It is already worldwide news that the MLB All-Stars were dominated by Samurai Japan in the 2014 Japan Series. Over a total of seven games played in Japan this past week, two of which were exhibition games and not a part of the series, Japan won four of the seven.
The MLB All-Stars were essentially swept in the five game series with Japan winning the first three games of the contest; but, since this isn’t playoff baseball, the MLB All-Stars were able to play games four and five, thus being able to save a little face.
Samurai Japan’s combined batting average was .253 while the All-Stars put up a measly .197 collective average. MLB was outscored 16-13 over the course of the series.
In the third and what would have been final game of the series had they been playing in the MLB postseason, four of the Japanese pitchers combined to no-hit their opponents, defeating the All-Stars by the score of 4-0
It is pretty obvious that Samurai Japan was the clear winner of the series overall but it is more than the end result that should be looked at. Each team had their shining moments and certain players stood out from their peers.
For Japan, Yugi Yanagita was named series MVP. He was the first non-MLB player to win the award since the series started in 1986. This was only the second time that the Japanese took home the series title.
However, as with any series or team certain players were winners going back to their countries and others didn’t fare as well. Let’s take a look at some of the MLB All-Star winners and losers from the 2014 Japan Series.
Matt Shoemaker, RHP, Los Angeles Angels
Shoemaker found his way into the Angels starting rotation in 2014 and the 28-year-old rookie made a major impression. Runner up to the Chicago White Sox Jose Abreu for the American League Rookie of the Year Award, Shoemaker made 20 starts for the Angels in 2014. He ended up going 16-4 with a 3.04 ERA.
For Shoemaker the Japan Series was his chance to prove that his rookie numbers were no fluke and he passed with flying colors.
In game one Shoemaker scattered six hits over five innings, allowing two runs and striking out five. It’s important to note that all pitchers were limited to 80 pitches. Otherwise it’s likely he would have been able to go deeper into the game in both of his starts.
He got the win in his second start, the fifth game of the series. He allowed just two hits (one of which was picked off at first) and no runs over his five innings of work.
Shoemaker emerges from the Japan Series with more credibility and good news for the Angels. The kid can pitch.
Justin Morneau, First Baseman, Colorado Rockies
Morneau was the 2006 American League MVP with the Minnesota Twins. A four-time All-Star the 33-year-old’s numbers dropped a bit between 2011-2013.
In 2014 he won the National League batting title as a member of the Colorado Rockies, hitting .319 on the year along with 17 home runs and 82 RBI. It was somewhat of a comeback season for the first baseman.
Morneau proved that he is still the Justin Morneau of old during the Japan Series. He led both the Samurai Japan and the MLB All-Stars in both home runs and RBI over the five game series showing the Rockies and the baseball world that, perhaps, there will be another All-Star appearance for him in the not too distant future.
Jose Altuve, Second Baseman, Houston Astros
A 24-year-old relatively unknown player-turned-superstar named Jose Altuve won the American League batting title in 2014 while playing for the oft forgotten Houston Astros.
He led the entire league hitting .341 with 225 hits over the course of the season.
Already a two-time All-Star, Altuve had to prove his star power by winning the batting title. Now baseball fans everywhere are rooting for the tiny, 5’4″ young man.
He didn’t disappoint in the Japan Series leading the MLB All-Stars, like he led all of Major League Baseball, in batting average. Altuve hit .429 which tied him with the series MVP Yanagita for the highest in the series. He also put up an OPS of 1.000.
The little second baseman from Houston has now pretty much solidified the idea that he is in fact a MLB superstar.
There were no real losers in this series as its purpose was to strengthen relations between the two nations and the two leagues.
However, there are always risks associated with playing at anytime, whether it be the World Series or the Japan Series, and that is the risk of injury.
Thankfully the MLB All-Stars team returned home mostly intact except for the best and most expensive second baseman in the game today, Robinson Cano.
Robinson Cano, Second Baseman, Seattle Mariners
A six-time All-Star after only ten seasons, Cano is arguably the best second baseman in all of baseball.
He plays stellar defense and still managed to hit 14 home runs in 2014 even after moving from hitter-friendly Yankees Stadium, where he had played for nine seasons, to the pitcher-friendly Safeco Park in Seattle after joining the Mariners
Unfortunately Cano was injured during game three, which consequently got Altuve off the bench and into the spotlight, breaking his pinkie toe.
Thankfully, it is a minor injury that will take approximately a month to heal and Cano will still be able to report to spring training healthy.
Still, Cano lost out on a lot of experiences and time in the spotlight, making him the one member of the MLB All-Stars team who took the biggest loss in the series.
Overall both teams shined in this series. For the Japanese it was more of a collaborative win.
For the MLB All-Stars who lost the series, it was more of a time for some of the players to stand up and prove that they are the real deal.
Either way, win or lose, the 2014 Japan Series served its purpose. It gave the players a new perspective and cultural experience while it strengthened the alliance between two nations and two professional baseball leagues.
*This post was written for 90 Digital