Tell me again why the Japanese baseball player is so great…

December 15, 2011 | Drew Forrester


(continued) for the U.S. and Major League Baseball in this country.  Three of those names were truly stand-out players in America — Ichiro Suzuki, Hideki Matsui and Hideo Nomo — and only one would possibly be Hall of Fame material (Suzuki).  Ichiro is a GREAT player.  Matsui had a very good run in New York with the Yankees.  Nomo was a good pitcher here…nothing more…but certainly good enough to be labeled “good”.  Other than that, none of those other names did anything to REALLY stand out.  Others, like Daisuke Matsuzaka, Kenshin Kawakami and Hideki Okajima, produced very good seasons and showed occasional signs of something special, but it always turned out to be less than you figured you’d get from them.

Summary — all of this talk and promise and hope about the greatness of Japanese baseball players and their impact on the United States has yielded only three highly qualified players.  The rest turned out to be nothing more than wishful thinking.

I completely understand the economic attraction.

They’ll play for less.

But are they actually any good?

Nearly all of those who failed here wound up following a similar pattern to other Japanese players.  The schedule here in the U.S., with the travel and the 19 games in 20 days, and the overall arduous nature of the 162-game baseball season just seems to be too much for them handle.  We all remember Koji Uehara during his first trip to Arlington, Texas back in 2009.  The Orioles practically needed to give him an ice bath in between innings due to the heat.  The pitchers generally throw once a week in Japan and typically only throw 140-160 innings per-season.  The game, the Japanese version, is not nearly as aggressive as the we see here in the U.S. and most experts admit the heightened pace and energy of games in the Majors are not something the Japanese players are used to dealing with throughout their season in the Nippon league.

I just don’t get this love-affair with Japanese players.

Nothing against them or their culture.

But I don’t see the value in signing them.

For the most part, it doesn’t appear as if they’re all that good.

4 Comments For This Post

  1. eric Says:

    Agree with you on Saunders. And if the O’s want to impress close the deal on Wei Yen who K Law has rated the 19th best free agent. For comparison sake he had Papelbon at 18 and Oswalt at 22. But since Yen is actually good and other teams are interested don’t hold your breath.

  2. unitastoberry Says:

    Over 30, low wages, no one knows about them, Japan is perfect for the Orioles no win make money team business model. Remember when Castro the murderer was sitting in OPACY and everyone thought hey now we are going to get all the young players from Cuba cause the head dictator and Angelos have broken bread together. Hows that working out for you Pete? Orioles are total joke.

  3. Jim Traber Says:

    Good article Drew, altghough I would say that the chance of grabbing one of the productive Japanese players is worth a shot and wouldn’t be notable except for the fact that for our team it seems to be our ‘big move’ for 2012. Yawn. Back to the Ravens!

  4. Tim Says:

    I dont think anyone is expecting Wada is expecting him to be great. I dont think that Os fans are supposed to be all that excited about him. I think he adds depth to a rotation that clearly needs it. He was inexpensive because no one expects him to be special, but overall I like the move. Saunders is really not all that good. He has a career ear of 4.16, last 2 seasons it has been 4.25 and 3.69 in the NL west… He would be killed in the AL east. I, personally, like the cheaper gamble on Wada. (DF: You must not follow baseball too much. A career ERA of 4.16 is UNDER the league average for his career. And, ummm, 3.69 is about a half-run under the NL average in 2011. I like how you wrote, “I like the cheaper option…” If the Orioles have an opening, you should apply.)

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