Baseball has been America's national sport and pastime for a very long time. In recent years, Japan has come along and adopted the American sport like its own national sport and pastime.
Except for the fact that in Japan, baseball players are glorified like celebrities. That could explain why Japanese sensation Yu Darvish is treated like a god in Japan.
Could the Japanese sensation be the next big star in the Major Leagues? Better question—could Darvish be the next big thing in New York?
In the past, Japanese stars like Hideo Nomo, Hideki Matsui, and Ichiro Suzuki have found success in Major League Baseball. Could Yu Darvish be the next big import from Japan? There has been a lot of hype surrounding Darvish's talent, but he has silenced most of the hype with his performances on the mound.
Darvish's name started to make headlines beginning in 2008 with his participation in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. At the Beijing Olympics, he was named the ace of the Japanese pitching rotation. His performance in the Olympics was not too impressive, but major league scouts began to express interest in the tall right-hander.
The baseball world received another look of Yu Darvish at the 2009 World Baseball Classic. He had a very strong debut in the World Baseball Classic, as he pitched four innings and did not give up a single hit. Darvish's second start was his first start at a Major League stadium. He struggled through five innings and was charged with the loss in that game against South Korea.
Towards the end of the tournament, Team Japan decided to move Darvish into the closer role. His first test would be against the powerful Team USA lineup. Darvish came into the game in the ninth inning and pitched a scoreless frame while striking out two batters.
Darvish's next appearance as a closer came in the championship game against Korea. Japan was leading the game 3-2 and it was Darvish's mission to bring home another World Baseball Classic title to Japan.
The pressure on Darvish was immense.
The first batter he faced went down on strikes. The next two batters that faced the Japanese pitcher were walked. But there stood Yu Darvish on the mound unshaken by what had just occurred to the previous batters. He responded to what had just occurred by striking out the next batter.
There were now two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning. Japan was one out away from winning their second consecutive World Baseball Classic. But the fifth batter that faced Yu Darvish hit a single and a run scored. The celebration would have to wait another inning after Darvish got the final out with another strikeout.
Japan scored two runs in the top of the 10th inning to give them a comfortable 5-3 lead.
This time Darvish would not falter. He would strike out two batters and walk one to help Japan win their second tournament title.
Darvish said in a recent interview that currently he does not plan on moving to pitch in the United States. But several people close to him have been urging him to do so while his talent is at a peak. Teams like the New York Yankees, Los Angeles Angels, New York Mets, Los Angeles Dodgers, and both Chicago teams have expressed interest in the Japanese phenom.
Yu Darvish, Aroldis Chapman, and Stephen Strasburg have been named the top three pitchers not in the majors yet. Darvish seems like the best in many people's opinions because he has experience against premier competition.
But Darvish may have lost some value since he was moved to the bullpen because of shoulder fatigue. Early this September, Darvish made his return to the rotation and had a great first start back.
In eight innings he just allowed one run.
The Yankees could have great interest in Darvish when he becomes available. They are looking to rebound after their last Japanese pitcher signed, Kei Igawa, was a very bad investment. The Japanese right-hander seems like a perfect fit for the Yankees because he is very flexible.
Darvish could be the next Phil Hughes-type pitcher.
At first the Yankees could give Yu Darvish a few starts in the minors to see how he performs as a starter. If that does not work out he could always be moved to the bullpen. Just imagine the strength of a bullpen where the bridge to Mariano Rivera consists of Phil Hughes and Yu Darvish.
It might be too early to tell, but if Darvish has a lot of success as a closer, he could be the next Yankee closer. Again, it is too early to tell and it is just a suggestion.
Currently with Strasburg signed with the Washington Nationals and Darvish not on the market, the Yankees have turned their attention to Aroldis Chapman. If the Yankees sign Chapman, it could be an omen of several upcoming changes. The signing of Chapman would indicate that Andy Pettitte's career with the Yankees could be coming to a close.
Also it would indicate that Phil Hughes will not have a spot in the rotation next year and possibly stay in the bullpen.
There are reasons why Chapman's signing might not benefit the Yankees. One reason is that Chapman has never really faced high caliber competition. Scouts say that Cuba's professional league can be compared to the minor leagues of the United States.
A second reason is that Andy Pettitte has not called it quits yet. He has not said whether he will retire at the end of the season or not. Andy has spoken with the Yankees' front office about considering coming back another year after an above average 2009 campaign.
The most important reason why Chapman's signing might not benefit the Yankees is that the Yankees have not played in the post season yet. If the Yankees do end up bringing championship number 27 to New York, why change something that works?
In the mean time, the Yankees should keep an eye on Darvish.
In that time the Yankees can figure out what they will do with Pettitte, Joba Chamberlain, Phil Hughes, and Chien-Ming Wang. The future of these pitchers is in the hands of the Yankees' front office. Time is available with Yu Darvish and not with Aroldis Chapman.
When and if Darvish hit the free-agent market expect his signing to be similar to Daisuke Matsuzaka's. The first step to signing the Japanese phenom would be to bid on an opportunity to negotiate with the pitcher. The Nippon Ham Fighters would be the ones that receive the money from the top bidder.
Only the top bidder has the opportunity to negotiate and speak to Darvish and his agent. If a deal is struck, Darvish will be join the team. If not the next highest bidder will have an opportunity to sign Darvish. This process continues until a deal is struck.
It has been reported that the Yankees and Red Sox have already offered money to speak to Darvish, but the Nippon Fighters would not allow it.
Could Yu Darvish be in pinstripes sometime in his future? Only time will tell.
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