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Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2006


Dragons win CL with 'Girl Power' formula

Special to The Japan Times Online

YOKOHAMA -- When no challenge exists, for some, the answer is to manufacture one. Call it the Teenage Girl Syndrome -- when there isn't enough drama in a given situation, never underestimate a moody 16-year-old girl's ability to create some, and fast.

As the Central League regular season wound down, the Chunichi Dragons took on that role, taking what was an abominable, double-digit advantage in the standings and all but turning it into a sprint-to-the-end duel with the Hanshin Tigers.

News photo
Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters hurler Yu Darvish pours beer on Trey Hillman during the Fighters' celebration after the Hokkaido club won the franchise's first Pacific League pennant in a quarter century October 12. KYODO PHOTO

Chunichi split with the BayStars in the last weekend before clinching the CL pennant, for some reason taking a golden opportunity to slam the door against the league's worst team and wasting it.

But Tuesday at Tokyo Dome, the Dragons finally got the number of victories and Hanshin Tigers losses necessary to seal up a spot in the Japan Series.

Next season, however, the dramatics could become hysterics.

With the CL going to a three-team, two-stage playoff mirroring the Pacific League's setup, belly-flopping over the finish line may not be enough for Hiromitsu Ochiai's club.

The E-List has faith in Tyrone Woods and Kosuke Fukudome, and if the Japan Series goes fewer than six games, one Web-exclusive column will eat mud. Or maybe even natto.

SPEAKING OF CHUNICHI'S big boys, the E-List's imaginary ballot for CL MVP had Woods' name filled in atop Fukudome's, although both of them have had stellar seasons.

MEANWHILE IN THE PL, the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters are league champions for the first time since before either Yu Darvish or Tomoya Yagi, Nippon Ham's winning pitchers in Games 1 and 2 of the second-stage PL playoffs, were born.

The Fighters last won the pennant in 1981, while Yagi was born in Nov. 7, 1983, and Darvish came along Aug. 6, 1986.

Here's what the List says: 2006 won't be the last pennant the Fighters win before Yagi and Darvish hang it up.

AS THE JAPAN SERIES is less than a week from getting under way, the Trey Hillman sweepstakes is already heating up. The parallels between Hillman-san's spot and that of Bobby Valentine as the season wound down and the offseason wound up last year do exist.

Firstly, people (in the know and otherwise) are aware of who Hillman is, just as they were when Bobby V. started being discussed as a tariff-free import of Major League Baseball's. Hillman has been linked to jobs from Miami (sorry, Fredi Gonzalez) to Kansas City (really sorry, Buddy Bell) to Arlington (sorry Don Wakamatsu).

If Hillman manages anywhere outside of Japan next season, it will be in Texas with the Rangers. The whole thing makes way too much sense, but the List cannot discuss everything out in the open. Here's the deal: When Hillman-san heads to the Rangers, remind the List to tell you a story, and if he sticks with Nippon Ham, disregard this notice.

MOVING TO ANOTHER POSTSEASON, the List has this to say about MLB's playoffs: the race for wild-card spots is glorious, but the number of stinker series this year undercuts any potential excitement that may have resulted from the Cincinnati Reds being in the mix (theoretically) until the final weekend.

The Twins played great ball through the last four months of the season only to get swept by the punchless A's, who went on to get swept by the Detroit Tigers. Motown's madmen are a nice story, recovering after a swoon that saw them go from American League Central champs to the wild card, but even their series with the Yankees was not particularly thrilling.

In the National League, the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres made little noise before bowing out. At least the National League Championship Series has potential to be interesting with So "Good, Pretty, etc." Taguchi and the St. Louis Cardinals rallying from the verge of death and a 2-0 series deficit to a thrilling comeback and a solid showing in the next game. Now the Cardinals are in the driver's seat with a 2-1 advantage and a beaten-up Mets rotation on the ropes.

Wayne Graczyk said he would forgive Mets manager Willie Randolph for his Yankee past if he took the boys from Shea to the Fall Classic, but it is looking as if amnesty may have to wait a year.

The List was there when Randolph screwed up his first double switch, but the odds of being there for his first World Series as a manager are pretty slim, barring any flexibility in the laws of physics.

JUST A THOUGHT: With the Cardinals and Tigers both surging after swoons late in the regular season, maybe this will be Chunichi's year. The Fighters have never won a Japan Series and Chunichi has not won a title since 1954... something has to give.

THE RUST IS COMING off, but feel free to send the WD-40 to stephen@japantimes.co.jp just in case. Keep the natto to yourself, thank you very much.

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