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Why that guy keeps asking about Hideki Matsui

Dec 9, 2009, 7:38 PM EDT

I’ve had a little bit of fun at the expense of our friends in the Japanese media over the past couple of days, but it’s time to be a little more fair.  Don’t worry, I’ll skip back to snarky and flip soon enough.

There’s a reason why that guy I keep talking about keeps asking about Hideki Matsui.  It’s not because he’s dense. It’s not because he doesn’t understand Hideki Matsui’s market. It’s because he has no choice, nor do most of the other Japanese writers.  They are sent here by Japanese media companies for the express purpose of covering Japanese players. Often because the media company has a business imperative to sell the hell out of Matsui and need his face on the cover, constantly. And Ichiro’s face. And Matsuzaka’s.

A lot of these guys don’t want to focus so much on the Japanese players. I spoke briefly with one of the Japanese reporters today — not the Matsui guy, sadly — and he said that many of his colleagues want to talk about U.S. baseball more generally and to educate the Japanese
audience about other players. But the companies that
employ them demand wall-to-wall Matsui coverage. It’s what sells there. Understandable, really.

It does lead to silliness, the kind of which we’ve seen the past few days.  But it also has its miseries.  Indeed, according to an American beat writer I spoke with, there is no more miserable a job in baseball than being assigned to cover a Japanese starting pitcher.  The press following him still has to file every day even though he only pitches every fifth. What do you write when it’s mid-August and it’s not his turn and you’ve used up every single human interest angle in existence?  What’s worse, what do you write when the guy you’re covering is on the DL like Matsuzaka last year?

So, yes, I laugh a bit because it is kind of funny to hear Bobby Cox asked about whether he’d like Hideki Matsui on his club.  But it’s a benign laugh, one with empathy, not scorn, because the guy asking the question has a way harder job than I do, and he does it way farther away from his home than I do too.

  1. Emperor Hirohito - Dec 9, 2009 at 8:06 PM

    ah, so. but they get paid more. lots more.

  2. The Great Dane - Dec 9, 2009 at 8:19 PM

    But the Japanese reporters at least have a valid excuse for their apparent silliness as oppposed to certain people, *cough*Heyman*cough, who refer to Granderson’s ineptitude against lefthanders as an inconsistency and call Edwin Jackson a sure thing with strong back-to-back seasons.

  3. dodgerblue - Dec 9, 2009 at 8:30 PM

    As a guy living in Japan for the past several years, I’ll say that I myself am not happy with the state of MLB in Japan. Media coverage focuses solely on the player, never the team. Even during highlight reels during the news, Matsui’s batting line for the day will be displayed, and his at-bats shown, but the result of the game is NEVER MENTIONED. Drives me nuts.
    You’d think perhaps MLB would partner with one of the news organizations and push their coverage in a different direction to help build fans of teams, not fans of players. That has to be the better move, revenue-wise.

  4. Jorge Says No! - Dec 9, 2009 at 8:48 PM

    They should focus on fringe guys like Takahashi, Igawa, and Yabuta, who are struggling to make a name for themselves in the majors.

  5. peteinfla - Dec 9, 2009 at 8:57 PM

    Anybody seen Irabu recently? He’d make a fine “where are they now” story. Or perhaps a feature on Kei Igawa?

  6. oldpaddy - Dec 9, 2009 at 8:58 PM

    Off topic, but congrats on your fame Craig. You seem to have earned it. You’re a good read.
    I just saw that the Boston Globe just refereneced you (boston.com/sports/baseball/redsox/extras/extra_bases/2009/12/bradley_one_exp.html).

  7. The Rabbit - Dec 9, 2009 at 9:29 PM

    I just read the story at oldpaddy’s Boston Globe link.
    How could you possibly be the scoop reporter without the use of Twitter? :-)

  8. Dayn Perry - Dec 9, 2009 at 9:47 PM

    At the 2000 winter meetings(IIRC), I talked to a Japanese reporter who was tasked with digging up Masato Yoshii stories, solely because he was traded the previous winter and–heck–it might happen again. I did not envy his assignment.

  9. Craig Calcaterra - Dec 9, 2009 at 10:00 PM

    I’m on the Twitter now, Rabbit. I have crossed over to the dark side.

  10. Wooden U. Lykteneau - Dec 10, 2009 at 8:30 AM

    “I rob you” spent the summer in Long Beach with the Golden League, one of the lower-tier indys. His numbers were rather pedestrian: 5-3, 3.58, 66/19 in 65IP over 10 starts. To put that in perspective, Oil Can Boyd — 8 years removed from pro ball — went 4-5 with a 3.83 ERA over 117 IP in a high-level indy league.

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