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Irabu’s career provides cautionary tale for Rakuten pitching star Tanaka

by Jack Gallagher

Staff Writer

It will be interesting to see how the situation plays out with Rakuten Eagles star Masahiro Tanaka and his move to the majors via the posting system.

With the MLB, NPB and NPB players currently in negotiations on a new system, anything seems possible, but I like the talk of a framework which gives the player the opportunity to select from one of the top three bidders for his services.

Why?

Because it should not be just about who wagers the most money. The player deserves a right to have a say in the matter.

I keep thinking about the late Hideki Irabu and always wonder what would have happened if he had started his MLB career in San Diego instead of the cauldron of New York.

The Chiba Lotte Marines worked out a deal in 1997 to sell Irabu’s rights to the Padres, but he refused and forced his way to the Yankees.

Irabu struggled in three seasons with New York and was out of the majors following the 2002 campaign.

There is nothing wrong with working your way up at any level. But starting on Broadway, the reality is that you only have one way to go — and that is down.

Though it is unlikely a small market team will win the bidding for Tanaka’s services, it would not be the worst thing in the world.

What you don’t want to see is the kid get roughed up early and lose confidence in himself, then have the team owner and local media get down on him.

Let’s hope that those advising Tanaka will make choices that aren’t solely based on his ability to maximize his playing contract and earning power off the field.

He is coming off an incredible year, and the expectations will be high no matter where he goes, but perspective must be considered here.

The young man is only 25 years old and has a long life ahead of him.

It’s not worth ruining in an attempt to make a fast buck.

* * *

The timing of former Japan coach Takeshi Okada’s departure from Chinese Super League side Hangzhou Greentown had me thinking he may be making himself available for a third trip to the World Cup with the Samurai Blue, just in case Alberto Zaccheroni got the ax.

But shortly after resigning from Hangzhou last week, Okada was being rumored as the next manager of Thai club Muangthong United.

Never would have guessed that one.

I wonder how Japan will fare in Europe against the Netherlands and Belgium this month.

With the 2014 World Cup not that far off, it is time for the lads to show some mettle.

* * *

Equal time: I received a profane email from a reader last week who took issue with my take on the Jonathan Martin situation with the Miami Dolphins.

Just to review, the huge second-year offensive tackle walked out on the team earlier this month after claiming he was being bullied by teammate Richie Incognito.

I’m fairly certain that, unlike me, the reader has never worked for a pro football team.

If he had, he would have known that there are two cardinal rules in the locker room:

1) You never walk out on the team in the middle of the season.

2) You never go against the team or teammates in public.

Martin violated both of these codes and it is no wonder that he has been ostracized by his Dolphins teammates.

Not only that, he has turned what has long been common in pro sports — razzing younger players — into a huge federal case.

Now it is all about political correctness and the NFL is investigating.

You better believe that it is going to be a lot harder for Martin to return to the NFL than Incognito — who was suspended by the Dolphins — once this is over.

Hall of Fame linebacker Lawrence Taylor, one of the greatest players ever, sees it the same way I do.

“Martin wouldn’t be allowed back in my locker room,” Taylor told the New York Daily News last week. “I understand Incognito may be a bad guy, but all that stuff should have stayed in the locker room.”

Taylor broke the matter down in very simple terms.

“If you are that sensitive and weak-minded, then find another profession,” he said. “That’s the way I feel about it. This is the NFL. This is football. This is not table tennis. This is not golf. I don’t know how you bully a 350-pound (158-kg) player.”

Amen.

* * *

Mao Asada has won two Grand Prix events and qualified for the GP Final in Fukuoka next month.

That’s the good news.

The bad is that she still is having trouble landing her triple axel and a triple-triple combination jump.

Without both of those it is hard to envision her winning the gold medal in Sochi.

A lot will depend on the health of Kim Yu-na of course. If Kim is fit, Mao will have to have everything in her arsenal working to topple the defending Olympic and world champion.

The clock is ticking . . .

* * *

Those with an agenda keep talking about how Japan’s rugby team is improving, but I don’t see it.

The Brave Blossoms keep getting routed at home and abroad in what are essentially friendlies (see recent results against New Zealand and Scotland).

What is going to happen to them when they face one of these top nations with something really on the line in a major tournament?

Seems like a fair question.

* * *

There is no end to the nonsense.

We bemoaned some of the changes in the NFL rules last week. Now comes word of something even worse.

A San Diego Chargers fan was cited by police recently for throwing a football in the parking lot before a recent home game.

Talk about anarchy.

The fan had the last laugh, however, when a judge threw the ticket out.

* * *

Whatever happened to Tsuyoshi Shinjo?

  • Steve Novosel

    Jack, while I agree with you broadly that Martin should have probably tried to keep resolution with his teammates and coaches in house (certainly at first), I find myself strongly disagreeing with this part:

    “I don’t know how you bully a 350-pound (158-kg) player.”

    What does Martin’s size have to do with anything? He was bullied and harassed in his workplace – doesn’t really matter if he’s a huge lineman or a 80Kg kicker. It’s just a case of power harassment.

    How much is too much “motivating” in a locker room? Clearly, whatever went on in private in that locker room, between those players was too much for Martin. Doesn’t matter if it was too much for other players, or you, or me – the fact that he felt threatened and harassed (if that is in fact the case) is enough.

    Same as in your workplace and mine.