Category Archives: World Baseball Classic

When Ichiro & Team Japan Won the WBC

That would be both World Baseball Classic tournaments before the 2013 edition, in 2006 and 2009. However, the stress of the latter tourney left Ichiro with a bleeding ulcer. He decided to sit out this year’s event, in which Team Japan got knocked out in the semifinals, thus ending Japan’s WBC mini-dynasty.

Coincidence? I think not.

Ichiro Hot Stove Report

He’s now a free agent… Will the Yankees re-sign the 39-year-old superstar, or will he go elsewhere? About halfway through the 2012 season I was about to call for his retirement, but Ichiro’s surprise midseason trade to the Bronx Bombers seemed to revitalize him. Whatever happens, I’d love to see him play another season, regardless of the team.

In other news, I was bummed to hear he won’t be playing in next year’s World Baseball Classic. As he said today in Tokyo:

I appreciate being asked to play for Japan again at the WBC, but after the second tournament in 2009, I never considered playing in the third event. My feelings have not changed to this day, and it’s where things stand.

I don’t remember him publicly saying he wouldn’t play in another WBC, though he might’ve kept the decision to himself. Still, he was a major factor in both of Japan’s WBC titles — and there have been only two WBCs thus far — but the stress of the 2009 tourney resulted in “severe fatigue caused by a bleeding ulcer.” The M’s placed him on the DL for the first time in his MLB career, and he missed the first nine games of the ’09 season. I’m guessing he wants to avoid the stress of a possible Japanese three-peat.

Here’s today’s story, along with recaps of his performances in the 2006 WBC and the 2009 WBC.

World Baseball Classic: 2009

As he did in the inaugural World Baseball Classic in 2006, Ichiro again played for Team Japan in the second WBC, held in March 2009.

In the first round, played in the Tokyo Dome, Japan beat China and and split a pair of games with Korea. In the second round, played at San Diego’s Petco Park, Japan twice shut out Cuba (who they previously beat in the ’06 WBC final), and again split a pair of games with Korea. In the semifinals, at Dodger Stadium, Japan beat the U.S. 9-4, and in the final game, again at Chavez Ravine, Japan faced off against rival Korea once more.

The Korean hostility directed at Ichiro during the ’06 WBC only seemed to escalate in ’09. A Facebook group called I HATE ICHIRO was created, boasting well over 500 members. Similar hateful garbage was posted here, here, and here, and some even sold Dr. Bong “Assassination of Ichiro” T-shirts. Topping it off is this “Ichiro is LOSER” video, in which his head gets chopped in half…

Yeesh. Of course I don’t condone any of this nasty stuff, but the all-things-Ichiro nature of this blog necessitates its inclusion. Moving on…

Ichiro batted a measly .167 in the WBC before breaking out against Korea in the final. He went 4-for-6 ,with a key extra-inning hit that secured Japan’s second WBC title. In the top of the tenth, with two out and the game tied at three, Ichiro’s tense, eight-pitch at-bat resulted in a two-run single that put Japan ahead for good. The historic hit…

The final score was 5-3, and Daisuke Matsuzaka was again named the WBC MVP. Ichiro hoists the trophy…

…displays his medal…

…and celebrates in the clubhouse…

Unfortunately, the stress of defending Japan’s WBC title resulted in suffering “severe fatigue caused by a bleeding ulcer.” The Mariners placed him on the DL for the first time in his Major League career, and he missed the first nine games of the ’09 season.

Hopefully he’ll be more relaxed for the third World Baseball Classic, scheduled for March 2013. Ichiro will be 39.

World Baseball Classic: 2006

Ichiro played for Team Japan in both World Baseball Classic tournaments held thus far. The WBC is an international competition between teams representing 16 countries, and is the first such tourney to feature current Major League ballplayers.

The inaugural Classic was held in March 2006. In the first round, played in the Tokyo Dome, Japan beat China and Chinese Taipei, but lost to Korea. In the second round, played at Anaheim’s Angel Stadium, Japan beat Mexico but lost to the U.S. and Korea (again). Still, with a 3-3 record, Japan advanced to the semifinals at San Diego’s Petco Park, where they finally beat Korea and advanced to the finals.

During those three Japan-Korea games, Ichiro was booed by some Korean fans for stating that he wanted “to beat South Korea so badly that the South Koreans won’t want to play Japan for another 30 years.” However, some felt his words were inaccurately translated into English, and what he actually said was, “I want to win in a way that the opponent would think, ‘we cannot catch up with Japan for the coming 30 years.’ We should not merely win the games.”

Whatever he said, the quote stirred up a bit of anti-Ichiro hostility among some Koreans, who likened him to a monkey. Apparently a Korean referring to a Japanese person as a monkey is a common insult, if not an outright ethnic slur.

In the March 20 final, Japan beat Cuba 10-6, also at Petco Park. Ichiro hit in all six games of the series, batting 12-for-33 (.364) with a double and a home run. He also scored seven runs and drove in five, stole four bases, and had a .932 OPS. Ichiro was named to the tournament’s All-WBC team, but Japanese pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka won the tournament’s MVP award.

Uniform note: Ichiro had always worn long pants over his socks during his professional career, both with the Orix BlueWave and the Mariners. However, he switched to wearing his socks high at the ’06 WBC, and he’s worn them that way ever since.

Stay tuned for the 2009 WBC recap.