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Hideki Irabu: The New York Post Takes an Unfair Swipe at George Steinbrenner

NEW YORK - JULY 16:  The field is seen during the ceremony for New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner and Yankee Stadium public address announcer Bob Sheppard before the game against theTampa Bay Rays on July 16, 2010 in the Bronx borough of New York City. Steinbrenner died on July 13 at age 80 and Sheppard passed on July 11 at age 99.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
Harold FriendChief Writer IJuly 29, 2011

Once again, Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post has presented its own version of the news.

Sadly, former New York Yankees pitcher Hideki Irabu committed suicide by hanging himself.

Post reporter, Cathy Burke, not a baseball writer, inferred that Irabu never recovered from then-Yankees owner George Steinbrenner’s abuse.

Burke cleverly refers to the abuse in the sentence in which she writes that Irabu committed suicide. Take a look.

”Yankee pitcher Hideki Irabu -- the onetime hero of the Japanese baseball world who never recovered from the abuse hurled at him by George Steinbrenner -- has committed suicide, authorities said yesterday.”

No one will ever know whether or not Irabu ever recovered from Mr. Steinbrenner’s abuse (yes, I used “Mr.” because I respect Mr. Steinbrenner, with a few reservations).

Burke continues her sneaky method of creating her case against Mr. Steinbrenner.

“Irabu achieved his lifelong dream of pitching at the House That Ruth Built, but his career soon went into free fall after the Boss humiliated him -- and finally drove him out of town.”

Irabu drove himself out of town, as baseball writer John Harper of the rival New York Daily News, a tabloid usually not much better than the Post, explains.

According to Harper, Irabu always appeared to be carrying a heavy burden. He was the Japanese Nolan Ryan, according to the media’s hyperbole.

Irabu was never in shape. His Yankees teammates wondered why he used magnets all over his body to improve his circulation while he smoked on a cigarette. The Yankees didn’t think he was working hard enough.

The result was that the Yankees players and Irabu didn’t have an especially warm relationship. Irabu just didn’t seem to care.

Harper compares that to Hideki Matsui, who proved that the language barrier was no barrier to being a good teammate. Matsui has a great work ethic, which ballplayers respect.

Irabu’s signature play, which followed him the rest of his career, and perhaps the rest of his life, occurred in spring training when he failed to cover first base on a routine play.

Mr. Steinbrenner referred to Irabu as a “fat pussy toad.”

Harper related that Irabu had trouble staying is shape. He wrote:

“But as harsh as Steinbrenner's words may have been, they were born out of the Yankees' frustration with the pitcher - not only his results, but also his less-than-exemplary work ethic.”

The end of Hideki Irabu is sad and upsetting, but for anyone to infer that George Steinbrenner acted any differently to Irabu than he did to other Yankees who disappointed (see Ed Whitson or Steve Trout) is ridiculous.

In 2008, Irabu assaulted a bar manager in Japan and in May 2010 he was arrested in Los Angeles on suspicion of DWI. He recently split with his wife, which depressed him greatly.

Cathy Burke, allow Mr. Steinbrenner to rest in peace.

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