Monday, April 27, 2009

Hideki Irabu reunion tour

Do you ever sit and wonder, "What ever happened to that guy?"

Could be anyone: an old friend, a favorite (or least favorite) teacher... or a ball player who was never able to live up to the hype surrounding his arrival from Japan?

Sometimes, as I sit and watch any of one of the Yankees pitchers getting shelled on the mound, I think to myself, "What ever happened to Hideki Irabu?"

He was one of the first of a string of players to come over from Japan, and was a serviceable player for the Bronx Bombers. He actually won two World Series rings in New York before moving on to pitch (and struggle) with the Montreal Expos and Texas Rangers, and ultimately ending up back in Japan with the Hanshin Tigers.

He was famously referred to as a "fat toad" by George Steinbrenner after failing to cover first base on a ground ball.

Today, Hideki Irabu has signed a contract to pitch for the Long Beach Armada of the Golden Baseball League.

Says Armada manager Garry Templeton (yes, that Garry Templeton...), "Hideki Irabu is a tremendous addition to our pitching staff. I'm looking forward to the skill, experience, and professionalism that a player of his caliber will bring to the club and believe that this will be a great place for him to demonstrate that he is ready to return to the top levels of the game here or in Japan."

Not so fast, Garry. It's a great publicity stunt to be sure. This same team signed Jose Canseco to pitch a few years ago before trading him to the now extinct San Diego Surf Dawgs. But if Irabu was unwilling to hustle to earn a huge paycheck on the biggest stage in the baseball universe, what makes anyone think he'll put forth any effort whatsoever on perhaps the smallest stage?

More power to the Armada. Do what you gotta do to put people in the seats. You have to give them credit for at least attempting to give the people of Long Beach a reason to part with their hard earned money. But a comeback for Irabu? I don't think so.

You can put a new jersey on a fat toad, but it's still a fat toad.

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