Japan’s players union calls for commissioner Kato to step down after ball scandal

Japan’s players union has called for the resignation of Nippon Professional Baseball’s commissioner following revelations that a new official ball was introduced this season without notifying players.

Toru Matsubara, the secretary general of the Japan Professional Baseball Players Association, submitted a document to NPB saying commissioner Ryozo Kato should resign and be replaced by someone who can demonstrate leadership.

With almost half the season played, NPB acknowledged this month for the first time that a new ball was being used. The new, livelier ball has resulted in a sharp increase in the number of home runs.

The 71-year-old Kato, a former Japanese ambassador to the United States, said he didn’t know the ball had been changed.

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Andruw Jones signs with Rakuten Eagles in Japan

Andruw Jones is headed to Japan.

The five-time All-Star outfielder has finalized a $3.5 million, one-year contract with the Rakuten Eagles of Japan’s Pacific League. The team announced the move on Sunday.

The 35-year-old Jones became a free agent after spending the past two seasons as a part-time player with the New York Yankees. He appeared in 94 games this year, batting.197 with 14 home runs.

Once one of the premier players in the big leagues, Jones broke into the majors with the Atlanta Braves in 1996 and won 10 consecutive Gold Gloves from 1998-07 as their center fielder. He has 434 career home runs over 17 seasons in the majors and could provide a boost for the Eagles, whose 52 homers were the fewest in Japan last season.

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Yomiuri Giants Win Japan Series Title

Shinnosuke Abe led the Yomiuri Giants to the Central League pennant, nearly won the Triple Crown, and will more than likely be named CL MVP in a few weeks. His final swing of the season? Just the hit that helped deliver another Japan Series title to the Kyojin’s already crowded trophy case.

Abe drove in the tiebreaking run in the seventh and the Yomiuri bullpen took it from there, as the Giants won the Japan Series with a 4-3 victory over the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters in Game 6 on Saturday night at Tokyo Dome.

The Giants won the series 4-2 to claim their record 22nd title.



Mariners enjoy Japan despite loss to Hanshin Tigers

Playing in a raucous environment in a nearly sold-out Tokyo Dome, the Mariners dropped a 5-1 decision to the Hanshin Tigers of Japan’s Central League in a Sunday exhibition that kicked off their Opening Series week.

While the Mariners lost the game, they came away impressed with the enthusiasm of the 42,137 fans, who chanted and sang through every at-bat by Hanshin players.

“It was awesome,” said Mariners outfielder Michael Saunders. “It felt like a European soccer game. They’re extremely enthusiastic. It’s good baseball, obviously, and they have a lot of passion and pride in the game. I had a really fun time.”

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Yomiuri Giants: Japan’s oldest baseball club in turmoil at top

A high-profile mudslinging battle is raging at the very top of Japan’s oldest and arguably most popular professional baseball club, pitching a powerful media shogun against a former reporter.

Hidetoshi Kiyotake, who was fired as general manager of the Yomiuri Giants last week after criticising the club’s reputedly untouchable chairman, said on Friday he would take legal action against his sacking, possibly next month.

"My dismissal is illegal and unjust and was carried out as a means to cover up a breach of compliance and as a retaliatory measure against me," the 61-year-old former hard-hitting news reporter said.

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Ripken to visit Japan as US sports ambassador

From Nov. 8-16, former Baltimore Orioles star Cal Ripken Jr. will lead baseball and softball clinics in Japan as part of his upcoming nine-day trip as a sports diplomat on behalf of the U.S. State Department.

Ripken will be joined by former Orioles teammate Brady Anderson at the clinics in Tokyo, Takarazuka, Kyoto and Ofunato, a city still recovering from the March earthquake and tsunami.

Japanese baseball great Sachio Kinugasa will also join the pair in Tokyo and Ofunato.

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Oakland As, Seattle Mariners to open 2012 season in Japan

The Seattle Mariners and Oakland Athletics will open next season in Japan with a two-game series at the Tokyo Dome on March 28 and 29.Seattle and Oakland had been scheduled to play there in March 2003, but the series was scrapped because of the threat of war in Iraq. The As will be the home team in both games, the commissioners office said Wednesday.

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Japan’s Hisashi Iwakuma aims at MLB free agency

A Japanese starting pitcher who nearly joined a Major League team last winter has hired a new agent ahead of this offseason, when he’s expected to once again be a sought-after arm.

ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reported that Hisashi Iwakuma, a 30-year-old righty, has hired Paul Cobbe of Sosnick-Cobbe Sports to be his agent. The Oakland A’s paid $19.1 million to negotiate with Iwakuma last winter, but Iwakuma’s former agent, Don Nomura, and the A’s could not reach a deal. Oakland’s posting fee was returned.

Nomura reported in December that Oakland had offered Iwakuma a deal comparable in salary to what Iwakuma was making in Japan’s Pacific League, about four years and $15.25 million.

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Twins win bidding for Japan’s Nishioka

The Twins won the bidding for Japanese infielder Tsuyoshi Nishioka on Friday.

The Twins have 30 days to work out a deal with the 26-year-old shortstop, who hit .346 last season with the Chiba Lotte Marines to win the Nippon Professional Baseball batting crown. FoxSports.com reported the winning bid was $5.3 million. If the two sides cannot work out a deal in 30 days, the posting fee will be refunded.

A switch-hitter who can also play second base, Nishioka helped the Marines to the Japan Series title last season and led Japanese baseball in games (144), runs (121), hits (206) and total bases (287).

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