|MLB teams have been scoring big on players hijacked from Japan’s pro baseball leagues. Ichiro, Iguchi, Nomo and Matsui (the Hideki variety, sorry Kazuo) have had great success transitioning from the Japanese leagues to the MLB, and the Yankees are looking to cash in on the Japanese import scheme by locking up 25-year-old pitching phenom Daisuke Matsuzaka (left; nothing says "macho" like a powder-blue uniform) from the Seibu Lions. You may remember him from his stellar performance during the WBC last March, for which he earned the MVP title, and the Lions are now looking to ditch Matsuzaka’s salary by shipping him off to the states. The Mariners and the Yankees, both big fans of Japanese talent, are reportedly competing for the honor of bringing the pitching stud to their team for the 2007 season. Matsuzaka has already had an illustrious career, and could feasibly prove to be an ace for either team.
Matsuzaka’s career highlights:
World Baseball Classic, 2006: 3-0, 2.81 ERA, 13.0 IP, 10 SO, 3 BB, 0.85 WHIP
2005 Season: 14-13, 2.30 ERA, 215.0 IP, 226 SO
65 Career complete games
During the incredibly popular National High School Championships (much more popular than any non-pro baseball competition you will ever see in the U.S.): Matsuzaka pitched a 3-day whirlwind of amazement:
Day 1 — Pitched all 17 innings (250 pitches) in a 17-inning victory.
Day 2 — Played eight innings in the outfield with a towel wrapped around his pitching arm, then pitched the ninth inning for a save.
Day 3 — Pitched a nine-inning no-hitter.
I like my pitchers in cartoon form
This wunderkind clearly has the potential to compete with the greats. Bringing a star like this to New York would be one of the smartest moves Big Stein could make: he’s young (don’t forget, the Unit is still under contract for yet another year), hasn’t had a history of injuries (are buttocks injuries contagious? I’m looking at you, Carl Pavano), and is on his way to record-breaking ERA and strike-out numbers.