Now the stage is set for another blockbuster off-season deal for the Yomiuri Giants. But Tuffy Rhodes says he is not yet ready to play for another team.
With Japanese baseball abuzz with talk about his future, Rhodes spoke out hours after the Kintetsu Buffaloes said their contract extension talks fell through and he will not come back to the Pacific League club for a ninth season.
“As of today, I’m still a Buffalo. I didn’t sign any papers or nothing, and there’s plenty of time to come back and get something settled,” Rhodes told Kyodo News in a telephone interview from his home in Houston.
“I come home with my stomach hurting every night just thinking that there is a possibility I may have to wear another uniform. But I can’t see myself in another uniform. I don’t even know how to start over,” he said.
On Monday, Kintetsu president Mitsuru Nagai announced the end of the negotiations with Rhodes after the Buffaloes’ final offer was turned down Sunday, three weeks before his one-year contract runs out.
Rhodes heard the news not through a club official or from either of his two agents, but through his teammate Norihiro Nakamura, who called him to let him know Nagai made it sound like it was all over.
“Nori told me what my agent didn’t even know. I’m surprised just as much as anybody. Why would Nagai give up on everything we accomplished over eight years so easily? That really hurts,” said Rhodes.
“I thought I was going to be a Buffalo from beginning to end. I don’t want to go nowhere else and don’t want change.”
In a hastily arranged press conference at an Osaka airport, Nagai even went on to say that Rhodes will likely play for a Central League team next season and hopefully win a home run title there.
Nagai’s comments triggered the Japanese media to start collecting farewell comments from his “former” teammates.
“It sounds like they’ve given up on me,” said Rhodes, who is not permitted to negotiate with other clubs until the month’s end.
“Last week, the Buffaloes sent us a one-year contract and we sent back a letter saying it was unacceptable. I guess that’s why Nagai went public and said I’m not coming back,” said Rhodes.
“I’m not going to play games or disrespect nobody. What they see is what they get from me. I mean, how many foreigners have been over there (in Osaka) for eight years and hit 55 homers or done anything I’ve done for them? What did I do to deserve this?”
Yet the fracas did not stop Rhodes from giving credit to the team and his teammates for teaching him all he knows about Japanese baseball.
“I don’t want to play without Nori (Norihiro Nakamura), (Koichi) Isobe, (Naoyuki) Omura, (Yuji) Yoshioka, and all those guys. That’s my family. They know everything about me. The happy me, the sad me. I have nothing bad to say about Kintetsu or Osaka,” he said.
“As far as the other teams concerned, I won’t know until Dec. 1 because I’m not officially a free agent until then, and I’m not going to jeopardize anything by doing what’s against the law,” Rhodes said.
The 35-year-old former Boston Red Sox outfielder still hopes for an about-face by Kintetsu with a multiyear offer — something the team has never done before for a foreign player.
Muramatsu in talks
FUKUOKA (Kyodo) Outfielder Arihito Muramatsu, who recently filed for free agency from the Daiei Hawks, began talks on Monday with Daiei and the Lotte Marines, baseball sources said.
The talks with the Pacific League champion Hawks ended after just 10 minutes with a reported three-year offer of 360 million yen plus performance incentives.
“It wasn’t a bad offer but I’ve wanted a change of environment for some time now,” the 30-year-old Muramatsu said.
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