Yu Darvish is a 24-year-old righthander with the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters and is the Next Big Thing in Japan.
It’s a good story, too. His Iranian father, a former soccer star, met his Japanese mother at Eckerd College in Florida. Now their son is dominating the Pacific League and it’s only a matter of time before he is made available to teams in the majors via the shadowy posting system.
Some think the 6-foot-5 Darvish could get put up for bid this winter and surely the Fighters are hoping to cash in.
But will the Red Sox and Yankees get in line?
At some point later on today, presumably, the Red Sox will announce that Daisuke Matsuzaka will undergo Tommy John surgery. In most eyes, the $103 million they invested in him was a waste given that it produced only two good seasons and a litany of headaches.
The Yankees feel the pain of their rivals. They spent $46 million on Kei Igawa, a pitcher so useless that he is now in the bullpen for Class AA Trenton. Igawa has pitched 16 games in the majors, none since 2008.
The Sox and Yankees weren’t stupid. Every team in baseball wanted Matsuzaka and most all of them wanted Igawa. They were the best of the best in Japan in 2006 and their arrivals were greeted with great fanfare.
Now comes Darvish. There are already YouTube videos showing what appears to be a dazzling array of pitches and scouts have been dispatched to see him in person. Everything you read sounds great.
But it was that way with Matsuzaka and Igawa, too. Remember the infamous gyroball? It turned out to be a slider.
It’s unfair to lump all Japanese pitchers together. Perhaps Darvish will be a star and deserve every dime he gets. He shouldn’t be held accountable for the failings of others.
But teams have to do a better job of assessing the risk before taking the financial plunge. The ball is smaller in Japan, most games are played indoors and pitchers throw once a week, not every five days. They also train their arms in a way that seems reckless to MLB managers and coaches.
Japanese pitchers seem to have success early in the majors then fade away because of injuries or an inability to adjust to hitters figuring them out.
Perhaps Darvish will be an exception. But given the money they scattered to the wind for Matsuzaka and Igawa, it would not be a surprise if the Red Sox and Yankees sat this one out and let another team pay for the right to take a chance.