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.