GG 1

The Yomiuri Giants, one of two professional teams playing in Tokyo, are without question Japanese baseball’s version of the New York Yankees. With huge coffers from which to pay the kind of salaries to attract and retain the talent to be competitive year after year, the Giants are loved at home, admired in markets that don’t have a team of their own, and reviled in those that do.

However, the Giants most recent season ended in bitter disappointment with a game seven loss in the championship Japan series. Adding insult to injury was the fact that the defeat came at the hands of the Rakuten Golden Eagles, an upstart expansion team formed in 2005 that until recently was the league’s doormat.

Clearly, a shakeup is necessary to get the Giants back on the path to glory. Something extreme, like banning chewing gum during games.

The similarities between Japan’s Giants and America’s Yankees extend beyond their generous payrolls and high media profiles. Like the Bronx Bombers, Yomiuri is one of the oldest and most decorated teams in its league, with 35 pennants and 22 championships.

▼ This is by no means a rare sight.

GG 2

This year, the Giants mark the 80th anniversary of the club’s founding, with a series of special appearances and events planned in celebration. On January 19 it was leaked that Manager Tatsunori Hara, who spent his entire playing career with Yomiuri, is moving to prohibit his players from chewing gum during games.

The 55-year-old Hara is said to be concerned about the team’s image. Given the increased amount of attention Giants are expected to receive during the upcoming milestone season, the ban is seen as a move to ensure that the Giants always conduct themselves as gentlemen.

▼ Hara, seen gallantly not chewing anything

GG 3

Reports indicate that the rule has already earned the support of team executives, including owner Tsunekazu Momoi. Momoi recently issued a statement to team employees, saying, “As our club is marking 80 years in professional baseball, for the sake of our fans I ask that we show discipline in upholding our traditions, both on the field and off.”

This isn’t the first chewing gum crackdown in Japanese baseball history. In 2004, then-Giants manager Tsuneo Horiuchi also enacted such a restriction, as did Softbank Hawks chairman and former Giants star Sadamura Oh in 2009. The public image of his players was seen as the primary factor behind his decision.

Although the majority of the Giants refrain from coping away in the batter’s box, even some of the team’s biggest stars have been spotted chewing gum in the dugout. All of that is likely to come to an end on January 31, when Hara is expected to formally announce the regulation to his squad.

While the change is unlikely to negatively impact the team’s standing with fans, it’s doubtful that the increased strictness will be seen as a plus by the players. Should any of the Giants all-stars conclude that they just can’t go nine innings without a stick, we citizens of Yokohama, having suffered through many sub-.500 seasons, invite them to sign instead with our local team, the BayStars. They may not win many games, but their breath will always stay minty fresh.

▼ Also, our cheerleaders wear sailor suit costumes.

GG 5

Source: Yahoo! Japan
Top image: Inmagine
Insert images: SXL Akita, Wikipedia, MZ Topics