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Over the last two weeks, speculation has ran rampent about 25-year-old Japanese pitcher Yu Darvish. At first, the speculation was surrounding whether or not he was going to be posted at all.
Once he was posted, it triggered a firestorm of rumors and hot-stove talk about who would land him and for how much. There were numbers thrown around by just about every media outlet and on every social media network you could find. Everyone wanted to talk about him. But there was something else most wanted to do: compare him.
Darvish is another Japanese pitcher who is coming after all of those who have gone before him. But not only that, most see him as just another pitcher who will have the same success, or lack thereof, as guys like Diasuke Matsuzaka, Kei Igawa, and a few others. He’s never pitched a day in the major leagues so, therefore, he’s an unproven commodity.
However, you have those on the other side of the aisle who will tell you the comparison between him and other Japanese pitchers before him is nothing short of “lazy.”
He is bigger than most pitchers the big leagues have seen come out of Japan. He’s 6-foot-5 and 220 pounds and uses his frame effectively. He can run his fastball up to the mid-90s and can throw several different breaking balls that make them tough to read whether you’re a right- or left-handed hitter.
For the Texas Rangers, they made it clear from the get-go that they liked this young man. So much so they had a scout or someone from the organization behind home plate for each and every start Darvish made. That alone should have tipped off the rest of Major League Baseball that the Rangers were serious.
On Monday night, the baseball world waited for the announcement most fans had been waiting for. It was supposed to be made around 9 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. When that time came and went, some wondered if the announcement was coming at all that night.
An hour and a half later, just shortly before midnight, the first report was made. Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports reported the highest bid had been accepted by the Nippon Ham Fighters, Darvish’s team in Japan.
The highest bidder? The Texas Rangers.
On Tuesday morning, the sports radio stations around Dallas/Fort Worth exploded with opinions of Darvish. Callers shared how they believed this young pitcher would do not only in the American League but if he would be able to last.
Darvish isn’t just another pitcher and he’s not just a guy who doesn’t have experience in the big leagues. Scouts, executives and those who follow the game for a living all have said this isn’t just another Japanese pitcher. This is a guy who is going to stick, and last, with whomever he signs.
People will talk about his lack of experience, but it’s because it’s the only argument they can come up with. No matter how many scouts or experts talk about his capabilities, the inexperience will always be something the doubters will use to shoot him down.
The Rangers got the man they wanted. They got the young man they had scouted for so long. They didn’t spend that much time in Japan and at that many games watching him just to lose out in the bidding. They knew the kind of number it would take to be able to negotiate a contract with him. They made an aggressive offer and it turned out to be enough.
When spring training rolls around, the eyes of just about every Texas Ranger fan, as well as the media who covers the team, will be squarely on the new addition. He will have more expecations hanging over his head than possibly any other pitcher the Rangers have had on their roster in quite some time.
Doubt all you want, Yu Darvish is not going to be just any other pitcher.
That much the Texas Rangers made very clear.