The Minnesota Twins announced that they released infielder Tsuyoshi Nishioka on Friday (via Rhett Bollinger of MLB.com). That in and of itself doesn't come as a surprise. What does, however, is the manner in which Nishioka conducted himself afterward.
In a day and age when players seem to blame everyone but themselves for their poor play, the infielder took the blame entirely:
I take full responsibility for my performance which was below my own expectations. At this time, I have made the decision that it is time to part ways.
The Minnesota Twins signed Nishioka to a three-year, $9 million deal before the 2011 season to be the everyday shortstop. Early into 2011, Nishioka suffered a broken leg while making a play at second base and subsequently played in just 68 games last year. In his shortened season, Nishioka hit .226 with 19 RBI, scoring just 15 runs with only two stolen bases.
2012 didn't treat Nishioka very well either, as his time with the major league club was extremely limited. He appeared in just three games for the Twins, going 0-12 in 14 plate appearances and committing two errors in the field. Nishioka spent the majority of his 2012 at Triple-A Rochester where he was batting .258 in 431 plate appearances.
The event that pushed things over the edge for the Twins was in Nishioka's last game in which he lost a pop fly in the sun and walked away from the play entirely. This, of course, made more than a few people angry, most notably GM Terry Ryan who said the play was "not acceptable," according to John Shipley of The Pioneer Press.
While most Twins fans could have seen Nishioka's release coming and were certainly clamoring for it, the simple fact of the matter is that Nishioka bowed out the way I wish any professional athlete would. He didn't blame the coaches, the differences in Japanese baseball versus American baseball or even his injury. He admitted that he hadn't performed up to his standards and was going to part ways with the Twins.
On top of owning his performance, he also turned down guaranteed money for next year. How many pros would do that? Not many.
The Twins were due to owe Nishioka $3.25 million in 2013, which they are no longer on the hook for. This will free up some room for the Twins to hopefully spend on a pitcher in the offseason.
This, of course, may do little to ease the pain left from the $5.32 million the Twins had to pay to even negotiate with Nishioka and the $6 million they paid him in the last two seasons. To this day, the Twins won't say who scouted the polarizing infielder and thought it was a good idea to bring him on.
Now that the Nishioka era for the Twins is over (did it ever begin??), all we as fans are left with is the memory of what could have been when the Twins signed the Japanese star. Not many things went right for Nishioka in his tenure with the Twins, but he did get his last play as a Twin right--a gracious exit that other players should use as an example. Via the Associated Press:
I have no regrets and know that only through struggle can a person grow stronger. I appreciate all the support the team and the fans in Minnesota and Rochester have shown me.
Thank you, Tsuyoshi Nishioka. That was something we could be proud of.