Yu Darvish: Dice-Redux?

The Texas Rangers won the right to negotiate with Japanese sensation Yu Darvish, submitting a record $51.7 million bid. When will Major League Baseball learn?

Scouting reports attest that Darvish throws seven different pitches, all with extraordinary skill. The hype surrounding Darvish is reminiscent of Daisuke Matsuzaka, the Red Sox bust who never came close to living up to his reputation as the savior–in-waiting for the Boston staff.  Remember the Gyro ball which through its “double spin” mechanics was going to baffle even the most fearsome American League hitters? You could buy a Dice-K DVD that explained the Gyro ball’s mysteries.

As it turned out, Dice-K’s specialty was walking batters and putting his defense to sleep while he threw pitch after errant pitch. Early this summer, Dice-K announced that he will have Tommy John surgery which will sideline him for 2012. In all likelihood, the next time Matsuzaka pitches will be in Japan when he rejoins one of the national teams. [Surgery for Daisuke Matsuzaka, ESPN, June 6, 2011]

Given the opportunity, Red Sox owners would trip all over themselves to get their $100 million plus back.

Maybe Darvish will be cheap at whatever price he signs for. Maybe he will lead the Blue Jays back to the World Series. Nevertheless, I’m opposed to globalism in baseball (and, for that matter in everything else) and therefore against his signing.

My reasoning could fill a book but I’ll summarize briefly.

Baseball is an American thing, and I want to see Americans playing it. Darvish probably is better than any pitcher at Rice University or Fresno State. But I enjoy watching those young Americans more than I do foreign-born players. I propose to you that if you filled a major league roster with NCAA All Stars, you would get as much pleasure—if not more—out of rooting for them.

Here are some examples. If the World Baseball Class were played in my back yard, I wouldn’t get off my couch to watch them. On the other hand, if the local North Allegheny High School played rival Central Catholic Vikings, I might plan my weekend around it.

I delighted in David Freese’s 2011 World Series heroics and the San Francisco Giants’ 2010 celebration. Among the Giants’ piled on top of each other after the final out mob scene: Tim Lincecum (Washington), Buster Posey (New Hampshire), Matt Cain (Alabama), Madison Bumgarner (North Carolina), Nate Schierholtz (Nevada) and Cody Ross (New Mexico).

Compare that scene to the 2009 post-game interview with Most Valuable Player Hideki Matsui conducted through a Japanese translator which annoyed me then and the thought of which still irks me today.
Or, locally, Pittsburgh-born Pirates’ second baseman Neil Walker’s achievements have captured the town. Around here, Walker is known as “Mr. Pittsburgh.”

My opinions are certain to be interpreted as radically post-American by some and probably expose me as a fossilized fuddy-duddy tilting at windmills. I won’t argue.

But I won’t apologize either.

16 Replies to “Yu Darvish: Dice-Redux?”

  1. Also among the celebrating Giants in 2010 were Edgar Renteria (Colombia), Pablo Sandoval (Venezuela), and four players from the Dominican Republic (Guillermo Mota, Ramon Ramirez, Juan Uribe, and Santiago Casilla).

  2. Well… I understand the sentiment of “local boy does good”… but I for one enjoy having MLB being more global (as well as the NBA, etc). I think it actually adds to the sport. In what way did Matsui answering questions through a translator bother you? That really puzzles me.

  3. @Brendan:

    Except for Renteria, the players you name had secondary roles in the WS and in the series. The ones I named were the teams’ stars.

    @ Bob B.
    Well, two things—first of all, playing baseball is a “job” and I would prefer to see American workers in that “job” Secondly, Matsui has lived in the U.S., at least off and on, for about 10 years and should be able to struggle through a easy baseball interview. At least that is the perspective of this retired English as a Second Language teacher who during his 25-year career saw many students do it.

    And @Bob B.

  4. well, I’m not american and not a big fan of the globalization either but what I see is that MLB desperately needs all the help it can get from foreign born players, mainly latinos of course, but also canadians, japaneses and even italians (:-D)…that’s because the last decade saw the diseppearance af on entire class of ballplayers: the afro-americans, rarer now than a white tiger. Just go through the rosters in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s and see the difference…

  5. @Stefano: Yes, Latino players have replaced African Americans. But imagine what might have been had owners invested in inner city baseball camps as they did baseball academies in the Dominican Republic. The facts are that for decades owners were able to sign Dominicans for chump change, keep and train the good ones and dump the others.

    You know what the owners like to say: “Baseball is a Business” and cheap players were a better investment.

  6. “My reasoning could fill a book…”

    Umm…. What was your “reasoning?” I think I may have missed it.

    You just list examples of American players who you like and a Japanese player who you don’t.

    The second half of this article just comes comes across as really xenophobic. A man speaking on television in his native language still irks you two years after the fact?


    This entire article in summary:

    1: Dice K was Horrible! (y’know except for those first two seasons in the league when he went 33-15 with an ERA 26% better than league average, and American pitchers never s*it the bed with big contracts! Barry Zito is due!)

    2: Maybe Yu Darvish will be good, but I will never enjoy watching him as a baseball player because he is not American.

    You included no stats, no real comparison, just a gut feeling that Yu Darvish will be a waste of money and Neil Walker is awesome (Even though Dice-K was much more valuable over his first two full seasons). I’m a newcomer to Baseball P&P, but this is an embarrassment to this (as far as I have read) otherwise excellent site.

  7. @Clark:

    Try to keep in mind that my post is an opinion and one that I know not everyone shares. It was not intended to be a sabermetric breakdown of one player versus another; none of my posts are. And please don’t put words in my mouth that I didn’t write. I didn’t say Walker was “wonderful” but that I found it refreshing that a hometown baseball player made good much like Joe Mauer.

    I don’t apologize by being offended—then and now—by Matsui’s all Japanese interview. He’s lived in the US for more than ten years and should be able to (and want to) struggle through a few words in English, the language of the country where he has made tens of millions of dollars.

    Baseball is the national pastime, America’s game. It’s one of the greatest symbols of Americana. I’d like to see it stay that way instead of being dominated by foreign-born players. Have you ever considered the numbers of good US players who don’t make it to the big leagues because signing prospects in the DR and other distant spots is so much cheaper for the owners. University of Texas baseball coach says that for most of his outstanding NCAA championship players, the CWS is the last game of organized baseball they play in their lives. Certainly many of them could have been developed into MLB players. Where are the baseball academies for American kids? Every major league franchise has one in the DR

    As I also wrote, I’m opposed to globalism in all things. I don’t think it has helped the United States in any way—and that includes baseball.

    1. Hi Clark,

      Glad to have you here, thanks for the kind words about my site. It’s flattering you’d call it excellent.

      Joe’s been contributing articles here for a year-and-a-half now, and I’m grateful for it. He writes clean copy I rarely have to edit for grammar and works pretty much tirelessly and selflessly. He was actually the first person to post here besides myself, and his presence here has made my life easier. I don’t know if this site would still be active if people like Joe hadn’t stepped up.

      I don’t agree with everything Joe writes, but I welcome a range of opinions on my site and am glad to have a diverse crew of writers and readers. Both you and Joe will have a voice here as long as you’d like.

      Merry Christmas.

  8. @Joe
    I don’t truly “get” you being so bothered by Matsui using a translator, but knowing that you taught English as a second language for many years allows me to understand WHERE your feelings are coming from, and frankly makes your statement something that I can get my head around (as opposed to seeming highly xenophobic, as Clark commented on it being). Though if I were someone speaking to a large room of reporters and cameras, I think I would prefer doing so in my native tongue (even assuming I could speak anything beyond my vague and butchered memories of high school French).

    Anyway, I think Darvish is a big risk because of all the money involved and agree that Matsuzaka has been a disappointment… but Clark is correct that he was pretty damn good his first two years in the states (before the injuries).

  9. @Joe
    1: I realize that your article was opinion, I certainly didn’t take it as fact.

    2: “I propose to you that if you filled a major league roster with NCAA All Stars, you would get as much pleasure—if not more—out of rooting for them.” You don’t put words in my mouth, I won’t do the same, deal?

    3: “(P)laying baseball is a “job” and I would prefer to see American workers in that “job” Secondly, Matsui has lived in the U.S., at least off and on, for about 10 years and should be able to struggle through a easy baseball interview.” If the job of being a baseball player required English, instead of awe-inspiring athletic ability, the just hire the translator, yes? Also, you don’t know Matsui, or what he does or doesn’t know or feel. Perhaps he was afraid of misspeaking on a worldwide stage at the height of his fame. I certainly don’t know.

    4: “Globalism” is the reason we HAVE a United States.

    5: When I clicked on a post titled “Yu Darvish – Dice Redux” I expected some comparison of the players involved that went beyond the fact that they were Japanese pitchers with success in the NPB. I knew that. This article gave me no new information about any player or the sport itself, just that you prefer worse players play because of where they were born. That sounds pretty un American to me, and is again, really xenophobic.


    I’m sure Joe is great guy, with grammar worth of Strunk and White. I certainly am not advocating that you “fire” him. I’m just responding to an article, with my opinion (not fact), and when I see contentless pieces on this site, I will continue to call it out.

  10. Why don’t the Pirates just play PIttsburgh-born players? Or the Blue Jays play natives of Toronto? This is a very short-sighted opinion. When I watch a sporting event, I want to see the best against the best. This writer uses the same logic that kept blacks out of baseball (and other professions) for so long. As long as a player can legally work in the United States (with a work visa or by becoming a citizen), why should they be excluded? I don’t want to be excluded from a profession just because of where I was born, where I live, or my background.

  11. As a commentator on things baseball, I am always interested in news on the sport. An acquaintance pointed me to the December 21st, 2011, post on “Baseball: Past and Present” by a Joe Guzzardi… a post purportedly written on Yu Darvish. His comments are so xenophobic that he makes the Mills Commission seem truly objective.

    As for globalization, thank goodness we are in a global economy–or our damaged self-sufficiency would be in worse shape. And, the evolving globalization of baseball only aids in spreading American culture around the world.

    As for bilinguality, UN interpreters have long known that English is an easier language to master than Japanese. Additionally, since English has, for some time, been the global language of choice, it is taught as a second language in more countries than other languages. This includes Japan, where most schools teach English from elementary school through high school.

    What @Joe may not realize is that Hideki Matsui, Ichiro Suzuki and other Japanese baseball players do speak some English. So did Hideo Nomo. Most are reluctant to speak this “second language” in a public venue when they are not “natively bilingual” in English. There is always the wise caution to avoid being misquoted. Not even Larry Raines became truly bilingual when he played for the Hankyu Braves in the 1950s. Guzzardi may rest assured that more Japanese players understand some English than do American players understand Japanese.

    Then, there is the matter of acculturation, a very different subject than simply learning the language. For example, there will be more challenges for Darvish in becoming acculturated in Texas than, say, Los Angeles or New York. Remember, there is not a well-developed international community in Fort Worth or Arlington, let alone a Japanese presence. And, Texas-style humor is hardly found on the shelves of Japanese book stores. Many Japanese have an image of American culture that is more akin to a pop “art deco” version of Southern California.

    While I do agree with Guzzardi on the cautions that should be taken in signing Darvish, it is apparent that we are conversing on mostly different planes.

    My blog post “Yu Darvish: Dollars and Doubts” – http://fromdeeprightfield.com/2012/01/02/yu-darvish-dollars-and-doubts/ – posted on January 2nd, 2011, covers other concerns on the “second coming”…

  12. @Paul:

    Dear Paul:

    Some, like you, view my post as xenophobic; others see it as a patriotic defense of America’s national pastime.

    As for your sense that the Matusi et al speak English, well—let them do it. Other players whose first language is not English and do not speak English fluently gave post-World Series interviews at least partially in English, eg. Roberto Clemente and Luis Tiant.

    Although Baseball Past and Present isn’t the appropriate place for an extended debate about globalism, I’ certain that your defense of it would be less passionate if your job had been shipped overseas or if you had been replaced domestically by a foreign-born worker.

  13. Regarding the above couple comments… although one can argue that international players coming to MLB and globalism are the same thing (and in a sense I guess they are) they really seem like two very different discussions. There are many aspects of globalism that I don’t like, but (as I’m sure I previously commented) international players in MLB is one that I do like.

    As for whether Joe’s view is xenophobic or a patriotic defense of America’s national pastime… well, I think it’s both. I don’t mean this in a snotty manner, but using the phrase “patriotic defense of America’s national (fill in the blank)” almost always is describing something that is xenophobic (well, it seems so to me at least).

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