By: Patrick Despain
By now, most of us have seen or heard of Texas Ranger pitcher Yu Darvish. We’ve seen him through highlights on ESPN or MLB, on YouTube, or at least heard of him in some way. If you are one of those people that has not heard or seen Yu, then lets do a quick background.
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Darvish is a 25 year old pitcher from Japan. His father is Iranian, and his mother is from Japan. Darvish has spent the last 7 seasons playing for the Nippon Ham Fighters in the Nippon Professional Baseball League in Japan. He has amassed a career record of 93-38, with a 1.99 ERA in those 7 seasons. He has a devastating curve and slider, and a 2 seam fastball that rides in on right handed batters, like no other. Darvish was put up for posting to Major League Baseball teams in December of this past year, by his Japanese club. At that point, all MLB clubs were able to bid on the rights to talk to Yu about acquiring his services. The Texas Rangers outbid every other club, with a bid of $51.7 million and acquired the rights to negotiate with Darvish. 30 days later the Rangers and Darvish agreed to a contract worth $56 million over 6 years.
Yu Darvish is following several other former NPB players to MLB, Hideki Irabu, Daisuke Matsuzaka, and Hideo Nomo to name a few. At some point in the players previously mentioned, never realized their potential in the majors, or were just not good enough to sustain a full career. Those pitchers were highly touted coming from Japan. They were scouted heavily, and all MLB teams had an interest, even if they could not afford the posting bid. Yu Darvish is more highly touted, more heavily scouted and more scrutinized than any other player coming over to the States. He’s 6’ 5” and over 200 pounds, which makes him a completely different in stature that hispredecessors.
If Yu Darvish succeeds, like most pro scouts think he will, then the stigma, for a time, will be lifted on Japanese pitchers. However, the biggest impact will be on Japan. The pro leagues, the minors, the high school players, and the kids will all have the confidence to be able to play over here. The interest in MLB in Japan will more than likely double if Darvish can sustain 15 to 17 wins over the length of his contract, and beyond. If Yu Darvish can succeed, then look out America.
If however, Darvish fails to live up to expectations, then the face of Japanese baseball may change. Yu is big, he’s strong and he has talent. But if it doesn’t translate to the American game, he may be
the last player posted for a huge amount of dollars. The posting process may implode, and MLB, could have a huge advantage in that area. Our favorite teams will no longer bid $50+ million for a
player. The NPB could see a huge downturn in interest from American teams. I’m not saying that if Darvish fails, that the NPB is forever cursed, I’m saying that they could be on their heels. Darvish may
win, and he may not, but his career could sway the opinion of a lot of MLB executives. I, for one, cannot wait to see how he performs.