The Hot Corner Archive

I have been writing the Hot Corner for The Daily Yomiuri since February 1999. The following columns have survived the test of time. In this case the biggest test is avoiding accidental erasure or hard disk failure... Week by week, I'll be adding more oldies to the archive.

Fast, smart & too good to be true...December 5, 2002

Is Kazuo Matsui for real? Here is a guy who has all the physical talent in the world as well as the brains and discipline to make it come together.

Return of native brings hope for irregular 'Stars...November 28, 2002

After the most irregular and unappealing season in over 10 years, the Yokohama BayStars have brought in a pitcher whose biggest ambition is consistency.

Matsui just keeps on causing chaos...November 21, 2002

Hideki Matsui never likes to cause a fuss unless it's with his home runs. But like the misunderstood monster Godzilla, whose coarse complexion prompted Matsui's nickname as a youngster, the left-handed power hitter has created a reputation for leaving chaos in his wake.

Japan witnesses rare stellar phenomenon...November 14, 2002

Instead of a majestic array of major league stars, Japanese fans have witnessed the signs of a whole constellation collapsing in one monumental cataclysm.

Kudo may be next Giant to go south...November 7, 2002

Hideki Matsui has left the Yomiuri Giants for the major leagues, and if things go his way, left-handed pitcher Kimiyasu Kudo may be next. "I'm 38--the same age as Randy Johnson," said the 39-year-old Kudo, who was right about the second fact while perhaps in self denial about the first.

Lions live up to speedy reputation...October 31, 2002

The disturbance, correctly identified as a sonic boom, was indeed created by the local speed merchants: not maverick ASDF jet jockeys but the Seibu Lions, who were busy falling out of the Japan Series at the speed of sound.

Hara makes it tough on Giants haters...October 24, 2002

Even fans of other teams are drawn to a Series with the Giants, you want to see if they can be beaten--and if they are beaten, how badly and embarrassingly. Simply put, there is a fascination with the Giants' fate.

Cabrera, Oh need to learn from mistakes...October 17, 2002

After all is done and later said, Alex Cabrera did not hit that magic 56th home run and admitted on Monday that given another chance he would have gone about it in a different way.

Fear & loathing on home run record trail...October 10, 2002

Last year, Tuffy Rhodes mounted the first serious challenge to the 55-home run barrier since 1985, and fans ate up the excitement his pursuit generated. In an effort to jack No. 56 out of the park, Rhodes started swinging at every pitch within spitting distance, and Fukuoka pitchers furthered his frustration by testing how far Rhodes could spit. The scenario, with a few modifications, was replayed last weekend in the Seibu Lions' Alex Cabrera's hunt for Homer 56.

Taste of success whets Tigers' appetites...October 3, 2002

Although they still have games to play, the vivid images of the Tigers' terrific season was one of the electric currents running through the Central League this year.

A night to remember...September 26, 2002

...You don't see a crowd of this size--Koshien was packed to the rafters--staying till the end of a five-hour game for nothing. No disrespect for the great fans who support the other 10 teams, but this was Japanese baseball at its best: Tigers and Giants, extra innings in a game where the Tigers could make a statement by preventing the Giants from rolling to the pennant in the middle of an eight-game winning streak.

Learning to be spontaneous..September 19, 2002

Training techniques can become so well established that function no longer dictates their form and activities that were once goal-oriented tasks become rituals.

The pennant race that shouldn't be...September 12, 2002

With the Yomiuri Giants playing mediocre baseball, the Yakult Swallows are back in the Central League pennant race. There's no question which team has been more impressive this season. The Giants have been the class of the league ever since midseason, when the wind left the Hanshin Tigers' sails like the air leaving 45,000 balloons before the bottom of the seventh inning at Koshien.

Umpiring woes continue...September 5, 2002

The level of baseball will always be handicapped as long as the umpiring is poor and managers and coaches are free to run roughshod over the overmatched umps with little fear of league discipline. While the past week has been blessfully free of the brand of hooliganism most recently displayed by Tigers head coach Koichi Tabuchi, it was pretty typical in terms of bad decisions on the part of the men in blue.

Wada hitting big time...August 29, 2002

However awkward the Seibu Lions' Kazuhiro Wada looks teeter tottering as he tries to time pitchers' deliveries, once the ball leaves the pitcher's hand, it's in jeopardy of being hit and hit hard.

Majors go MAD as players strike looms...August 22, 2002

A strike will harm everyone. However, the solution being hammered out, a luxury tax to curb spending, has nothing to do with the problem. Major League baseball derives enormous profits from its monopoly status. These are then divided between the owners who own the most lucrative territories and the players.

Imbalance is caused by owners owning exclusive rights to local revenue in vastly different markets--not paying free market salaries to players.

Making it look easy...August 15, 2002

If Hawks rookie Hayato Terahara or Lions ace Daisuke Matsuzaka throws two straight shutouts, it's taken as confirmation of the greatness we expect from them. But when the perpetrator is Hayato Nakamura or Takashi Aiki, the first impulse is to write it off as a curiosity.

Last year, Nakamura was the proverbial flash in the pan. But his spark was easily overlooked with Nippon Ham already out of the frying pan and well on the way to its rendezvous with the fire.

Playing catchup is for suckers...August 8, 2002

With the threat of becoming a satellite of Major League Baseball Inc., looming as a distinct possibility, Japanese owners badly need to revive Matsutaro Shoriki's ambitious dream as a model for re-making baseball here--not as a junior partner to the North American game but as a vibrant, dynamic rival that competes on equal terms for the most talented players in the world.

End of an era for Swallows..August 1, 2002

Baseball lost one of its great characters on Tuesday, when Masayasu Okada, the man who brought green plastic umbrellas and the Tokyo Ondo to Jingu Stadium, died of pneumonia at the age of 71.

Joaquin Andujar lives--in Fukuoka...July 25, 2002

OK. Joaquin Andujar is not pitching in Fukuoka, at least not in person. But his legacy lives on in Hawks pitcher Kenichi Wakatabe's multiple personalites.

A very special summer...July 18, 2002

For once, two All-Star games seemed like a perfect number. For this summer at least, Japanese baseball had the greatest show on Earth. Not long after the major league All-Star managers provided the anticlimax for the ages with a tie game, fans here got a double dose of the real thing.

When baseball traditions clash...July 11, 2002

The great thing about the All-Star Game, or rather All-Star games, is the tradition of confrontation between each league's best players. Unlike the regular season, when play is often dictated by gamesmanship, the summer series is more about a show of individual skills. But this great and entertaining tradition is colliding with another: the tiresome habit of ignoring pitchers' overwork in Japan.

World Series no substitute for World Cup...July 4, 2002

As the world changes and sports marketing becomes increasingly global, baseball leagues, like the top soccer leagues, can make money from selling their televised product around the world--but only if there is someone who wants to pay to watch. Organizing meaningful international competition is the way to build that interest.

When baseball traditions clash...June 26, 2002

Just as injuries to a team's big names provides an artless answer to a manager's critics, they also create opportunities to experiment. As often as not, teams lack the talent they need to be much more competitive because the organization lacks the vision or creativity to see what it's players can actually do.

Baseball coming to Sapporo big time...June 20, 2002

The Lion King has thrown in the towel in the battle for Sapporo. For three months, Seibu owner Yoshiaki Tsutsumi, in an effort to protect his club's modest investments in the Hokkaido metropolis, had tried to block the Nippon Ham Fighters from pulling up stakes in Tokyo and emigrating to Hokkaido.

Tsutsumi had insisted all along that the last thing Sapporo needed was a baseball team to call its own--unless, of course, that team was the Lions, who were planning to play up to a third of their home games at Sapporo Dome.

Forget hooligans, watch out for body snatchers...June 13, 2002

Why are baseball owners saying, "There will be PKs in OUR time"--thus taking a page out of Neville Chamberlain's play book? What fans do they hope to gain? What's next, appointing FIFA to organize ticket sales? One look at a Nippon Ham Fighters' weeknight crowd might suggest this is already occurring. Are those blocks of uniformed students actually paying to get in as part of school excursions, or are they there for show in the same way South Korean Cup organizers have taken to packing empty seats with school kids?

Age before beauty and baseball...June 6, 2002

In a perfect world, if you have a 32-year-old veteran who is barely good enough to play everyday and a 24-year-old who is exactly as good, then--barring evidence to the contrary--you'd play the 24-year-old and tell the veteran to either accept a part-time role or find a new occupation. The world doesn't work like that, of course, whether it's baseball, yakyu or your workplace. It might not be any more pronounced in Japan than in the majors, but it sure seems like it some times.

The lowdown on high strikes...May 30, 2002

OK. The games are faster, slightly. The 64,000 yen question is whether or not they are better. For a lot of people, a better game means pitchers working quickly, the defense making great plays and runners challenging fielders' arms. Watching batters going to the plate knowing they are in a hole to begin with is no one's idea of fun, at least not unless one is a pitching coach.

The death of a .400 hitter...May 23, 2002

Baseball lost a passionate voice on Monday, when paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould died at the age of 60 from cancer. A Harvard professor best known for his prolific and popular writings on science and evolution, Gould focused his keen insight on baseball in numerous articles about the sport he loved.

The case for the defense...May 16, 2002

Of all the wonderful ideas and concepts that analyst Bill James has contributed over the years, one of the easiest to overlook is his assertion that a lot of what we think of as pitching is actually defense. Nowhere was this more apparent than in last weekend's battle for first place in the Central League between the Yomiuri Giants and the Hanshin Tigers at Tokyo Dome.

Anyone ready for Hara Magic?...May 9, 2002

After starting off the pennant race on the wrong foot, the Yomiuri Giants have been on a roll. For Giants fans, this is a welcome change from the first two weeks of the season, when freshman skipper Tatsunori Hara was outmanaged and outmaneuvered on a nightly basis.

Do away with slow pitch hardball...May 2, 2002

Sooner or later it's going to dawn on the lords of the game that cutting  at-bats per game with a larger strike zone does little to eliminate dead time.

Opening Pandora's batters box...April 25, 2002

The new zone is here, but no one seems to know exactly what it is. It seems that telling the umps to change their view of the world has caused them to lose control of the one thing most of them were good at--calling pitches inside and outside.

Keep Terahara out of the arms race...April 18, 2002

Why should anyone care how the Hawks use Terahara? Hideo Nomo is a good pitcher now, but his best years were long gone before he ever threw a pitch in the majors. The Kintetsu Buffaloes made sure of that by giving Nomo abusive workloads for four straight seasons.

Tigers first out of the gate...April 11, 2002

Talk about a fast start. The Hanshin Tigers sprinted out of the gate like their uniforms were on fire. Their 7-0 start was the club's first since the Japan League played two seasons a year, one in the spring and one in the fall, back when Korea was a part of the Japanese empire.

Lions owner looking out for Hokkaido...April 4, 2002

Despite his image as a cold autocrat, Seibu Lions owner Yoshiaki Tsutsumi, proved last week that he has a soft spot for Hokkaido. He demonstrated his fondness for the people of Sapporo by warning them of the dangers of having their own baseball team.

Nippon Ham fighting for new frontier..March 28, 2002

The Nippon Ham Fighters stunned many in the baseball world with the announcement last Wednesday that they were making plans to move the team to Sapporo. While there has been talk for years that one of three PL teams, the Fighters, Orix BlueWave and Seibu Lions would head take up residence in Sapporo, the Lions had appeared to have the lead in the race.

Tigers enjoy spring roll..March 21, 2002

The fans of the Hanshin Tigers aren't the only ones who wish the season could start yesterday. Long-time Dragon lord Senichi Hoshino has breathed some fire into his new charges. And his Koshien cats, whom many thought were extinct, have been on the prowl

Fighters know who's on 1st; rest is a mystery..March 14, 2002

Hope springs eternal, but it takes a lot of optimism to see order, let alone hope, springing from the chaos that surrounds the Pacific League's Nippon Ham Fighters.

Cheap teams, cheap thrills and painful lessons..March 7, 2002

It's time to say goodbye to sky rocketing franchise values, and Daiei, a name famous for bargain prices, is leading the deflationary spiral.

2 solutions for minor headaches..Feb. 28, 2002

In addition to having to shell out for transporting farm team underlings around the country, teams are also faced with the cost of maintaining dormitories, practice grounds and dining halls. In addition to this is the cost of staff needed to cook, clean and see that the youngsters brush their teeth as well as bunt.

Player loans attract interest..Feb. 21, 2002

Warehousing players in farm systems is now the established and expected practice, but that doesn't make it right. It is a detriment to the development of both players and the game itself. If an organization keeps players it cannot use and under employs them on the bench or in a less competitive league, those players are unable to seek work elsewhere, where they can rise as high as their ability--as opposed to their organization's depth chart--will take them.

Get a grip on jumping balls...Feb. 14, 2002

Although the rabbit ball is an urban myth of impressive proportions in the U.S., there is documented evidence of the creature in Japan.

Nip contraction in the Bud...Feb. 7, 2002

Unfortunately, every time major league owners have acted in unison, something bad has resulted. Owner unity has resulted in preserving the color barrier until 1947, a collusive boycott of free agents, and a disastrous strike in 1994. So, when major league owners agree on something, it's time to check if you can't smell a rat.

Feeling the need for speed...Jan. 24, 2002

Although society has continued to rush onward like Kazuo Matsui lighting out for second base, baseball games have become mired in details, discussion and delays. The action is there but in between there are numbing numbers of throws to first base, batters standing out of the batters box adjusting themselves, and more conferences at the mound than a U.N. convention.

Hawks not for sale...Jan. 17, 2002

Despite the swirling cloud of debt that is rising around the headquarters of the Daiei supermarket chain, don't expect to see the Hawks go on the auction block anytime soon. Daiei has reportedly been looking for a purchaser for several years, but the company is no closer to finding a buyer for the Hawks than it is of making customers at its discount-oriented supermarkets feel like they're shopping at Harrods.

Ishii flies the nest...Jan. 10, 2002

While the posting system enables Japanese clubs to enrich themselves by selling players before they can go to the majors as free agents, you would be hard pressed to find anyone with a good word to say about it.

The real reason Shinjo's a Giant...Dec. 27, 2001

Seeing Mets GM Steve Phillips in action this winter, one gets the impression he spent his formative years separating suckers from their cash by running three-card Monte and shell games. The story we didn't read from the recently concluded winter meetings in Boston was that Phillips spent most of his time in a hotel hallway while suspicious but greedy GMs hovered around his card table.

Baseball'd better learn from the past...Nov. 29, 2001

Serious trouble is brewing for baseball on both sides of the Pacific this winter. Major league owners have decided that contraction is a viable method to blackmail its host communities, while in Japan, the Yokohama BayStars are now owned by a company that has a minority interest in the Yakult Swallows.

Chill in air means draft coming on...Nov. 15, 2001

Tired of having a draft system that satisfied no one, baseball's best and brightest have tied a Gordian knot that will infuriate everyone. For anyone who remembers being frustrated by new math, the new draft will bring a wave of nostalgia, nausea or both.

The over the hill gang rides again...Nov. 8, 2001

Now we have seen it all. Nothing seemed too unusual when manager Kazuhiro Yamauchi rushed out of the visitors dugout at Tokyo Dome last Thursday. But instead of complaining about a call by the umpires, Yamauchi was questioning the ages of the home players. The hosts were fielding four players under the age of 40--in clear violation of the rules...

Satoshi Iriki and other pitching oddities...Oct. 25, 2001

Iriki was as big a mystery to the Buffaloes hitters as he is to everyone else. It's as if he were a southpaw in a previous existence. Asked for a response to his first Japan Series win, Iriki answered, "My first win? Well it's the first time I've done that in my life."

Morons make you want to scream...Oct. 11, 2001

What a year for records. You have to love what Barry Bonds did, even if you dislike Bonds for his history of treating people indifferently. Some major league idiots said Bonds didn't deserve the record because the San Francisco Giants slugger was not a very nice person.

A well deserved bow for Nagashima...Oct. 4, 2001

So what if Shigeo Nagashima was not the greatest of managers, there's no denying his appeal. Nagashima was an unbelievably popular superstar and as generous and likable a guy as you'll ever find. Anybody who tells you that Nagashima was in the dugout for his managing prowess needs his head examined.

Japanese baseball comes of age...Sep. 27, 2001

Now that wasn't so painful. On Monday, Sadaharu Oh, king of Japanese baseball, was joined in the home run record book by Tuffy Rhodes of the Osaka Kintetsu Buffaloes. After the tearing of hair and gnashing of teeth that surrounded Randy Bass' 1985 quest for Oh's home run record, the feeling this year seems to be that Rhodes' effort is a pretty impressive achievement--rather than a disgrace for Japanese baseball.

The beat goes on in Japanese schools...Sep. 20, 2001

Figuratively speaking, getting beat is part of the game. But in Japan, a boy's education in the real world of baseball is based largely on arbitrary beatings. "It's very much like the military tradition in Japan," said Kenichi Yazawa, who was a Waseda University captain and later star first baseman for the Chunichi Dragons...

Swallows hit the wall...Sep. 13, 2001

For the umbrella-toting Tokyo Ondo-singing fans of the Yakult Swallows, last weekend's sweep at the hands of the Yomiuri Giants put some doubts about their club's Japan Series future.

Putting some sock in the pennant race...Sep. 6, 2001

The best thing about the Pacific League this year is how the home run race between Alex Cabrera of the Seibu Lions and Tuffy Rhodes of the Osaka Kintetsu Buffaloes is central to the discussion of which team will win the pennant. Great numbers accomplished in the effort to win games are meaningful. But accomplishing them in order to help your team win the biggest prize, that's something else altogether.

On BlackHoles and BayStars...Aug. 30, 2001

There is a dimension beyond those known to baseball fans. It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition. With apologies to the late great Rod Serling, this place is not the Twilight Zone, but rather a black hole in Yokohama, a phenomenon that has been identified as the cause for gaping holes in the BayStars' logic.

Nothing like inconsistency to keep things interesting...Aug. 23, 2001

Call it what you like: mediocrity, inconsistency or parity. Whatever you call it, fans are getting it in spades. With more than a month left in the pennant races, nobody is laying a solid claim to a title. The Yakult Swallows are this year's chief culprits in the Central League, while the Fukuoka Daiei Hawks and Osaka Kintetsu Buffaloes have to shoulder the blame for making the Pacific League race as exciting as it is.

Slugging it out at the bottom of the heap...Aug. 16, 2001

Everyone wants to talk about what it's like in first place. For the Osaka Kintetsu Buffaloes' Tuffy Rhodes, it's an exhilarating feeling. But being in last place, as the Buffaloes have done three times in Rhodes' last five seasons?

Do you believe in miracles?...Aug. 9, 2001

Yomiuri Giants manager Shigeo Nagashima does--or perhaps it's just his fondness for oddball phrases.

Yakult Swallows in the mood...Aug. 2, 2001

As every horror-movie fan knows, the best intentions have a way of turning out horribly wrong. Swallows manager Tsutomu Wakamatsu misplaced his secret formula this season. Instead of reproducing the friendly inoffensive lineup that reminded fans of the team's chubby mascot, he created a monster. The Swallows have mutated into birds of prey.

Buffaloes make hay while Nori's here...July 26, 2001

If the pennant race comes down to motivation, it may be hard to beat the Buffs, who know that Nakamura will not be with them much longer. The Osaka native is set to go to the majors next season and the feeling on the team is that this may be their best chance of winning a league title.

Buffaloes making themselves herd in PL pennant race...June 28, 2001

They come from out of the west, with a sound of thundering hoof beats, a cloud of dust and a hearty hi-yo silver...OK, scratch the high hi-yo silver, but like the Lone Ranger, the Osaka Kintetsu Buffaloes have been one of the more mysterious stories this season.

Marines on the march...June 14, 2001

The Chiba Lotte Marines have stolen a march on the rest of the Pacific League in recent weeks. With a slew of well-pitched games and some clutch hitting, Koji Yamamoto and his battalion have landed in the pennant race.

Carp fighting current...June 7, 2001

The Hiroshima Carp appear to be in a state of flux this season. They've been hovering around .500 for most of the year with a team whose starters have largely been determined by each day's casualty count.

Japan's yakyu wonderland...May 31, 2001

It's hard to say why, but the silly season has come early. Some people will no doubt tell you that Japan's baseball silly season begins each year on Feb. 1 and ends on Jan. 31. Whenever it is, you know we are in the midst of it.

Boomer still feeling baseball's beat...May 24, 2001

"You never hear me say 'Can't miss,'" Greg "Boomer" Wells told this writer last Saturday in a telephone interview. The subject was Ichiro Suzuki, and Boomer, a 10-year veteran of Japanese ball says he was an early believer.
Return to Jim Allen's baseball page
Contact Jim at