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Hanshin Tigers, New Enemy

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Tonight, or tomorrow, or next week, or this morning, the Seattle Mariners will play an exhibition game against the Hanshin Tigers in the Tokyo Dome. A lot of the talk regarding this Japan trip has been about the Mariners' regular season games against the A's, but I think I've been looking forward to these exhibition games the most. A part of that is because who would look forward to games against the A's? But a bigger part is because this is such an extraordinary circumstance. Sometimes in spring training Major League teams play against college teams, and that's neat if incredibly lopsided. These will be games between an American Major League team and Japanese major league teams. Meaningful games, no, and games we can see with our eyes, no, but games. Games in a different country against different high-level players. I'm glad that the Mariners get to play these games, because while they're ultimately pointless games, they're a different sort of pointless than the Cactus League.

Anyhoo, I figured we should all learn a little about the Hanshin Tigers in advance of the contest. Know your enemy, right? I'm not going to do a lot of research because on Saturdays I live up to the stereotype of the lazy American, but thankfully the Hanshin Wikipedia page has enough that I don't need to look anywhere else. Who would ever need to look anywhere else besides Wikipedia? (This sentence brought to you by the fine people at Wikipedia.)

The Hanshin Tigers play in Japan's Central League, which is different from Japan's Pacific League. The Central League does not use the DH while the Pacific League does, so it's not just the US that hasn't come up with a solution to this perplexing inequality. I don't know if they'll use a DH for this exhibition game but, probably, yes.

Hanshin's logo is nice and terrifying:


Wikipedia tells me that the Hanshin Tigers are the sister team of the Detroit Tigers, so I guess the Hanshin Tigers are a bunch of girls. Wikipedia also tells me that the Hanshin Tigers are considered to be Japan's Boston Red Sox. So if you needed a reason to root against them really strongly, there you go. The Red Sox are an utterly loathsome team, so anybody that draws comparisons to the Red Sox is probably also an utterly loathsome team. An excerpted three sentences:

Tigers fans are known as perhaps the most fanatical and dedicated fans in all of Japanese professional baseball. They often outnumber the home team fans at Tigers "away" games. Tigers fans also have a reputation for rough behavior and a willingness to brawl with other fans or with each other, although long fights are rare.


Tigers fans sing a team fight song called Rokko Oroshi. It is a very popular song that isn't only sung at baseball games, and like most things in Japanese that get translated into English, the lyrics seem ridiculous. In keeping with the Red Sox comparison maybe it's like a less sexy Sweet Caroline. Or a more sexy Sweet Caroline if you're really turned on by cold mountain wind and a bright sun.

The Hanshin Tigers supposedly have their own curse. I'm not going to be able to do this justice in a few sentences. The Tigers won the championship in 1985. In celebration, fans who resembled team members jumped from a bridge into an area canal. Nobody resembled star Randy Bass because Randy Bass was born in Oklahoma, so the assembled fans instead threw a plastic statue of Colonel Sanders into the water. Thus began the Curse of the Colonel. The Tigers haven't won the championship since, although they did win the Central League in 2003 and 2005. Most of the statue was recovered from the water in 2009. It's missing just a hand and its glasses.

Based on what I think the roster is, the current Tigers have a few familiar players. Most notably, there's Kenji Johjima, who by the way was really good here for two years. Those first two years he had a .769 OPS as a right-handed catcher in Safeco Field! And he threw out baserunners! He was awesome for the Tigers in 2010 but fell apart in 2011, possibly as an inevitable consequence of all those JJ Putz splitters he took off the junk. Also he's 35. Another former Mariner on the team is Randy Messenger, who you would only remember as a former Mariner if you took note of how douchey he looked. He made 25 starts for the Tigers last season and allowed six home runs. He threw 23 innings for the Mariners and allowed four home runs.

The Tigers also have Jason Standridge, who floated around the Majors and was bad. Additionally there's Matt Murton and Craig Brazell. Murton has been fantastic, and two years ago Brazell knocked 47 dingers with 25 walks and 153 strikeouts. You can see why Wily Mo Pena was so drawn to this country. Brazell had a .902 OPS and a strikeout-to-walk ratio like Miguel Olivo on muscle relaxers.

Mike Blowers played for Hanshin in 1999 and didn't seem to have the most positive of experiences, based on the Internet. No matter, because that's water under the bridge. Perhaps in that water they will find the Colonel's hand and glasses.

I think you're prepared now. Baseball! The Hanshin Tigers! Loathe them!