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MLB Foreign Flameouts: 5 Imports Who Fizzled in the Majors

Christopher CzarContributor IDecember 2, 2016

MLB Foreign Flameouts: 5 Imports Who Fizzled in the Majors

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    Ah, the great things about America—freedom (unless you listen to Michael Moore), movies starring Bill Murray, 3,000-calorie hamburgers, and of, course, baseball.

    The American pastime, however, has become an international game. With competitive Japanese leagues and the immense popularity of the sport in Latin American, the game has seen a serious influx of foreign talent.

    However, just as for every Michael Jordon there's a Sam Bowie, for every Ichiro Suzuki there's a Hideki Irabu.

    Foreign flops are bound to happen. Here's five of the most fantastic flops from overseas.

Hideki Irabu

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    Hideki Irabu appeared to be a can't-miss prospect for the New York Yankees. Sure, Irabu looks more like an evil Yakuza crime lord than a ballplayer, but he is a legend in Japan.

    The much heralded signing of the Japanese fireballer seemed to be a major coup as the Yankees swindled the rights for Irabu away from the San Diego Padres in exchange for Ruben Rivera, another foreign flameout.

    Ultimately, all the hub-bub and hoopla surrounding Irabu didn't mean much. 

    Irabu quickly drew the ire of George Steinbrenner and eventually found his way out of New York after two forgetful seasons, making him the second worst Japanese import to attack the Big Apple.

    After stints with the Expos and Ranger, Irabu left the MLB with a 34-35 record and 5.15 ERA.

Glenn Williams

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    One of the most hyped international products ever, the Aussie Glenn Williams has a 13-game hitting streak going, getting a hit in each of his first (and only) 13 games. 

    This hitting streak to start a career ties an MLB record that he'll likely never get a chance to beat.

    At 16, Williams was signed to a huge contract by the Atlanta Braves in 1993.

    He played in the minor leagues 11 years before getting a crack at the big leagues when he finally made a cameo appearance with the Minnesota Twins in 2005.

    Unfortunately, he was never able to follow up his briefly successful start with the Twins thanks to a shoulder injury.

    Williams now coaches for the rival Sox, uh...the Sydney Blue Sox that is.

Ruben Rivera

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    Panamanian Ruben Rivera was the top prospect for the Yankees in the mid-90s before being used as a trading chip in a deal with the San Diego Padres for the rights to Hideki Irabu.

    You might know Rivera as Mariano's cousin, but you more likely remember him as the guy who stole Derek Jeter's glove in 2002 after being re-signed by the Yankees.

    He sold the glove and, perhaps in a nod to the reality series Survivor, was voted off the Yankees by his teammates.

    Rivera had little success in the big leagues, evidenced by a career .214 average.  He's now playing in Mexico.

Hee-Seop Choi

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    A top prospect for the Chicago Cubs in the late 1990s and early 2000s, the South Korean Hee-Seop Choi seemed like a future everyday player in the league.

    Choi actually participated in a Home Run Derby. 

    Alas, it was in 2005 when MLB came up with that stupid idea to have eight different countries represented in the contest, and Choi was the closest thing to an Asian power hitter in the league.

    Choi was even called the worst contestant ever in the history of the contest.

    In a steal, the Cubs traded Choi to the Florida Marlins for Derek Lee, who went on to become a good producer for them for several years.

    Choi, however, didn't do much with the Marlins and was quickly traded to the Dodgers, with whom he eventually faded away into baseball obscurity.

Ruben Mateo

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    I'll admit that, when I saw a picture of Ruben Mateo, I briefly thought it was Albert Pujols.

    Unfortunately for Mateo their likenesses and the fact that they're both from the Dominican Republic are where their similarities end.

    Mateo hit for power and average as a top-10 prospect in 1998 and 1999 before breaking into the big leagues with the Texas Rangers.

    Only a part-time player for a few seasons in the majors, Mateo ultimately flamed out with only 21 career home runs and a modest .250 average.

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