly in the comments:  "I wasn't aware AAA stats counted" (referring to the Japanese major leagues). I got your minor leagues right here, pal.  Give the AAA All-Stars a shot at Oswalt (on a GOOD day!) and see if they knock him out in the fourth.   Or if they win two consecutive MLB All-Star tournaments in a breeze. The Pacific and Central leagues are not minor leagues.  They are major leagues -- not as good as the AL, but not very far off the NL.  For that reason, no NPB graduate should be eligible for Rookie of the Year awards in America.  You might as well give Johann Santana a rookie of the year when he moves over to the NL.  :- ) ............... We remember in 1999, Greg Maddux going 19-9 for a Braves team that won 103 games -- and then watching his Braves very easily handled by the New York Yankees in a sweep.  The scores were 4-1, 7-2, 6-5, and 4-1.  In other words, the Yankees scored plenty in every game, and locked down the Braves in every game, other than the third game. Maddux lamented that it was too tough to pitch to the Yankees, because they didn't try to do much with the ball.  The 1999 Yankees had only three guys with 20 homers, and none with 30 -- but they covered the pitch, AB after AB.  It was *precision* hitting.  Not slap hitting:  precision hitting. The WBC was another victory for PRECISION hitting.  (Not a proof that precision hitting is "correct," Egbert; simply one victory for it.)  The Japanese view American products as powerful but unreliable.  That, in a nutshell, is the difference between Suzuki, Ogasawara and Aoki compared to (say) Adrian Beltre, Ryan Howard and Miguel Cabrera.  Check out Ichiro's sheer precision in the photo above. .............. Precision baseball isn't merely a question of taking the ball to right field.  It's a question of intensity, of "having an idea out there," of out-thinking the pitcher, of putting a pro at-bat on a pitcher -- 27 times in a row.  The 1996-2001 Yankees did that.  The 2004-08 Red Sox have done it, to a large extent.  And sorry, American fans, the Japanese do that.  They bear down out there.  Michihiro Ogasawara is bearing down WHEN HE IS IN THE ON-DECK CIRCLE. I'm an American, and I like things that come easily to me.  I'm interested in effort-to-benefit ratio, and I don't think that's a terrible thing.  I want the most benefit for the least effort.  I have an electrician friend who gets $39 an hour for very pleasant work, so I'm pointing my son into that field. American baseball players work hard, I know, I know.  But they're still raised in America.  They want a centered fastball and a 425-foot home run.  Michihiro Ogasawara simply isn't thinking in terms of mistake pitches.  He's born and bred to think in terms of earning what he gets, even if it be in difficult circumstances (a breaking pitch on the black). ................... Japan didn't prove that the baseball world revolves around it.  But they did underline the value of precision baseball.  They reminded America that money earned is twice as sweet as money given to us, that your opponent will not go down with a light shove to the shoulder, that you have to be ready to give of your best. Every time. Japan's brainy, gritty approach fits the we-expect-excellence-here culture of the Boston Red Sox.  A lot of other MLB clubs still have this lesson to learn. My $0.02, Dr D