Combining Japan, U.S. baseball records plain silly
Commentary BY NAOFUMI MURAKAMI CORRESPONDENTã€€ï¼ˆThe Asahi Shimbun on Line – Abridgedï¼‰
Oakland Athletics slugger Hideki Matsui remained calm while he was surrounded by a media scrum from Japan after he hit his 500th career home run on July 20.
The 37-year-old became the ninth professional Japanese ballplayer to hit the milestone--if you combine his records in Japan and the United States--after hitting his seventh homer of the season in an A's victory over the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park.
This combined record for Japan and the United States is unheard of in sports other than baseball. What made this a trend was the "Meikyukai" (Golden Players Club), an organization that has establishes admission qualifications for ballplayers born in the Showa Era (1926-1989) who have 2,000 hits or have won 200 games as a pitcher. In order to allow entry to popular ballplayers who transferred to MLB, the organization changed its regulations in December 2003 to add a ballplayer's record in the majors to his record in Japan for a career total.
Meanwhile, the United States shows no interest in combined records. Industry insiders believe that a ballplayer's record in Japan is not equal to a record in the majors. That's why all first-year major leaguers from Japan are treated for record-keeping purposes like rookies no matter how impressive their achievements in Japan.
As baseball is considered a sport of numbers and records, this combined calculation of records in Japan and the major leagues may be confusing for many fans.
Records are players' medals of honor, but it seems awkward mixing records made in Japan and the United States and calling the combined record a milestone. If the leagues are different, the records should be treated separately.
No one can doubt the greatness of Ichiro and Matsui even without a combined record. Ichiro recorded more than 200 hits a year for 10 consecutive years in the majors, and Matsui was crowned MVP of the 2009 World Series. Those achievements speak for themselves.