Giants rule again as Japan seeks Classic threepeat
WASHINGTON (AFP) –
Two sets of Giants, San Francisco’s and Tokyo’s, won this year’s elite baseball leagues while Japan prepared to seek a third World Baseball Classic title in 2013 with no Major League Baseball stars.
The San Francisco Giants won their second North American title in three years by sweeping the Detroit Tigers in the World Series last October. The Giants won their first crown since leaving New York in 1958 over Texas in 2010.
“I’m numb to the fact we’ve won two World Series in the past three years. I’m kind of speechless,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “It’s amazing. I’m proud of a group of guys who were not going to be denied.”
San Francisco third baseman Pablo Sandoval was named Most Valuable Player of the World Series, the Venezuelan slugger nicknamed “Kung Fu Panda” hitting three home runs in game one and knocking in 13 runs over four games.
“I was ready for the moment,” Sandoval said. “I was waiting for the opportunity so I pulled everything together.”
The Giants were often on the brink of elimination in the playoffs, winning the last three games of their first post-season series against Cincinnati and taking three must-win games over St. Louis just to reach the World Series.
“When our backs are to the wall, that’s the time when we’re having fun,” Sandoval said.
Giants catcher Buster Posey, the National League batting champion with a .336 average, was named the league Most Valuable Player (MVP). He missed most of the 2011 campaign with a broken bone and torn ligaments in his left ankle.
Venezuelan slugger Miguel Cabrera of Detroit won the American League MVP award after becoming the first batter since Boston leftfielder Carl Yastrzemski in 1967 to win the Triple Crown by leading the league in batting average (.330), home runs (44) and runs batted in (139).
The Tokyo Yomiuri Giants captured their record 22nd Japanese baseball crown by defeating Hokkaido’s Nippon Ham Fighters in six games in the Japan Series. Tokyo pitcher Tetsuya Utsumi won two games and was named the series MVP.
Japan League talent will be called upon to subdue the best Major League Baseball has to offer next March when the third World Baseball Classic will be staged in Japan, Taiwan, Puerto Rico and the United States.
Yu Darvish, the Japanese star who went 16-9 for Texas last season in his first North American campaign, said he will not play for his homeland in the Classic because he must rest before the North American season starts in April.
“This was a very difficult decision for me as it is always a tremendous honor to represent my native country,” said Darvish, the ace of Japan’s 2009 championship team.
“Getting ample rest is the most important thing for me right now as I prepare for the 2013 season.”
Ichiro Suzuki was the only top US major league player on Japan’s roster when the Samurai won the inaugural 2006 Classic crown, but Suzuki has joined other top Japanese players on US clubs in begging off for next year’s Classic.
“We have to live with what has been decided. We have no choice but to move forward,” said Japan manager Koji Yamamoto, a former Hiroshima Toyo Carp manager named in October to guide Japan’s Classic lineup.
Japan’s next young pitching star, 18-year-old Shohei Otani, had said in October he wanted to sign with a US club but was expected to join the Ham Fighters in Japan for the 2013 season.
Japan won the Little League World Series title for the eighth time as Noriatsu Osaka went 4-for-4 with three homers and four RBI as Japan beat Goodlettsville, Tennessee 12-2 in the title game. It was Japan’s fifth trip to the final in seven years.