Saturday, January 18, 2014

Tanaka coming to Chicago? Cubs fans might be better off remembering Nomo!

I find it funny to see the degree to which Chicago Cubs fans are determined to think their favored franchise is going to be a major player in the desires of Japanese baseball star Masahiro Tanaka to come to the United States.

A future Yankee, in many ways?
The Chicago Sun-Times on Friday gave us the report that pushes forth the image that Tanaka wants to play for the Cubs – even though most of the reports on this particularly issue seem to indicate he wants to be either in Los Angeles, or with the New York Yankees.

PERSONALLY, I THINK the fact that the Chicago White Sox met with Tanaka earlier this month was more about trying to create the image that they’re doing something to bolster their ball club.

I don’t think he’s going to pitch for the home team at U.S. Cellular Field. Nor at Wrigley Field.

We in Chicago will only get to see him when his eventual ball club comes here to play either our White Sox or Cubs (if not both, what with the intricacies of interleague ball).

As I comprehend it, Tanaka is a 25-year old who has played in recent seasons with the Rakuten Golden Eagles in Japan’s professional baseball leagues. He’s also been a pitcher for the Japan national team that has shown itself to be among the elite of the international baseball world.

BUT LIKE MANY of the elite ballplayers from other countries, they decide they want to include a stint playing in the United States.

Some will want to believe it’s because everything’s better here. Although if we’re honest, it’s because playing for a baseball team in the American or National leagues pay better (much better) than playing for one in Japan’s Central or Pacific leagues.

Chicago's best Japanese ballplayer?
So, Tanaka wants to come here for the money. Although he’s also hinted he wants to play for a team that will give him ample opportunities to play in the World Series. He wants to be with a winner!

Which ought to exempt either “side” of Chicago for the near future.

WHITE SOX FANS may have pleasant memories of relief pitcher Shingo Takatsu or infielder Tadahito Iguchi (who became the first Japanese-born ballplayer on a U.S. World Series championship club – remember ’05?).
Chicago's first

There may also be Chicago Cubs fans who still own their Kosuke Fukudome jerseys (or maybe they got cheap and bought them at a discount after he was traded away).

I just don’t see the Tanaka affair winding up being resolved in Chicago. Unless “resolution” constitutes being shut out by the potential future star pitcher of U.S. baseball.
The Cubs' first; ready for another?

In fact, about the only reason a Cubs fan ought to be thinking about Japanese baseball is the fact that Hideo Nomo – who has never gotten anything more than a few fringe votes for inclusion in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., on Friday officially became a member of the Japan Baseball Hall of Fame.

IT WAS THE arrival of Nomo back in the 1980s (making the same move to the United States that Tanaka is now trying to make) that created the concept in U.S. baseball that there IS worthwhile talent playing in Japan.

Plus, he was a quality ballplayer in the Japanese leagues. He had a career for sports fans worth remembering -- even though I'm sure there's a stat geek out there who wants to reduce him to a single number that just doesn't meet up to their standards.

In the United States, Nomo is thought of as a Los Angeles Dodger, the ball club he mostly played for in this country. He never played for the Cubs proper. So why should their fans care about him?

Barely a Cub?
Because there was a time, back in 1999, when Nomo was released by the Milwaukee Brewers organization, that he finished the season pitching for the Iowa Cubs – the top-level minor league affiliate of the Chicago Cubs.

WHERE HE PITCHED all of three games, winning 1 and losing 1, with a 3.71 earned run average in all of 17 innings pitched. Not exactly stellar stuff.

But totally in character with the Chicago Cubs organization – a level of which even the White Sox sank to in ’13.


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