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Takashi Toritani still deciding where to play in 2015

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There are just over three days remaining in 2014 but that is still an awfully long time to hold one's breath--so don't, as Takashi Toritani will likely not be making his decision on where to play in 2015 until after the calendars flip into January, according to a Yakyubaka report brought to us via Andrew Stoeten.  He is a free agent, but the Hanshin Tigers, his former team, would prefer if Toritani makes his decision by mid-January so they can make plans to fill their shortstop position if he chooses to leave Japan for Major League Baseball.

Right now, it appears that the Toronto Blue Jays and the San Diego Padres are the two clubs the 33-year-old Toritani is deciding between, according to the report from Brendan Kennedy. Both the Blue Jays and the Padres have made offers to Toritani; however there were reports from before Christmas that the negotiations between Toronto and Toritani's agent Scott Boras were not going terribly smoothly.

Although most Japanese professional baseball stadiums have artificial turf infields with dirt cutouts around the bases like Toronto's Rogers Centre, the Hanshin Tigers play in the legendary Koshien Stadium, which has an all-dirt infield and a natural grass outfield. Balls play slower on dirt than turf, but one would expect that Toritani to have had sufficient experience from road games--whether he likes it enough to choose to play in Toronto is another story. However, the Padres' Petco Park's outfield dimensions are significantly larger than both Rogers Centre and Koshien Stadium and that might be of concern to Toritani's offensive side.

Perhaps location is of less importance to Toritani than contract length, according to a Sanspo report helpfully translated by @Daisy_Child ("they" meaning the Blue Jays and Toritani).

The contract term concern is somewhat surprising as it is expected that Toritani would be looking for a shorter-term deal to prove himself at the major league level before signing a longer contract at age 34 or 35 to finish his career. It is unlikely that either the Padres or the Blue Jays would offer him anything long term that has big dollars. The unknown here is the deal that the Hanshin Tigers are offering to keep him around.

Putting the TOR in Toronto

Should Takashi TORitani decide to sign in Toronto he would become just the ninth player in Blue Jays franchise history that has the letters "TOR" appear consecutively in his name.

  1. VicTOR Cruz
  2. HecTOR TORres
  3. Paul MoliTOR
  4. John FrascaTORe
  5. HecTOR Luna
  6. VicTOR Zambrano
  7. Yorvit TORrealba
  8. Mickey STORey
Koshien Stadium

The home of the Hanshin Tigers is located between Osaka and Kobe was built in 1924 (making it the oldest stadium in Nippon Professional Baseball) and has been the home of Japan's annual national high school baseball championships since it opened and was the site of various exhibition games that involved visiting American baseball stars in the days between the World Wars.

Koshien Stadium--as well as the tremendous drive to get to Koshien--was featured in the Taiwanese film Kano, which talks about how a rag-tag high school team from Taiwan (then a Japanese possession) reached the high school championships in 1931 despite the fact that it had never won a single game before that season. Sounds like Disney, but the movie was based on a true story.

Kano wasn't the best film I saw this year and the storytelling got incredibly slow at points, but it is worth a watch especially if you are also into the history of Japanese colonialism and race relations in East Asia (although you will probably have to look hard for it).

99 Days

We have finally broken into two-digit territory: there are just 99 days left until the Blue Jays and the Yankees play each other in the 2015 season opener and just 65 days until the first game of spring training. New Year's Day will be the halfway point between the last day of the 2014 season and the first day of the 2015 season. Keep it together, folks.