I’ve touched on the Jeremy Lin hype, and that train seems to have slowed down somewhat. However, there’s another sensation that is grabbing headlines, this time more locally. “Yu-phoria” has hit Texas.
I’m not sure if there has ever been a more anticipated arrival of someone to an organization, especially the Texas Rangers, as there was for Japanese standout pitcher Yu Darvish. I’ve debated this on the Rangers front, and maybe the hype is more than when the team signed current team president “Mr. No-Hitter” Nolan Ryan in the late ‘80’s. It really came to the forefront when you saw a huge crowd gather at the airport the day Yu arrived in DFW to sign his contract. “Yu-sanity” traveled west and landed in the metroplex.
We had seen this before with other Japanese players, particularly pitchers. You had “Nomo-mania” with the Los Angeles Dodgers over Hideo Nomo, and then in Boston with Daisuke Matsuzaka, or “Dice-K” as known throughout the baseball world. This one definitely ranks up there, if not takes the top spot.
One of the reasons why may deal with a word no player is really thrilled to hear, and that word is potential. Many of the Japanese pitchers came over here and found success early on, then kind of faded away. There could be a couple of reasons why. The pitching styles were different, and hitters had trouble adjusting to their stuff. But major league hitters will eventually figure you out, and they did. This bleeds into another possible reason. The pitchers that came over here threw a lot of innings previously in the Japanese league, plus they were a little older when they arrived, which eventually all caught up with them. When the stuff wasn’t as new and crisp as it once was and hitters figuring you out, you can get whiplash from watching the ball flying all over the yard.
What many like about Yu is he’s arriving in Texas with less innings thrown than others, and at 25 years old, is much younger. He brings with him an amazing repertoire, throwing seven different pitches that are all effective. So far in spring training, he’s proving he’s the real deal. And he better with all the attention he’s getting.
Throngs of Japanese media have cameras pointed at him every time he’s on the field. Add the local media to the mix and it seems like a paparazzi storm without any shelter. Everyday day it seems like there’s a “Yu Daily” update. For the price of the over $111 million dollars paid to get him into a Rangers uniform, we are all getting our money’s worth as far as coverage.
While the constant “Yu-phoria” gets played over and over, this kid may actually be worth the price of admission. Right now, he looks like the best Japanese pitcher out of the bunch. With a big price tag, a lot of pressure is put on you. Yu has been put on a pedestal, but is showing he can handle it.
This could turn out to be one of the best investments the Rangers ever made. There will be bumps in the road, but there’s also more upside to Yu than anything else, or any other pitcher to make the trip from japan to the U.S. If he takes off and becomes dominant, get your “puns” counter out.
You’ll need it.
Written by C. James