Babe Ruth. Lou Gehrig. Bill Dickey. Joe Dimaggio. Yogi Berra. Whitey Ford. Mickey Mantle. Roger Maris. Phil Rizzuto. Billy Martin. Thurman Munson. Reggie Jackson. Don Mattingly. Derek Jeter. Jorge Posada. Andy Pettitte. Mariano Rivera. There have been many great Yankees over the years, much to the chagrin of the fans of every other Major League Baseball team, but with the sun setting on the Jeter Era, the next great Yankee has arrived from the Land of the Rising Sun. Masahiro Tanaka is here, and he’s taking North America by storm.
Tanaka, a 25 year old right hander, pitched for the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles from 2007 to 2013, signed a seven year $155 million deal with the New York Yankees this past winter after also drawing interest from the Cubs, White Sox, Dodgers, Astros, and Diamondbacks. Tanaka set a record in Japan for posting wins in 26 consecutive decisions from 2012 to 2013, and he hasn’t missed a beat since arriving in the Bronx, and putting on the infamous, yet iconic Yankee pinstripes. In his first 22 Major League innings, Tanaka has thrown 28 strikeouts. This week against, the Chicago Cubs, Masahiro allowed just two hits, but for what it’s worth, both hits were bunts. It’s a small sample size, but right now Tanaka has Major League hitters on their heels, and adjustments need to be made.
The Boston Red Sox tried making a free agent splash like this one in 2007 when they signed Daisuke Matsuzaka. Despite winning the World Series that year, Dice-K never lived up to the hype and was one of the most frustrating pitchers I have ever had to watch as a Red Sox fan. That free agent whiff by the Sox caused the team to shy away from Yu Darvish (who has been very good for the Texas Rangers when healthy) and Tanaka. Sometimes you have to take risks to find a franchise fixing player, and the Yankees have done just that. He’s still young, he’s creating more excitement for the Yankees than established MLB free agents like Jacoby Ellsbury and Brian McCann, and he has a great chance of becoming the face of the franchise once Derek Jeter retires this winter.
Am I overreacting to a few outstanding performances in April? Probably. But then again, this is the New York Yankees we’re talking about. They can never be underestimated, because they always find a way to stay competitive. Their roster was old and overpaid, but Tanaka is adding a spark to the franchise that hasn’t been there in years. Alex Rodriguez is serving a one year suspension, Mariano Rivera is happily retired, and Derek Jeter will be joining Mo in retirement in a matter of months. The Red Sox just won the World Series, and have one of the deepest farm systems in baseball, but the Yankees have something to be excited about. As a Red Sox fan, this terrifies me.
It’s only April, but Masahiro Tanaka doesn’t plan on going anywhere anytime soon.