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Yomiuri Giants, New Enemy

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Yesterday, we introduced you to the Hanshin Tigers. Considered Japan's Boston Red Sox, the Tigers were the Mariners' first Japanese exhibition opponent, and while the Mariners started their regulars, the Tigers wound up winning 5-1. Hector Noesi wasn't very good, and his excuse was that he didn't know anything about any of the hitters he was seeing. That didn't seem to be a problem for the Hanshin pitchers. I don't know you guys, the Mariners might be in trouble.

Because we introduced you to the Hanshin Tigers, now we'll introduce you to the Yomiuri Giants. Firefox recommends that I replace "Yomiuri" with "Missouri" which is kind of racist and proof that computers aren't close to taking over the world, or that computers are close to taking over the world and will be racist. That which is designed by humans will reflect very human flaws. The Giants are the Mariners' second and last Japanese exhibition opponent, and now I will take their Wikipedia page and put it in slightly different words. School doesn't teach you not to plagiarize; school teaches you to plagiarize cleverly.

The Giants, like the Tigers, play in the Central League instead of the Pacific League. This means that ordinarily they do not use the DH, although in the exhibition they will use the DH unless they're getting cocky. Where the Hanshin Tigers are thought to be the Japanese Boston Red Sox, the Yomiuri Giants are thought to be the Japanese New York Yankees. They give us the Japanese Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees, and we give them the American Seattle Mariners and Oakland Athletics. This is a pretty one-sided international entertainment exchange.

They're thought to be the Japanese New York Yankees for understandable reasons. They are hugely popular, for one thing. Certain polls suggest that greater than 50 percent of the population supports the Giants, while other fans who support other teams hate the Giants. Let's give this an excerpt:

Correspondingly, fans of other professional baseball teams in Japan are often openly derisive and contemptuous of the Giants' bandwagon marketing tactics, and an "anti-Giants" movement exists in protest of the near hegemony established by the Yomiuri Giants.

Additionally, the Giants play in the Tokyo Dome, and have been wildly successful. They've gone to the championship 32 times, and have won 21. The next-best would be the Seibu Lions, who have gone 21 times and won 13. The Hanshin Tigers have won once. The Giants won it all most recently in 2009, behind contributions from star players including Alex Ramirez and Dicky Gonzalez. Edgardo Alfonzo played for that team 21 times. Between 2008-2010, Alfonzo went from Mexico to Long Island to Japan to Newark.

A lot of people think the Giants bend the rules in their favor in order to get the most talent. In 2004, the Giants paid a pitching prospect two million yen which I guess you're not supposed to do. There's talk of bribes and power plays, and while I don't think people think the Yankees use bribes, people do think the Yankees cheat or are in an unfair position, so here's more substance for the comparison.

The Giants are the team that, in 1985, intentionally walked Randy Bass in the season's last game so that he wouldn't break Sadaharu Oh's single-season home run record. In this way, Bass didn't break the record, and everybody will forever talk about the suspicious circumstances. I know that's how I would like to keep a personal record intact. It's interesting that they opted for intentional walks instead of unintentional intentional walks. They had that little faith that their pitchers could throw non-pitchout pitches that wouldn't get hit for home runs. Those must have been some sorry-ass pitchers.

Late last year, after the Giants finished 71-62, their general manager recommended that the team keep its head coach (which is different from the manager). The Yomiuri chairman told the general manager to replace the head coach. The general manager publicly complained and then was fired. The general manager decided to sue the team, and then the team decided to counter-sue the general manager. The suits were combined and as far as I can tell the case is ongoing. The same head coach as before still has his job.

Familiar players on the Giants now would be Dicky Gonzalez, D.J. Houlton, and Alex Ramirez. I'm stretching the definition of "familiar" here but I knew all three names when these guys were stateside. Gonzalez, who appeared for the Mets and Devil Rays, is a valuable righty starting pitcher. Houlton, who appeared for the Dodgers, is also a valuable righty starting pitcher and was recently signed away from Softbank. Ramirez, who appeared for the Indians and Pirates, is a slugging righty outfielder. In five years in Japan he's hit 177 home runs with an .861 OPS. He has 116 unintentional walks over the same span so, again, I get it, Wily Mo Pena.

The Giants' best hitter last year was either catcher Shinnosuke Abe or outfielder Hisayoshi Chono. Ramirez led the team in homers. Uhh...Daisuke Fujimura had 30 sac bunts, 28 steals, and a batting line of .222/.265/.241. So while the Giants are the Japanese New York Yankees, they also have the Japanese Chone Figgins.

And that's the Yomiuri Giants. Lots of words about a team that's playing the Mariners once, in an exhibition, at 3am Pacific Monday morning.