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12/15/2002 Archived Entry: "Japanese Baseball News: Johjima May Fly Hawks Nest"

Daiei Star Catcher Disgruntled With Reduced Salary and No Multi-Year Deal

Daiei Hawks star catcher Kenji Johjima's anger at having his pay slashed bigtime despite overcoming a shoulder fracture and having another fine season exploded today when he railed against his team to a reporter for Nikkan Sports. "If they tell me to get lost, I'll gladly leave," Johjima blurted when asked what he would do if Daiei turned down another demand by him for a multi-year contract after next season. "I also dream of taking on the challenge of playing in the major leagues," the slugger revealed. Johjima, 26, would be eligible for free agency after the conclusion of the 2005 schedule.

According to Nikkan Sports, Daiei has a policy of not issuing multi-year tieups. Furthermore, team owner Nakauchi characterized Johjima's remarks as "emblematic of someone who doesn't want to improve." They will also not deal with players who, once they qualify for free agency, will hear offers from other clubs. But Johjima averred, "no Japanese catchers have gone to MLB, so I want to see how well I would do there." To that goal, he appealed to Nakauchi to be allowed to participate in an MLB team's spring training camp this coming March, which was refused.

MLB scouts rate Johjima as the only catcher currently playing in Japan they would be interested in. He is a graduate of Beppudai Fuzoku High School in Oita, where he hammered 70 homers, and a 1994 number one draft choice. After drilling 25 out of the park for Daiei's Western League affiliate in 1996, including grand slams in consecutive at bats in one game on July 4th, he was called up in September of that year and ripped four circuit clouts in 17 games to get the attention of team management, who made him the everyday catcher beginning in 1997, and he rewarded that faith in him with a .308 average, 15 homers and 68 RBIs, which got him on to the all star team for the first of five times.

In 1999, he really came into his own, as he played in all 135 games and hit .306 with 17 homers and 77 RBIs, earning the first of three consecutive Best Nine nominations, his first of four straight Gold Gloves, and capped it off by wreaking havoc in that year's Japan Series for his team's first championship in more than two decades.

The following season, he fractured a finger and it limited him to 84 games, but he still notched a .310 average to accompany nine homers and 50 RBIs. He also tied a Japan Series record in a losing effort to Yomiuri by creaming four jacks.

In 2001, he not only caught all 140 games, but he became the first Pacific League backstop to propel more than 30 homers in 29 years when he belted 31 homers while working in a home ballpark that is Japan's largest and sent 95 runner scurrying homeward. On April 13th of that season, he clobbered two to the great beyond in the same inning against Orix for his biggest highlight of that campaign.

The during the season just finished, despite suffering the aforementioned break on a foul tip in June, he nonetheless ended up with a .293 average and 25 homers.

One thing that really helps the 6'0" 202 pound Sasebo, Nagasaki Prefecture native is that he doesn't strikeout very much, in fact, only 347 whiffs in 2643 lifetime at bats. That bodes real well for him if he does indeed go stateside.

Thanks to Baseball Monthly stats guru Akichan for some of the information provided in this report. You can see her site here

Hot Shots....

According to the Pasadena Star-news, the Dodgers could jump in on the Hideki Matsui bidding. Also, there are no plans to hire a psychologist to aid Kazuhisa Ishii in preparing to retake the mound. Tha paper is also saying that Ishii is in superb physical shape after trainer Stan Johnston had a visit with him in Japan....Kind of interesting item in the New York Times about Carlos Mirabal. First, he re-signed with Nippon Ham for $1.1 million after not wanting to wait around to see what would become of the feelers he had with several unnamed MLB teams. But he got that job with the Fighters in the first place when his wife Anne Marie sent Nippon Ham's front office some videotaped footage of her husband pitching in Taiwan three years ago. That method usually isn't very successful, but they obviously hit the jackpot there....The moron of the day award goes to a NY Mets source quoted by the Stamford Advocate who views Osaka native Norihiro Nakamura as "not a big city guy. The population of Osaka Prefecture, which is about twice the size of NYC, is approximately 8.7 million while the city of Osaka is home to 2.7 million. That would make the city of Osaka fourth in the U.S. in population size just about 100,000 behind Chicago and 800,000 ahead of fifth place Houston....Yomiuri catcher Shinnosuke Abe will donate sporting goods to children in Afghanistan every time he spanks a walk off hit, according to Sports Nippon. This past season, he did that four times. He also says that he would like to raise his runners thrown out stealing percentage to better than 50% from the right at 40% he posted in 2002.....Giants outfielder Yoshinobu Takahashi will be a judge for this year's Kohaku Utagassen ("Red and White Song Battle") tv broadcast on NHK. Every New Years Eve, an aggregation of some of Japan's most popular male singers face off against one composed of that country's most popular female artists in an extravaganza that routinely garners well over 50% of the tv audience over its three hours....And kyojin coach Toshio Shinozuka gave the Hanshin Tigers some bulletin board material when he said that his team will focus more on what they have to do to beat Yakult and Chunichi than Hanshin....Seibu Lions manager Haruki Ihara stated that he might have Fumiya Nishiguchi, who lead the club in wins this past season, pitch on opening day against Nippon Ham rather than the more popular Daisuke Matsuzaka, who had been entrusted with that assignment the last three campaigns. Matsuzaka would then start the following tilt. Another Lions hurler, Takashi Ishii, is working on adding a sinker. Closer Kiyoshi Toyoda and 15 of his teammates left for team trip to Hawaii earlier today....New Lotte signing Rick Short could end up seizing Kiyoshi Hatsushiba's third base job next season, according to Sports Nippon. Hatsushiba has to be feeling thoroughly dissed right now since he just took a pay cut, but the fact is that he is not a very good defender....Yokohama free agent closer Takashi Saito, while participating in a baseball clinic for little leaguers with his predecessor in that role, Kazuhiro Sasaki, at their alma mater, Tohoku Fukushi University, earlier today, claimed that the lack of offers he has had from MLB outfits is due to luxury tax concerns. If the oft-injured Saito was asking for less money he might be surprised to see that the offer picture may perk up a bit....According to Sankei Sports, the Yankees are holding firm in their $6 million offer for Hideki Matsui while Godzilla wants $8 million....Hanshin manager Senichi Hoshino said that he is "fed up" with hearing about the Norihiro Nakamura situation....Swallows third baseman Akinori Iwamura is going from 33.5 inch bat to a 34.5 inch weapon that will also be about 40-50 grams heavier than the stick he used this past season. He is making the change in the hope of becoming the ninth player in history to rack up a .300-30 homer-30 steals campaign. He also says that if he achieves that, he is considering donating an extra $80,000 over what he already contributes to social welfare agencies charities in his hometown of Uwajima....Yokohama infielder Seiichi Uchikawa will be wearing a mouthpiece next season, thinking that it will help him turn quicker with the bat. Where do people get these ideas?.

Quote of the Day

This comes from the Newark Star-Ledger and former Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda: "I once told Steve Stone, 'If I were ever a GM, I'd make you my manager.'" When Stone, a former Cy Young winner, responded by asking why, Lasorda said he sarcastically told him, "Because you know more about the game of baseball after it's been played than anybody I've ever met." Lasorda laughed. "Ray Knight was a genius in the (TV) booth," Lasorda said. "He became a manager and before anyone knew what happened, he was fired. Now he's a genius again."

I wonder if anyone asked him about Dave Kingman's performance the day he hit three homers against L.A. (Jim Healy fans would understand what I'm talking about).

Matsui's Agent, Yankees Meet Again on the Phone

See story at: Article

Orioles Interested in Both Ivan Rodriguez, Matsui

Hargrove is keeping his mouth shut. Good idea. See story at: Sporting News Article

Mets Mum on Nakamura

See story at: Yomiuri Shimbun Article

Mets May Hork Both Nakamura and Matsui Down

Can you imagine both men on the same team? See story at: NY Times Article

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