Friday, November 10, 2006

"D-Mat" knows what happens to Japanese Mets

It appears the Red Sox, not the Mets, will get Japanese fireballer Daisuke Matsuzaka.

And I say thank goodness.

We’ve probably had more Japanese players than any other team. And lets face it, Mets fans, the results have not been good.

Now this is not an indictment of Japanese players. Obviously there are some excellent ones. But they seem to end up on the rosters of other teams.

No, it seems like there is a Mets curse, where a players skills turn to sushi once he steps on Shea’s sod.

Let’s review:

Takasi Kashiwada (1997)

"Kash" came to the Mets in an unusual way. He was part of a special program to study baseball during spring camp training with the Tides, pitching in 6 games and ended up going north. He posted a 3-1 record, but a non-so-impressive 4.31 ERA in the bullpen. The team shipped him to the minors in early August, though he returned with the September call-ups. He was released after the season.

Masato Yoshii, 1998-99

Yoshii is possibly the high water mark, going 18-16 over two years with a 3.93 ERA in 1998 and a 4.40 ERA the next. But he was dealt in the off-season to the Rockies for "the other" Bobby Jones and Lariel Gonzalez in early 2000, and he self-destructed with a 6-15 record and was gone after two years with the Expos.

But I found this telling tid-bit on a Japanese baseball Webstite that chronicled his career game by game.

"10th game, June 2, 1998: To everyone's surprise, Yoshi did not come back to the pitcher's mound when the game against the Pittsburgh Pirates resumed. The rain had hindered the game from being played for 58 minutes after Yoshii took 2 outs in the 3rd inning. The Mets lead 2 to 1 at that point. The pitcher who relieved Yoshi did not do well. The Mets in the end lost 2 to 5. Michiyo's Note: Yoshii is super afraid of thunder and lightening. I remember the time when he was with the Yakult Swallows, he'd be so frightened to pitch further because of a thunder."

Dude’s terrified of thunder? And he wanted to pitch in New York?

Hideo Nomo, 1998

Of course, Nomo was a legend when he arrived in LA in 1995 and had two decent seasons after that. The he started 1998 2-7 and the Dodgers shipped him our way with Brad Clontz for Dave Mlicki and Greg McMichael. He pitched a so-so 4-5, 4.82 for the Mets down the stretch.

Alas, he angered fans and probably management, too, by bailing out of his last start of the year in Atlanta with the Mets needing a victory to reach the postseason.

We cut him the following spring, and he then pitched in Milwaukee, Detroit, Boston, the Dodgers again and, like so many others, ended up with the Devil Rays for a year.

Nomo, again, like so many others, pitched a no-hitter after leaving the Mets.

Tsuyoshi Shinjo, 2001, 2003

Shinjo was our first Japanese position player and brought a lot flash, speed and cool orange wristbands that were so big they could have been sleeves. Shinjo did everything but hit. Sadly, that’s pretty much a mandatory skill for everyone who doesn’t pitch.

He hit .268 and 10 homers and 56 RBI, and after the season was dealt to the Giants. He was bitter about it, but did get to go to the World Series.

But he must have liked New York, because he returned in 2003, when he hit even less, posting an average south of the Mendoza line and just one homer and 7 runs driven in.

There was one glorious moment. Shinjo made a magnificent throw to nail Chipper Jones at the plate to end a game, preserving a 6-5 victory over the Braves — by far his greatest contribution.

Shinjo returned to Japan, and he ended his career — he says he is becoming a nude model — by playing on a Nippon Ham Fighters team that won the Japan series.

Satoru Komiyama, 2002

Komiyama wore funky goggles when he pitched. That’s about the best thing we can say about him, because the 36-year-old went 0-3 with a nasty 5.61 ERA and no saves before not being asked back. He came with the nickname "The Japanese Maddux." No word on whether the real Maddux filed a defamation of character suit.

Kazuo Matsui, 2003-2006

Kaz kicked ass in his first at-bat in every first game of his season as a Met, hitting a home run. Sadly, it’s the rest of the season that gave him trouble.

He was hailed as "Little Godzilla" but played more like Godzuki. If major league teams never trust another Japanese scouting report again, Matsui is responsible. Hailed as slick-fielding, clutch-hitting and durable, Kaz had a weak arm, poor range, average stick and a semi-permanent spot on the disabled list, earning Cedeno-esque boos from the Shea faithful.

Matsui went from a Times Square introduction to being shipped to the Rockies for a spare part. Alas, I felt bad for the guy. He seemed like he was trying hard, and even moved to a new position.

Kazuhisa Ishii, 2005

Steve Trachsel’s ill-timed injury forced Omar to scramble in spring training for a new arm, and Ishii was the best he could do. Ishii was maddingly inconsistent, matching Roger Clemens pitch-for-pitch in one game and getting shellacked in the next. He ended with a nasty 3-9 record and 5.14 ERA.

Yusaku Iriki, 2007?

Then we have Iriki, who is the answer to the trivia question "Who was the first player to be penalized under MLB’s toughened steroid policy?" He was on the 40-man roster playing for Norfolk at the time and never made it up to Shea. We’ll see if he’ll get the chance, perhaps keeping Guillermo Mota’s roster spot warm until he returns from him own suspension.

So my fear with Daisuke Matsuzaka is that we’d post $30 million to negotiate, sign him to a big contract and find out that "gyro ball" is Japanese slang for "hanging curveball."

We’d see "D-Mat" become "Welcome Mat" for the opposition and protective netting would need to be placed over the Home Run Apple lest it be damaged by the steady barrage of visitor home runs bouncing off the stem.

Then, midway through his second season we’d trade him to the Cubs for Glendon Rusch and — while paying most of his salary — watch Matsuzaka pitch a no-hitter and get the comeback player of the year award.

It's going to be CitiField?

I guess in the grand scheme of things, the new Shea could have a worse name. Then again, it could be better. had it right when he suggested Derek Jeter Sucks would be a fine name.


jabair said...

no more japanese players, and no more reccomendations from BOBBY V

Anonymous said...

rethinking that now? :)


Theo Epstein