Tanaka hopes to join list of Japanese successes

Tanaka hopes to join list of Japanese successes
January 28, 2014, 9:45 am
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Hall of Fame voter Mark Zuckerman on the 2014 class

The publicity surrounding Masahiro Tanaka’s signing with the New York Yankees will obviously heighten the pressure around him. The 25-year-old Japanese right-hander is younger than most of his fellow countrymen who’ve come to the U.S., and a lot richer.

There have been 43 Japanese major leaguers. It seems as if there have been more. Tanaka is the ninth player on a major league roster. With Tanaka, Ichiro Suzuki and Hiroki Kuroda, the Yankees have three.

Tsuyoshi Wada, who signed a minor league contract with the Chicago Cubs, is not included on the list.

Ten Japanese players have been selected for the All-Star Game and 10 have played in the World Series. That’s a much higher percentage than for other players.

Hideo Nomo started the 1995 All-Star Game for the National League. Hideki Matsui was the 2009 World Series MVP.

Former Orioles pitcher Koji Uehara played a key role in Boston’s World Series win last year. Other outstanding imports have Texas’ Yu Darvish and Seattle’s Kaz Sasaki, who was an All-Star in 2001 and 2002.

While Daisuke Matsuzaka wasn’t worth the huge Red Sox investment, he did have two excellent years in 2007 and 2008.

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Darvish has been excellent, and may get better still.

There have been bitter disappointments. The late Hideki Irabu and Kei Igawa were hardly worth their investments, but there have been more successes than failures.

NOTE: Jeff Manto, who played for the Orioles in 1995, and is their minor league hitting coordinator, was named to the International League Hall of Fame.