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Saturday, Oct. 28, 2006

Seguignol Shimmy, Shinjo's tears . . . and more

Staff writer

SAPPORO -- The Japan Series wrapped up Thursday in Hokkaido, and Japan Times baseball writer Stephen Ellsesser is taking the first train out of here, before hopping a plane for Tokyo.

Only a farewell plate of Genghis Khan stands in the way as Ellsesser flexes his street-cred muscles with a Sapporo Wrap, paying homage to all the little Hamlets in Hoshiwood.

In a sentence: The Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters continued doing what they've done pretty much since mid-September, kick butt.

A true statement: Anyone who thought the Fighters were going to lose in Sapporo needs to e-mail me about oceanfront property in Arizona for sale.

Best dance: The (Fernando) Seguignol Shimmy. Nippon Ham's cleanup hitter knew what his two-run homer in the sixth inning of Game 5 meant, and he took his sweet time rounding the bases, slapping hands and pointing as Sapporo Dome erupted. Style and substance for the Panamanian on that one.

Most disappointing dead-end subplot: Anticipation of the antics Tsuyoshi Shinjo planned to break out for the last Sapporo series. Unless you count the tears during his final at-bat, Shinjo was nothing more than his usual self, including those unnaturally white teeth.

Man, he could blind a person in the right light.

Call it just deserts: Chunichi Dragons manager Hiromitsu Ochiai getting outmanaged in the Japan Series after telling reporters who asked what his feelings about the Japan Series were on the eve of Game 1 in Nagoya, "I haven't thought about it yet. The series begins tomorrow." Considering some of the moves Ochiai made, it is enough to make fans, lads and countrymen alike wonder whether he forgot to think about it when things finally got under way. Dropping four straight may have been a little appropriate for that natural spring of attitude Ochiai.

Something about Alex: First it was Alex Cabrera, then it was Alex Rodriguez. Now the Alex Slump is back in Japan, winding up with Chunichi center fielder Alex Ochoa.

Alex was 3-for-12 in three games before being dropped a spot in the lineup (where he went 0-for-4) and finally getting benched for Game 5.

Alex was tapped as a pinch-hitter in the top of the ninth, coming and flying out to Hichori Morimoto for the final out, ending a difficult series for the former major leaguer.

Better living through celebration: All those times a certain shaggy-headed sports writer has wondered just what 1,500 beers all opened at once and spilled in a room the size of a small gymnasium smell like were finally given an answer -- hops. And not like Kobe Bryant. The smell from the Fighters' beer shower could have made a wildebeest tipsy.

Burning question about the winner: How does Shinjo get his teeth so white?

Next one through the door: Fighters manager Trey Hillman. You could hardly breathe last October without hearing about how Bobby Valentine was the first foreign manager to be in the Japan Series in 31 years, and even more Bobby V. insanity turned loose when he became the first foreign skipper to win the thing. No one really talked much about Hillman being the second gaijin manager to go top. Still it does not diminish the accomplishment.

Three thumbs down: For Kosuke Fukudome and Tyrone Woods, who combined to win a CL Triple Crown this season. Fukudome (the CL batting champ) went 4-for-20 with a walk and a solo home run, while run-producer extraordinaire Woods was 4-for-15 with five walks, with no home runs and no RBIs. Without those guys doing what they did all season, Chunichi was dead in the water.

Best reason not to cry: Chunichi catcher Motonobu Tanishige's words to Shinjo during his final at-bat in the eighth inning, "Don't cry! We'll throw only fastballs your way."

Nonetheless, Shinjo struck out in the eighth.

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