NOTE: A funny thing happened when we posted our article about the prospect of the Twins replacing JJ Hardy with Tsuyoshi Nishioka a couple of weeks ago. Our sitemeter started recording “hits” from Japan. So with this, our official “Welcome” post for the newest Minnesota Twin, we thought we’d give one of those fancy online Translator programs a try. We only hope we don’t end up accidentally starting some kind of international incident.
It’s official! Tsuyoshi Nishioka is a Minnesota Twin. The Twins have come to an agreement on a contract with the Japanese infielder which will reportedly pay Nishioka $9 million over the next three seasons. When you factor in the posting bid price that the Twins paid to Nishioka’s NBP team, the Chiba Lotte Marines, the total cost to the Twins will be somewhere close to $15 million over the next three years.
公式です ！西岡剛ミネソタ州ツインです。ツインズ合意する契約上の報道によれば西岡 900万ドル、次の 3 つの季節を支払うことになるが、日本の内野手が出ています。西岡の NBP チーム、千葉ロッテマリーンズの双子を支払った転記の入札価格を考慮すると、コスト、双生児にはどこか 1500万ドル近くに、今後 3 年間になります。
That’s a fair price. It’s certainly not an amount of money that will break the bank or keep the Twins from also signing other players. But yet, it’s fair to ask, “What should the Twins expect for their money?” For such a seemingly simple question, there really can be nothing but a complicated answer.
The Twins are hopeful that Nishioka will provide reliable defense at one of the middle infielder positions and, while he’s not expected to hit for much power, hopes are that he’ll get on base well enough to fill the number two spot in the batting order and provide more speed than the team got out of that spot last season. Those are not unreasonable expectations and if the Twins had signed some kind of American free agent infielder with similar skill sets, this is where we could probably end the discussion of expectations. But make no mistake, this is not just another baseball player changing teams.
I don’t know if the Twins organization thought through what it would mean to sign the defending Nippon Baseball Pacific League batting champion and bring him to Minnesota, but I hope everyone is ready for what happens next.
Ron Gardenhire may be looking for someone with speed to fill an infield spot. Bill Smith may be looking for a young player he could sign to a reasonable multiple year salary. The Minnesota news media may be happy to have something new to write about concerning the Twins, who’s roster of key contributors has been comprised of rather bland personalities for a while now. Fans of the “baseball purist” variety are largely just anxious to see some indication that the Twins organization recognizes the team needs to make improvments. The casual fans probably won’t even figure out that the Twins have a new infielder until March when they start paying attention again. Each of these groups may or may not get what they’re hoping for. But I have a feeling we’re all going to get much, much more.
I’m not sure any of us really are prepared for what comes next.
I’ve been trying to think of an analogy but I really can’t come up with one. I don’t think we’ve seen anything like what’s coming our way. Ever. We’re talking about a Japanese iconic rock star in cleats coming soon to a baseball field… and a clubhouse… near you!
This wouldn’t be such a big deal if Nishioka had signed with any number of other Major League teams. He’d be just another target of the paparazzi in New York or Boston or even Los Angeles. Seattle has already been down this road before with Ichiro, so another talented Japanese import wouldn’t really change that organization’s profile much.
But the Minnesota Twins? This is a team owned by a family of bankers, run by essentially the same group of businessmen for decades, and managed on the field by “old school” managers and coaches since, well, forever. And this is a group of players that seem to think breaking the seal on a new deck of cards constitutes “clubhouse excitement.” Man, are they in for a surprise.
All I can say is, “it’s about time!”
I don’t know what to expect from the Twins in 2011. There are too many question marks. Will Joe Nathan come back healthy enough to contribute at the back end of the bullpen? Will Justin Morneau return from his concussion and reestablish himself among the best hitters in the Major Leagues? Will Joe Mauer perform like a player worth $23 million a year instead of the mere mortal he proved himself to be this season? Will the rotation hold up? I’m anxious to see how all that works out.
But not nearly as anxious as I am to see how everyone directly or indirectly involved with the Twins… from fans to players to media… adjusts to the Japanese tsunami that’s about to wash over the organization. Personally, I think this team has needed some kind of spark… a shot in the arm… or a kick in the ass… something… for a long time. All of this “even keel” stuff is boring me and I think it’s boring a lot of other fans, too. The Twins opened up a brand new stadium last year and I managed to attend something close to a dozen games during the course of the season. I saw them play good teams and bad… from the Yankees and Rangers to the Orioles. Fans showed up in record numbers and clearly had a good time… but I never really felt the crowd was EXCITED by what they were seeing on the field.
I don’t know if a change among of middle infielders is enough to get the Twins to the World Series. It seems unlikely. But I think it’s time for us to get past the debating about whether the Twins were right or wrong to trade away JJ Hardy. The past is past. It’s time to look forward and if this Japanese comet that’s about to land among us can bring some fun and excitement to Target Field in 2011 and beyond, then I can’t wait to be there when it happens!
Let’s all get on board and start practicing now…
SUUUUUUUUUU YOOOOOOOOOOO SHEEEEEEEEEEEEE!