Saturday, December 10, 2016

2016 Calbee Samurai Japan Set

Last month Calbee issued a set for the Samurai Japan, the Japan National Baseball team.  I suppose to be completely accurate I should point out that this set is for the professional version of the team - there's several different amateur versions (college, U18, U15, etc plus a woman's team which I think is professional).  This is the first set dedicated to the Japan National team since BBM's box set for the 2008 Olympic team and the first Japanese set to feature the team since the 2009 Konami WBC Heroes set.  This is also the first time Calbee has done cards for the team since the 2001 subset for the 2000 Olympic team.

The set contains 36 cards - one card for team manager Hikoki Kokubo and 35 cards for the players.  Let's see if I can phrase this right - the set contains all the Samurai Japan players who played in either the Premier 12 last November or the two friendlies against Taiwan this past March AND who spent the 2016 season in NPB.  Another way to say it would be that the set contains all the Samurai Japan players who played in either the Premier 12 last November or the two friendlies against Taiwan this past March except Kenta Maeda.  This includes most of the big names in NPB - Shohei Ohtani, Tetsuto Yamada, Sho Nakata, Shogo Akiyama, Hayato Sakamoto, Yoshitomu Tsutsugoh, Tomoyuki Sugano and Ryosuke Kikuchi.  There are three Nakamura's in the set - Akira, Takeya and Yuhei.  There's at least one representative from every NPB team with the exception of Hanshin.  The entire checklist can be seen here at Calbee's website (in Japanese of course).

The cards themselves resemble the "Star" insert cards from the regular Calbee sets - they picture the player superimposed over a false background and have a kira finish.  There's a parallel version with a large gold facsimile signature on the card as well.  I'm not a big fan of this look but I'm happy that this set exists so I'll live with it.  The downside is that the cards don't scan particularly well - they look much better in person.  Here's some examples:






I very much like this set and I'm hoping that Calbee will continue to issue them in the future.

All the cards can be seen at Jambalaya.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Ryosuke Morioka

Swallows infielder Ryosuke Morioka is another player who announced his retirement back in September.  Morioka was originally drafted out of high school by the Chunichi Dragons in the first round of the fall 2002 draft.  I believe that he was originally expected to be the eventual successor to Kazuyoshi Tatsunami.  It didn't quite work out that way, however, as he spent most of his six seasons with the Dragons with their farm team, only making it to their top team for about 40 games altogether before they released him following the 2008 season.  The Swallows picked him up following the 12 team tryout in December of 2008.  After a couple seasons still spent mostly with the farm team, he became a versatile utility infielder for the Swallows top team starting in 2012.  He was also their "regular" shortstop in 2014 - or at least the player who played the most games at that position that year.  He fell into a major slump the past two seasons and has spent most of his time back with the ni-gun team.  He will be a coach for the Swallows next season.

As you might expect from the above description of his career, Morioka never made an All Star team, won a major award or lead the league in anything, although I think he won the Eastern League batting title in 2010.  Despite the fact that the Dragons made three Nippon Series while he was with them, he never played in any of them nor did he appear in the 2015 Nippon Series with the Swallows.

His first BBM cards were #18 from the 2003 Rookie Edition set and #87 from the 2003 1st Version set.  He didn't have a regular Calbee card until 2013 (#173) (although he had a "Hot Prospect" subset card in the 2009 set) but he appeared in several Konami and Bandai sets as well as the 2015 Epoch Swallows CL Champions set.

2003 BBM Rookie Edition #18

2003 BBM 1st Version #87

2006 BBM CL Champion Dragons #29

2007 Konami Baseball Heroes 3 White Edition #B07W102

2010 BBM 2nd Version #738

2012 Bandai Owners League 01 #115

2015 Epoch CL Champion Swallows #19

2016 BBM Swallows #S49

Kenta Kurihara

Back to the retiring players...

Kenta Kurihara announced his retirement a few months back.  Kurihara was taken by the Carp in the third round of the fall 1999 draft.  He didn't make his debut with the ichi-gun team until late 2002 and didn't really become a regular with them until 2005 or so.  He was a mainstay of the Carp lineup until he got hurt in 2012.  He had right elbow surgery that season but he never really recovered from it and did not make it off the farm team his last two seasons with the Carp (2014-15).  He asked for his release from the Carp after the 2015 season and signed with the Eagles, which was kind of a homecoming for him (the Eagles play in Miyagi which is the prefecture just east of Kurihara's home prefecture of Yamagata.  He spent the entire 2016 season with the Eagles farm team which actually plays in Yamagata so it was even more of a homecoming for him.  He'll be a coach with the Eagles' farm team starting in 2017.

Kurihara made the All Star team three times (2007, 2009, 2011) and won a Best 9 award in 2011.  He won Golden Gloves in 2008, 2009 and 2011.  He played for Team Japan in the 2009 World Baseball Classic.

His BBM rookie card is #487 from the 2000 set.  His first Calbee card is from the "Jump Up To The Star" subset in the 2003 set (#J-05) and his first "regular" Calbee card is #222 from the 2004 set.  He also had cards in various Konami, Bandai and Front Runner sets.

2000 BBM #487

2003 Calbee #J-05

2004 BBM 2nd Version #828

2007 BBM All Stars #A53

2009 Konami WBC Heroes #W09R101

2011 Calbee #S-21

2013 Front Runner Carp Season Summary #04

2016 BBM Eagles #E70

Sunday, December 4, 2016

RIP Hiroshi Arakawa

Hiroshi Arakawa has passed away at age 86.  Arakawa had had a nine year career as an outfielder with the Mainichi/Daimai Orions between 1953 and 1961 (he was an All Star in 1953) and managed Yakult for a couple years in the mid-1970's.  He is best known, however, for being the batting coach for the Giants in the 1960's that turned Sadaharu Oh into the home run hitter he became famous as.   He taught Oh the "flamingo" batting stance and incorporated martial arts into his training - including samurai-style swordsmanship.  Oh would train his wrists by slicing at a hanging strip of paper with his sword:

The sword, by the way, is in the Hall Of Fame:

A Noburo Aota's Fan Notes did a very in depth post on Arakawa a few years back when he was named to the "Experts" ballot for the Hall Of Fame for the first time.  He was not voted in.

I've pointed out previously that Arakawa does not have very many cards.  In fact, I'm just going to share the two cards I have of him - one of which really isn't a card of him but does have him on it:

2009 BBM Sadaharu Oh Memorial #26

2011 Epoch Managers #22
For good measure, here's a baseball card of Sadaharu Oh swinging the sword:

2009 BBM Sadaharu Oh Memorial #04

Card Of The Week December 4

I mentioned the other day that Shohei Ohtani was a near unanimous winner of the Pacific League MVP award this year.  He was listed as the top choice on 253 of the 254 total valid ballots submitted.   The question that has probably now jumped into your head is - who got the other 1st place vote?  Was it one of the sluggers from the Fighters like Brandon Laird or Sho Nakata?  Or someone from one of the other playoff teams - maybe Katsuya Kakunaka or Tsuyoshi Wada?

Nope, it was Fighters middle reliever Naoki Miyanishi, who led the Pacific League in holds (39) and "hold points" (42) this season.  I'm somewhat puzzled as to how someone could come to the conclusion that Miyanishi was more valuable than Ohtani, Laird, Nakata, Anthony Bass, Chris Martin or Hirotoshi Masui although to be fair Miyanishi did get 8 second place votes and 12 third place votes to finish sixth overall in the MVP voting (a position he would have finished in even if he hadn't gotten the first place vote, assuming that that vote did not go to the seventh place finisher Ayumu Ishikawa of the Marines).  And it's not like the MVP voters have not given the award to a middle reliever before.  But still, given the amazing year that Ohtani had it is very odd that someone voted for Miyanishi.  Whoever it was did at least put Ohtani second on their ballot.

Here's a card of Miyanishi from the 2014 BBM WE LOVE HOKKAIDO set (#06).  (I've gotten into a bit of rut the last few months - half of the last 14 Card Of The Week posts have featured Fighters.  I need to change that.)

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Shinobu Fukuhara

Hanshin Tigers pitcher Shinobu Fukuhara announced his retirement back in September.  Fukuhara was the third round pick of the Tigers out of Toyo University in the fall 1998 draft.  He worked out of the bullpen his first season and bounced back and forth between the rotation and bullpen for a couple seasons before becoming a regular starter for the Tigers from 2004 to 2009 (although he missed much of 2008 with an injury).  He moved back into the bullpen in 2010 and remained there the rest of his career.  His best season as a starter was 2006 when he went 12-5 with a 2.09 ERA.  He was outstanding in middle relief in 2014 and 2015, leading the Central League in "Hold Points" both seasons.  He made an All Star team once (in 2004) and played in three Nippon Series (2003, 2005 and 2014), all in losing efforts.  He will be a coach with the Tigers farm team next season.

His rookie card (which I don't have) is #394 from the 1999 BBM set.  His first Calbee card is #068 from the 2000 set.  He also appears in a number of Konami, Bandai, Upper Deck, Epoch and Future Bee "Power League" sets.

2000 BBM #259

2001 Upper Deck "Rookie Roundup" #RR6

2004 BBM All Stars #A15

2005 BBM Nippon Series #32

2007 BBM Tigers #T036 (Gold Parallel)

2010 BBM 1st Version #117

2014 Tigers "Original Player Card" #06

2016 BBM Classic #051

2016 Award Winners

The MVPs and Rookies Of The Year were announced this week.  Shohei Ohtani of the Fighters was the near unanimous choice in the Pacific League and Takahiro Arai of the Carp won in the Central League.

2016 BBM 1st Version #029

2016 BBM 1st Version #257
The Rookies Of The Year were Hirotoshi Takanashi of the Fighters and Shun Takayama of the Tigers.  (NOTE - Takanashi did not appear in a flagship set for either BBM or Calbee this year so I'm using his BBM Fighters team set card)

2016 BBM Fighters #F21

2016 BBM 1st Version #238
The Best 9 teams were announced late last week.  Here's the Pacific League team:

P Shohei Ohtani (2016 Calbee Exciting Scene #ES-02)

C Tatsuhiro Tamura (2016 Calbee #017)

1B Sho Nakata (2016 Calbee #080)

2B Hideto Asamura (2016 Calbee #023)

3B Brandon Laird (2016 Calbee #079)

SS Daichi Suzuki (2016 Calbee #157)

OF Katsuya Kakunaka (2016 Calbee #018)

OF Yoshio Itoi (2016 Calbee #027)

OF Haruki Nishikawa (2016 Calbee #081)

DH Shohei Ohtani (2016 Calbee #082)
Here's the Central League team:

P Yosuke Nomura (2016 Calbee #200)

C Yoshiyuki Ishihara (2016 BBM 2nd Verison #365)

1B Takahiro Arai (2016 Calbee #059)

2B Tetsuto Yamada (2016 Calbee #109)

3B Shuichi Murata (2016 Calbee #191)

SS Hayato Sakamoto (2016 Calbee #115)

OF Seiya Suzuki (2016 Calbee #203)

OF Yoshitomo Tsutsugoh (2016 Calbee #072)

OF Yoshihiro Maru (2016 Calbee #128)

NOTE - I try to do the Best 9 teams all in Calbee cards each year but Ishihara didn't have one.