Monday, August 25, 2014

Final Thoughts

To carry my thoughts on the final to my final thoughts on this Koushien...

I for one was happy so many powerhouses were left out of Koushien this year. If I had my way, Komatsu Ootani and Sekine Gakuen would have been here instead of Seiryou and Nihon Bunri respectively. I root for the underdog whenever I can because I think 甲子園 should not be reserved for the top schools who can recruit and bring in talent. There is so much being made about that there are 3917 schools that compete for the right to get to Koushien every spring and summer.

But realistically, only a fraction of those realistically has a chance. Maybe around 200-300, or about 2.5% of the schools realistically have a chance at just getting to Koushien. Once you get here, the chances of winning it are even slimmer - remember, just by location alone, 20 prefectures have not yet even won 1 Natsu Koushien title.

And so if you're talented ballplayer, what do you think when you live in say Tottori, where no one has won a title, and you aspire to win one?

Of course, you go to a school that has a track record of winning titles - and an already weakened prefecture gets even more so.

You want an immediate example? Ace Fukushima, 3B Katsuki and LF Nakamura all hail from... Fukuoka - where the last title won from there was back in 1992 with Nishi-Nippon Tankidai Fuzoku.

And so the stronger get stronger, and the rest, well... who cares because they're not winners.

It's why I now almost despise the powerhouses with a passion. Their brand name carries them so far, from recruiting all the way to in-game play where the no-names have to fight the constant whipping they receive just to have a chance. And even then, like in the case of Komatsu Ootani and Sekine Gakuen this year and like Kakunodate and Kasumigaura last year, getting the final 3 outs is mentally more tough than anything out there.

And yet, it's Seiryou that's lauded for their comeback because they're Seiryou and they showed their power when I argue that no, it's poor Komatsu Ootani who couldn't overcome the victim mentality when things started to go wrong.

I think my best comparison is saying the powerhouse schools are say the Big 5 conferences in college football, and the rest of the schools are the other Division 1 schools. Yes, they're there, but no, they're rarely if ever going to be considered for the title.

Think about this. With Osaka Touin's win today, they have won 3 of the last 7 Natsu Koushien titles.

Okay, but one could argue to me.. "Well you rooted for Komadai Tomakomai in 2006 and they were going to their 3rd straight Natsu title? What about that?"

Well, for one, they're from Hokkaido - and until they won back in 2004, no team had won from Hokkaido. So I wanted them to make the most of their run while they had it. You can see that they went to Koushien one more year, but after that has faded into almost anonymity.

"And what about rooting for Kouryou back in 2007?"

That's a fair question. And my answer is it was during that time that I still had not seen 高校野球 the way I do now. And I rooted for Kouryou because they seemed like a strong team that deserved to win.

Of course, while I still like Kouryou, if I were to go back to 2007 knowing what I know now, I probably would root for Saga Kita.

And that's why this year I was happy to see the non-powerhouses have their day. Kasukabe Kyouei defeating Ryuukokudai Heian right off the bat, Toyama Shougyou, Mie, Jyouhoku, Moriokadai Fuzoku amongst others. It was fun to see their fanbases be able to cheer for a victory as opposed to just being there.

But in the end Osaka Touin won - and I can understand it because of the dynamic that exists today. But the pessimist in me sees that one tactic in the 7th as something that made the win unbearable - because since they were losing - to Mie no less, they would resort to things like that to gain an advantage and "rightly" claim the title.

In America - I wouldn't doubt it at all. In Japan, in 高校野球, I would have said in the past "Never.". But now I can't discount the possibility, and that is what saddens me and puts a even bigger shadow on something that I liked so much.


JH said...

Thanks for the post. This is adds more inspirations on top of many inspirations I already received from this blog.

Although I join you in your sadness, maybe there still are bright sides we can take into account.

First, as you said, many notable powerhouses (not to mention the big mighty Sanko) failed to reach Koshien. This may mean that their dominance in the prefecture level are not invulnerable. Chiben Wakayama, the very embodiment of a powerhouse monopoly, was toppled two years straight, a shocking event which would have been unthinkable a few years ago.

JH said...

Second, while Touin won the championship, it was a very close call. Probably the only comfortable game they had was against Yazu. In all other 4 games, the opponents had several chances to gun down Touin. 2011 Sanko or 2012 Touin may have cruised without trouble from start to finish, but it might take years to see such a dominant "powerhouse among powerhouse" who could neutralize every upset attempt. Who would have thought that 2011 Kanzei would send Kyukoku back to Fukuoka right off the bat? (You saw that game in person, right?)

Yes, Touin won AGAIN (which disappoints me), but I think there are many factors to believe that powerhouse monopoly in the national level would be possible, but would not be so easy. There may not be a Saga Kita scale miracle, but we might see another Maebashi Ikuei in a few years. (Maybe not, but I dearly hope so.)

JH said...

There were days when people thought that PL would win 10 titles in a row and stay in that throne until the kingdom come. Well, now we know where they are.

Of course the vacuum left by the exit of one powerhouse may simply be filled with another powerhouse and that is a rational prediction. But remembering Saga Kita who did the unthinkable, I will keep my seat despite bad omens and wait for the rise of the wild cards.

Yes, there may be only a handful of schools that might have a chance to reach Koshien, but there still are 170,000 players and thousands of schools that aspire to score one more run and win one more game. Even if their effort does not guarantee the ultimate victory, I will cheer them on like I joined you in rooting for Nihon Bunri's 9th inning wild ride in 2009. Yep, they lost in the end, but that inning made me love kokoyakyu even more.

Thanks again for all the works this summer. Whether my side win or lose, your writings always make me enjoy kokoyakyu, and I don't know I could express my deep gratitude.

westbaystars said...

I've seen a lot of appeals for a dead ball that wasn't over the years at Koshien, so I'm not not so surprised the tactic was used. Unsportsman like? Yes. The reason Osaka Toin won? I wouldn't go that far. That weakly hit blooper in center was almost out number three. But the difference between winning and losing is sometimes a mere handful of centimeters.

The problem you're describing with the strong getting stronger is a common problem in all walks of life. The rules are made so that the rich get richer. Those with power may retain their power. Every once in a while a disruption will happen, and the disruptors that succeed will change rapidly, creating more efficiencies and/or changing the rules so that they may come out on top.

The current power house teams are just the most recent group to have optimized winning. They don't have to pass laws to keep in power, just optimize the recruiting process and winnowing out the best of the best.

Komadai got a great set of players for a few years, but failed to get a process in place to continue churning out championships.

Goro Shigeno said...

Westbay, the problem I have is that the tactic got them to the point where Nagano-kun had to make the play. Yes, it was almost the 3rd out, but it's possible it wouldn't have gotten to that point if they hadn't done it in the first place.

The problem is, the inefficiencies in kokoyakyu that exist can be easily exploitable by the powerhouse teams more than the average school. Which means that they will just get even that much stronger.

Not that the majority of the readers would mind I imagine. If it means that Osaka Touin, Yokohama, Nichidai-san etc. win more titles all the better.

JH said...

Aki-taikai has commenced in Kanagawa!!!

.....and Yokohama was mercy-ruled in the second round against Keio. Wow. This was unexpected.

Report tells that it has been 44 years since the last time Yoko-kou was mercy-ruled in a Kanagawa-level game.