Is Tanaka Really the Answer?

The Yanks have once again proved that they have bushels upon bushels of money. That is not surprising. What is surprising, however, is spending it on a mystery.

The mania that surrounded coveted Japanese ace Masahiro Tanaka was skyrocketing out of control when finally he said yes to the Bronx bombers earlier this week. On January 22nd, the New York Yankees signed Tanaka to an unfathomably long seven-year/$155 million. Although Tanaka shows tremendous promise, let’s look at some red flags that lace this entire investment.

Tanaka has been in the limelight since he was 18 years old. He separated himself from the rest of field in Japan by posting superb numbers and dishing out pitches with more movement than interpretive dance majors. During his seven year tenure with the Rakuten Golden Eagles, Tanaka held a record of 99-35 with a 2.30 ERA. Unfortunately, with those stellar numbers come some concerns lurking in the near future.

Since 2007, Tanaka has thrown an unimaginable 1,315 innings oversees. I do not see why that does not call for any sort of concern for the Yankees. Tanaka has averaged a little less than 200 innings for seven straight years without any rest in sight. From the age of 18 where your bones have not stopped growing, I cannot see Tanaka’s arm (or even body) keeping up with that much stress. As a former baseball player, year-round baseball has left me with permanent pain in my throwing should her that will have to adapt to for the rest of my life. Now I believe that can (and will) easily become Tanaka. The difference is that the Yankees are not paying me $155 million.

Another reason that the Yanks should be on high alert is the fact that no teenager has ever thrown more innings than Tanaka (359 IP) since Bob Feller. For those who do not know, we have not been graced with Bob’s talent on the baseball field since the 40’s. There is a reason why this is. It is because it simply does not work to throw that many innings as a teenager. Maybe in the 30’s and 40’s where these kids didn’t have to play baseball around the clock, but not now.

There is a glimmer of hope for Tanaka and his name is Yu Darvish. If it were not for Darvish, this investment might be seen as the biggest flop in Yankees history. And THAT is saying something. Darvish has temporarily saved the reputation of Japanese-made MLB “stars.” Before Yu, names like Dice-K, Nomo, and Kuroda showed great promise before falling undoubtedly short of their MLB expectations. It will take a lot for Tanaka not to join the list of Japanese almost-theres. I could see a 4-year contract to test the waters with this supposed sure all-star, but to give him seven seems to be putting all your eggs in one unproven basket for the years to come.

Last red flag that stands out: the baseball. Japanese pitchers hurl a ball that is smaller compared to the one used in the MLB. So just to get this straight: the Yankees are giving $155 million to a man that had already gassed 1,300+ innings, from a country of famously disappointing pitchers, has never pitched in the MLB, and does not even use the same ball as the MLB pitchers? That is a chance that only the Yankees could take. Tanaka needs to thank his lucky stars (aka A-Rod) for freeing up all the money that was just invested in this single man.

I am going to sit back and see this all play out. I like Tanaka actually. I want him to succeed. He shows emotion how a baseball player should; however, he needs to show more than just emotion if he wants to prove something to all of New York.

Ah Sports. Another reason why this life is overwhelming and satisfying.  tanaka blog post


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