Whether it is about baseball, the Bretton Woods System, or any other topic, I really do not like to repeat what has already been said before. As much as I admire the guy, I wanted to avoid writing about Munenori Kawasaki since every baseball beat writer and blogger has been churning out glowing pieces on him. Although I had to relent after watching his first home run and the reception afforded to him by the Rogers Centre faithful during the Orioles-Jays game on June 20. So here it goes : )
Time away from the field, rink, or court because of an injury is what every athlete hopes to avoid during his/her career. However injury prone physiques or inevitable freak-accidents not only get the best of star players, but their teams too.
The sprained ankle of Toronto Blue Jays shortstop José Reyes on April 12 is a prime example. A slow start due to a 3-7 win loss record resulted in early calls for the Toronto GM-Manager duo’s heads along with reports of absent clubhouse chemistry. Something was rotten in the state of Blue Jay land.
One of the few bright spots was the newly acquired shortstop, a major centerpiece of the mammoth trade with the Marlins that arguably mortgaged the Jays’ future. The .365/.465/.526 stat line does not even began to explain Reyes’ value during the phase when the team struggled out of the gates. Plus, his jovial persona was the only thing holding this team together.
However, now the team has clicked and the offseason acquisitions are coming around. Nevertheless José’s stint on the Disabled List meant that GM Alex Anthopoulos would be shopping around for someone to fill that irreplaceable void.
Enter the Japanese ‘Munenori Kawasaki’ Dragon
Rival GMs exploit such dilemmas by offering a trade piece (that may even be a bust) to fill the baseball club’s glaring hole SOLELY to pry away its coveted prospect and/or established player. These prospects and/or established players would be untouchable otherwise, but glaring holes created by unforeseen circumstances may force some GMs to overpay. Hence the GM is at the mercy of the glaring hole and sometimes relents to the rival executive’s demands for a stopgap solution. Long story short, the GM looking to stop the bleeding is vulnerable to getting fleeced.
Luckily this did not happen with the Blue Jays as an offseason minor-league deal offered to infielder Munenori Kawasaki paid off. Forgive the generalization but clubs can derive a valuable lesson from this. During times of unexpected calamity which creates more clubhouse doom and gloom, always call on the South East Asian to set the ship aright.
Ethnic references aside, by no means did he replace or surpass Reyes’ abilities. Nonetheless Kawasaki’s serviceable bat, sharp glove, and lively personality (even with his so-so proficiency in English) contributed to the current turnaround of the Blue Jays. I really do not need to elaborate on the intangibles and awesomeness he brings to the team. For more on that, read this Sports Illustrated article.
It was almost baseball’s version of the The Karate Kid. Despite moving from New Jersey to the very different California
, the status of a cellar dweller to a sure shot contender, the fan expectations just became overwhelming. Just when fans thought the wheels were falling off the car that is the 2013 Blue Jays season, a Mr. Miyagi like Japanese figure not only lightened the burden of expectations, but somehow influenced the team. For a more baseball-centric cinematic comparison, look no further than Hiroshi Kamikaze Tanaka in Major League 2. Check out the video below containing all Tanaka scenes from the the epic baseball classic. Watch the scene from 1:53 – 2:53 where Tanaka hilariously tries to motivate slumping power hitter Pedro Cerrano. For all we know, Kawasaki may have tried the same motivation technique with Adam Lind to help him break out of his funk.
While Kawasaki may not swing the hottest bat, his eye enabled him to milk most opposing hurlers for a good 10 pitches. For a lineup predominantly containing Home Run addicts and a newly christened hitting coach with a radically different plate approach, Munenori Kawasaki’s plate discipline has fortunately rubbed off on his trigger-happy teammates.
With José Reyes’ return nearing this week, some tough roster decisions loom for the Blue Jays. Chances are he will be sent back to the Blue Jays triple-A affiliate, the Buffalo Bisons, especially since the bench is stacked.
If our brain trust does not find a creative way to keep you on our roster sayonara and domo arigato Munenori Kawasaki. If you are not traded, see you during the September roster expansions!
The Sinkerball has arrived in Toronto
Since we are on the subject of South East Asians who act as stabilizing forces on tumultuous major league teams, how about Chien Ming Wang? While the offense awoke with Kawasaki’s presence, the injury bug also bit the pitching staff. Ergo Josh Johnson, JA Happ, and Brandon Morrow landed on the DL. The former is back but the latter two still have strides to make in their recoveries.
While it is early to claim that Chien Ming Wang has fully resurrected himself from the dead, early signs are pointing to an all out career resurgence. During Wang’s tenure with the Yankees, the sinker pitch was his bread and butter. On the other hand, some of his worst outings came as a result of his inability to command that sinker.
I am not one to count my eggs before they hatch but the Tainan City native seems to be on the verge of a comeback. His reliance on other pitches besides the sinker has yielded great returns. Even more noteworthy is the fact that he is filling in admirably for Brandon Morrow.
Welcome to Toronto Wang! May your revival contribute to a Blue Jays postseason berth.