Every new year begins with a list about the old one. Here's my 2008 list of notable events in Japanese baseball.
10. Ichiro Reaches 3000 total NPB/MLB hits; has 8th consecutive 200-hit season
Ichiro has started his MLB career with eight straight 200-hit seasons, tieing Willie Keeler's century-old mark for most consecutive 200 hit seasons. Ichiro has also surpassed 3000 hits in his NPB/MLB career and needs three more to surpass Isao Harimoto's record for Japanese players (3085).
9. Daijiro Ohishi keys surprising Orix turnaround
Orix was 21-28 when manager Terry Collins quit on May 21. Ohishi took over and led the team to a 2nd place finish with a 75-68-1, including a 55-40-1 mark while he was at the helm.
8. Kazuhiro Kiyohara Retires
Kiyohara finally succombed to injuries after being in the national baseball spotlight since the early 80's, first as a high school star, then as a 22-year NPB veteran.
7. Hideo Nomo Retires
MLB pioneer retired in June after being released from the KC Royals and failing to hook on with another team. He was last seen coaching for the Orix Buffaloes in the team's fall camp.
6. Junichi Tazawa signs with Boston
Tazawa became the first consensus first-round draft pick to forgo professional baseball in Japan for a career in America.
5. Bobby Valentine and Chiba Lotte agree to part ways after the 2009 season
After a series of disagreements, Bobby V and Chiba Lotte agreed not to renew the manager's contract beyond 2009. Bobby took the Marines from being a perennial doormat to being a perennial contender, while also serving as one of the top advocates for Japanese baseball.
4. Hisashi Iwakuma edges Yu Darvish for the Sawamura
Iwakuma won 21 games for the also-ran Rakuten Eagles to take his first Sawamura Award & Pacific League MVP. Darvish was more dominant by some measures but had to settle for second best in '08.
3. Seibu beats Yomiuri for Japan Series Title
In a return to form for both teams, the Lions beat out the Giants in a closely fought, 7-game Japan Series. Seibu remarkably won the Series just two years after losing ace Daisuke Matsuzaka to the Red Sox.
2. Team Japan Disappoints in the Olympics
Japan's NPB star-studded team couldn't beat Korea, Cuba, or the USA and finished out of the medals for the first time since the 2000 games in Sydney. The performance led to Senichi Hoshino's departure as the Japan National Team manager.
1. Sadaharu Oh Retires from Field Duties
Oh retired as field manager of the Fukuoka Daiei/SoftBank Hawks after 14 years on the job. Oh led the Hawks to Japan Series titles in 1999 and 2003, and a Japan Series appearance in 2000. Oh will remain with the Hawks in a front office capacity.
Honorable mentions: So Taguchi becomes the latest NPB vet to win a World Series Ring; 2008 crop of Japanese MLB imports mostly disappoint; Hiroki Kuroda thows a gem against the Braves; Hisayoshi Chono refuses to sign with the Chiba Lotte Marines in the hopes of being drafted by the Giants