Chaos and Kanji is the blog where I write about my adventures through Japan!

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Sunday, January 10, 2021

Farewell Rami-chan

 I came to Japan nine years ago knowing nearly nothing about the country, its people, and its customs. That was true for baseball as well.

Over time, I've learned about the history, teams, and players of the NPB. While Japan has had several superstars, I've only chosen to "supercollect" two of them. Coincidentally, both of them played for Yokohama. Motonobu Tanishige played in the NPB from 1989 through 2015, first for Yokohama and then the Dragons, managing the Dragons from 2014 to 2016. Alex Ramirez, after playing for the Indians and Pirates, played in Japan 2001-2013.

Ramirez was the Indians 1998 Minor League Player of the Year, and made his MLB debut that year. In mid-2000 he was traded to Pittsburgh. Over 135 games in three seasons, he batted a respectable but not outstanding .259 with 12 home runs and 48 RBIs.

He signed with the Yakult Swallows in 2001 and batted cleanup, and even held the Central League record for most hits in a season with 204 during the 2007 season (Matt Murton would break that record in 2010, also breaking Ichiro's single-season NPB record; that record would then be surpassed by Shogo Akiyama in 2015). He signed with the Yomirui Giants the next year, performing even better than before and taking home the league MVP award.

Ramirez would play for Yomiuri through 2011, spending the final two years of his NPB playing career with the BayStars. In early 2013, Ramirez hit a home run for his 2000th career hit in the league, the 42nd player to do so and the first foreign player to ever reach that mark. 2000 NPB hits is a comparable milestone to 3000 hits in the MLB.

As a player in the NPB, Ramirez won the Central League MVP award twice, was an eight-time All-Star, won the Japan Series twice, was the 2008 Central League Championship Series MVP, won the Best Nine Award four times, was the 2009 Central League batting champion, a three-time league leader in RBIs, and led the Central League in home runs in 2003.

Ramirez was given the nickname Rami-chan in Japan, probably due to his playful attitude; -chan is a suffix used for small children. (As a side note, -kun is also used for boys, and Masahiro Tanaka's nickname in Japan is Ma-kun, most likely due to his young appearance, and possibly behavior.) Many of Ramirez's subset cards show him interacting with team mascots or goofing off.

Over 13 seasons at the plate in the NPB, he hit .301 with 2017 hits, 380 home runs, and 1272 RBI.

The 2014 season was spent as a player-coach in the independent BCL with the Gunma Diamond Pegasus team. He retired at the end of that season, and served as an advisor for the Orix Buffaloes for part of the 2015 season.

The BayStars brought Ramirez back as manager in 2016, and he took the team to the playoffs in three of his five years with the team. In 2016, the team had a losing record but still managed to finish third, and beat the second-place Giants to advance to the second stage of league playoffs. In 2017, they again finished third, but beat the Tigers and Carp to make it to the Japan Series, where they lost to the dynasty Hawks. The 2018 season was his worst as a manager, finishing fourth with a .475 winning percentage. The BayStars returned to the playoffs in 2019, finishing in second place but losing in the first round to the third-place Tigers. The shortened 2020 season saw the team back in fourth place, two games under .500. Over five seasons, the BayStars had a regular-season record of 336-337.

Ramirez announced his retirement in October, and was given a farewell ceremony at the end of the season. Epoch made an Epoch One card commemorating the event:

I never did see him play in person, and in fact I never saw him manage, either. But perhaps I'll get to see him some other way; he opened a restaurant in 2013, which has since closed, but perhaps he'll try again. Or maybe he'll show up at an event.

3 comments:

  1. That's a cool farewell card. Does he plan to stay in Japan or come back to the United States?

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  2. It is the end of an era, I never saw him play in person but saw him a lot on TV. An all time great.

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  3. I got to see him play for the Baystars in an open-sen game in Yokohama on my first trip to Japan in 2013 and saw him manage two games for the Baystars on my second trip in 2019. Always loved the cards showing him horsing around with the mascots. I hope he gets another shot at managing.

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