As Americans, we only care about international sporting events if we’re the best at the sport or have an underdog team that has a chance to beat a dominant country. If neither of those scenarios ring true, we generally act like said international sporting event is stupid and doesn’t matter.
However, for some reason we’re fascinated with players who come from overseas and star in the WBC. Daisuke Matsuzaka, Yu Darvish, Yoenis Cespedes, Jose Abreu, and Kenta Maeda all had significant hype even before the event. I suppose a lot of that hype is because of the unknown. We don’t see these guys play so we’re drawn in when some baseball writer who watched a YouTube clip compares them to Mickey Mantle or Nolan Ryan. Shohei Otani was supposed to be this year’s future MLB superstar to watch, but because of injury he won’t be pitching in the World Baseball Classic.
If you’re unfamiliar, he’s the best baseball player in Japan right now. I say baseball player because he doesn’t just pitch, he also hits. And hits well. You don’t see any American players doing that. Typical USA, getting softer every day. In 2016 Otani put up a 1.004 OPS to go along with his 1.86 ERA. Because he can hit, we might still see him in the tournament. Just not doing what people think he’ll do once he signs with an MLB team.
The underrated part of Otani’s story is that his team in Japan is called the Nippon Ham Fighters. I’m glad I googled them first because for a good five minutes I literally thought their nickname was the Ham Fighters. No, it’s Nippon-Ham Fighters. Before googling I wrote some jokes on this post about them trying to come up with a fancy nickname for butchers or that maybe Japan has a deep rooted pig fighting ring that we don’t know about. Well now PETA can’t come after me because those jokes don’t make sense. My stupidity makes it all okay.