Sayonara Amerika, Sayonara Nippon

Hatsu Basho

Posted in baseball by bourdaghs on the January 9th, 2010

The New Year sumo tournament gets underway in Tokyo tomorrow. Yokozuna Hakuho is the hands down favorite to take home the big trophy. His closest rival, fellow yokozuna Asashoryu, has provided the usual quota of pre-tournament bizarre behavior, although he apparently looked pretty good at the public Yokozuna Deliberation Council exhibition a week or so ago (he also is said to have tired quickly, though). But on that day Hakuho won 27 of 29 matches, including both of his direct face-offs against Asashoryu.

Probably the biggest story going in to the basho is that, barring a miracle, this is almost certainly the last hurrah for the great Chiyotaikai. After two losing records in a row, he has lost his rank of ozeki. He can regain it with at least ten wins this time around, but that seems highly unlikely, and he’s promised to retire if he falls short. He’s always been a tsuppari-style fighter, battering his opponents with powerful arm thrusts, but in the last year or so his blows have lost their sting. According to reports from Japan, his training was going pretty well until about a week ago, when he injured his arm. It will also be interesting to see if ozeki Kotooshu or sekiwake Baruto are able to make their move up to the next level, but in both cases we’ve been waiting for that moment for some time now. I’m not holding my breath.

In the “think spring” category, the recent retirement of pitching great Randy Johnson has led to an interesting tribute over at The Hardball Times: a word cloud of the names of all the batters Johnson struck out over the years, with font size reflecting the number of times each batter has whiffed at Johnson’s pitches. And I leave with you some nice old video of Chiyotaikai in better days, knocking off Asashoryu in an exciting match to clinch the March 2003 tournament championship.

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