Friday, December 23, 2005

JAPANESE INVASION OF AMERICA


Before Hideo Nomo, no Japanese player had ever been a star in America. Indeed, the path usually went the other way, as second-tier major leaguers such as Warren Cromartie, Randy Bass and Tuffy Rhodes went to Japan and became offensive forces for their teams. It's a different world now, one that can lead to a greater international awareness of baseball. MLB partisans are now aware of the skills of Japanese players and MLB partisans should keep their eyes on other Japanese players. The Yomiuri Giants pitcher, Koji Uehara, struck out Barry Bonds three times in a MLB-NPB all-star match. But not every Japanese player has the talent to play in the Major Leagues, and it's often hard to predict who will be successful. Koji Uehara prior to entering the Japanese amateur draft and signing a contract with the Yomiuri Giants in 1998 talked with the Anaheim Angels but eventually decided to stay in Japan when the team refused to guarantee him a spot on their major league roster. He will now have to wait another year to achieve his dream of playing in MLB. He is eligible for free agency in Japan in 2007 and hopes to pitch in the majors in 2006 via the posting system. He hoped to be posted in 2005, but decided to sign a new deal with this club despite a 20-million-yen pay cut from this year. After re-signing the Yomiuri Giants for an estimated 340 million yen and a cut in the pay roll, still he has become the highest-paid pitcher in Japan. Also the 30 year old has committed to Yomiuri club representative Hidetoshi Kiyotake that he won't pursue a career in the major leagues via the posting system. Uehara was 9-12 with a 3.31 ERA in 27 games this year, the first time in his seven-year career his losses outnumbered his wins.

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