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John E. Gibson

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Hard-hitting Fighters lack star power

by John E. Gibson (Nov 2, 2009)

It's easy to forget who the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters are.

When they won the Japan Series in 2006, the camera-hogging Tsuyoshi Shinjo was a team leader along with the recognizable--but taciturn--Michihiro "Guts" Ogasawara, now with the Yomiuri Giants.

The Fighters reached the Series again in '07, and many of those players form the core that faces the Giants in this year's Series clash.

But other than Sawamura Award-winning Yu Darvish, many fans nationwide would have trouble naming other Nippon Ham starters.

"We aren't the ones who decide who the marquee players are, it's the fans who do that," said shortstop Makoto Kaneko, the 1996 rookie of the year.

"We're players and we go out and do what we have to do at a given time to win games," said Kaneko, who compared those Series teams under former skipper Trey Hillman to the current squad.

"Defensively, we are similar to those teams--we might even be a little bit better. Because of the experience we've gained around the infield the past couple of season, I would even say that we're more solid."

But these Fighters have a better team batting average and score more runs.

"As far as batting goes, it doesn't matter how much you hit, if you don't bunch hits together you can't score."


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