Ichiro to help Japan again in WBC 2009

Remember the inaugural World Baseball Classic? Ichiro Suzuki is the main parts that Japan won the Championship in 2006, and next March, he will represent Japan to defend their title.

According to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Ichiro told Kyodo News: “I will try to win the WBC in earnest again”.

The good news is due to Major League Baseball is handling the World Baseball Classic differently, starting spring training earlier and having Cactus League games stretch into the first week of April instead of ending March 23.

Unlike three years ago, Ichiro started the year in Japan and not in Peoria, Ariz., with the Mariners until the last two weeks of March. If Japan were to go to the finals again, Ichiro could once again be limited to just a couple of weeks of spring training.

Of course, now the Japan’s best player would take the field for his team, his participation is sure to shore up the WBC, but there are other controversial issue.

One is due to Major League Baseball, which doesn’t release its players (or at least alter the league’s schedule to allow them to play) for international competitions like the Olympics. With the Baseball season went through October, and pitchers and catchers reporting in early February, there’s a fairly narrow time for the WBC to hold its tournament

The other is even the WBC played during spring training, controversy among MLB players and teams has been the fatigue this adds to players, particularly pitchers, which could let it become preseason competition rather than a true competition.

For the eight-time Major League All-Star batted .364, scored seven runs in eight games and was a vocal leader, Ichiro ranked the Classic as a highlight of all of his career accomplishments.

“Apart from the Olympics, I really wanted this WBC tournament to be the event that decides the true world champions, so that’s why I participated in this event,” he said. “And at the end, I was able to be on the championship team, and this is probably the biggest moment of my baseball career.”

But the Seattle outfielder is not only playing, he is also urging Japanese baseball officials to get on with the job of picking a manager so the country can defend its title at the World Baseball Classic.

“(Japanese officials) say they want to build the strongest team, but at the same time say its difficult to pick an active manager,” Suzuki was quoted as saying in Sunday’s Nikkansports newspaper. “I wonder if they really want to build the best team.”

Right now Japan has had trouble finding a manager for the 2009 WBC, which starts in Tokyo on March 5. Two retired managers appear to be out of the picture.

Senichi Hoshino, who was the manager of the Japan team that failed to win a medal at the Beijing Olympics, has been mentioned as a candidate but has said he doesn’t want the job.

Sadaharu Oh, who guided Japan to the title at the inaugural WBC in 2006, stepped down as manager of the Softbank Hawks at the end of the 2008 season because of poor health.

Other candidates include active managers Katsuya Nomura of the Rakuten Eagles and Yomiuri Giants manager Tatsunori Hara.

Suzuki also said it’s important that Japan restores its baseball pride after such a disappointing result in Beijing. Japan finished fourth at Beijing despite having a team made up entirely of players from Nippon Professional Baseball leagues.

“We have to start out on the right foot if we want to get revenge for Beijing at the WBC,” said Suzuki.

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