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Wladimir Balentien is the new Nippon Professional Baseball single-season home run king

Sep 15, 2013, 12:05 PM EDT

balentien ap AP

Baseball history was rewritten Sunday in Tokyo.

Yakult Swallows slugger and former major leaguer Wladimir Balentien clubbed his 56th and 57th home runs of 2013 in a 9-0 victory over the visiting Hanshin Tigers, breaking the Nippon Professional Baseball single-season home run record of 55 shared by Sadaharu Oh, Tuffy Rhodes and Alex Cabrera.

NPB introduced a new, more hitter-friendly ball at the beginning of this season and home run numbers are up across the league, but that should take nothing away from Balentien’s feat. After all, he’s the only one climbing toward 60. Major League Baseball fans are well-seasoned in the practice of adding context to these sort of things. Here’s No. 56, the record-snapping shot:

Balentien signed a three-year, $7.5 million free agent deal last winter with the Tokyo Yakult Swallows after flaming out in the Reds’ farm system. It does not carry an opt-out clause, so he can’t immediately parlay this success into a big contract back in the states. Then again, maybe he wouldn’t even want to.

  1. mazblast - Sep 15, 2013 at 12:19 PM

    Congratulations to Balentien. I don’t think he ever got a legitimate shot at winning a regular lineup spot here, and I’m glad he’s found success over there.

    • rje49 - Sep 15, 2013 at 4:29 PM

      I get a kick out of the girl presenting the flowers. I noticed this after he hit #55, too. I wonder what you have to do to receive flowers during a game?

      • stevemarines - Sep 17, 2013 at 12:34 AM

        Hit a HR during a game, usually.

  2. rcali - Sep 15, 2013 at 12:37 PM

    Nobody cares.

    • nbjays - Sep 15, 2013 at 12:47 PM

      YOU cared enough to post your crap… making you NOBODY.

  3. sleepyirv - Sep 15, 2013 at 12:39 PM

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, not enough NPB on American television.

  4. jams56 - Sep 15, 2013 at 12:39 PM

    You cared enough to read it then leave a comment.

  5. freudnumb - Sep 15, 2013 at 12:46 PM

    It’s a good thing for the Japanese league that the record was finally broken … Even if the new HR king is a foreigner. This symbolizes a new era for Japan baseball.

  6. raysfan1 - Sep 15, 2013 at 3:33 PM

    Banzai! Banzai! Banzai! (Congrats, Wlad)

  7. bbk1000 - Sep 15, 2013 at 4:57 PM

    Wladimir didn’t flame out with the Reds…..

    He had two choices:

    1. Hit well and play for the Reds at $15 million a year.

    or

    2. Fake being bad with the Reds, go to a team in Japan and play for $2.5 million a year and set the single season home run record in the process.

    He made the wise choice…..if he comes back to the states I hope he spells he name correctly…

    • tuberippin - Sep 15, 2013 at 7:45 PM

      This post is so stupid it’s not even worth the time to delve into the idiocy behind it. $15mil a year, LOL.

      • bbk1000 - Sep 15, 2013 at 9:55 PM

        Yet you try to respond….it’s way above your head…don’t sweat it…

      • tuberippin - Sep 15, 2013 at 11:47 PM

        Not at all. Your assumptions are imprudent and stupid.

        “2. Fake being bad with the Reds, go to a team in Japan and play for $2.5 million a year and set the single season home run record in the process.”

        At no point in his major league career was he “faking” his hitting ability. He’s a big-fly-or-strikeout guy, and his power hadn’t matured enough to offset his high strikeout rates (and consequently a low average) and low on-base percentage. He’s got a high average in Japan, but that’s a consequence of the fact that he’s hitting on an entire other level. He’s putting up Barry Bonds early 00s type of numbers but in a league that is not much of an equivalent to the MLB.

        And I’d be willing to wager that he didn’t head to Japan with the goal of breaking the single-season home run record. I highly doubt that was the reason to go over to Japan. More likely it was the complete lack of major-league interest from teams.

        At no point in his major-league career was he going to be worth $15mil a year. I don’t think he’d even get $15mil a year if he came back over in the off-season (though obviously since he’s under contract it’s a moot point). Yu Darvish isn’t making $15mil a year and he was well-established before coming over; same goes with Yoenis Cespedes, Yasiel Puig, and Jorge Soler coming from Cuba. What makes you think he would’ve gotten $15,000,000 from Cincy or any other MLB team for that matter?

    • stevemarines - Sep 17, 2013 at 12:36 AM

      He got better. He got better over his time with Yakult, too. He’s a man figuring out the game, that’s all.

      Some are late bloomers.

  8. Carl Hancock - Sep 15, 2013 at 7:28 PM

    Some people seem to be quick to write it off since it’s in Japan but good for him. Baseball is bigger in Japan than it is here. It’s not like we’re talking about the Venezuela Winter League. It’s not MLB but it’s still a respectable pro league. The most respectable and significant outside of our own MLB.

  9. peddealer - Sep 16, 2013 at 1:16 AM

    Congratulations from BioGenesis!!!

    Anthony Bosch

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