Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Might They Call Him Masahiro "Bleeping" Tanaka One Day?

I strongly detest the introductory press conference.

Wait. That doesn't work. "Strongly detest" isn't adequate enough.

I bleeping hate the introductory press conference.

There, that's better. Seriously, is there anything more mind-numbing than watching a player who made his mark somewhere else throw out a bunch of cliches and platitudes to reporters hungry for a story in the dead of winter.

It's not as if we don't already know all the answers. "I'm honored to play for this historic franchise and in this amazing city." I couldn't pass up the opportunity to play for the Yankees." "Wearing the Pinstripes is a special feeling." "I want the opportunity to win year in and year out."

We all know what they mean is, "the Yankees were willing to pay me the most."

But Tuesday's Mashiro Tanaka presser was a little different.

Associated Press

Yes, we heard about wanting win. And yes, we know the money was a huge part of Tanaka's decision to come to New York.

But the difference with this press conference, aside from the huge throng of Japanese media that made this the largest Yankee press conference since Hideki Matsui's intoduction, was that this actually was our first introduction to the player.

For guys such as Brian McCann, Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran, we already had some sense of who those guys are. We have been able to watch them for their entire careers and have been able to see and hear interviews with those guys. We have some inkling into what those guys bring to a team.

But Tanaka is more of a mystery.

With the exception of the World Baseball Classic, the 25-year-old Japanese righthander has played his entire career half a world away with limited exposure to American baseball fans.

We really didn't have any sense about what this guy is all about.

Until Tuesday.

Tanaka opened the presser by introducing himself in English. "Hello, my name is Masahiro Tanaka," he said. "I'm very happy to be a Yankee."

Now, I don't think anyone expects him to be fluent in English, and he will need a translator to help communicate, but the fact that he his first words to the media in the United States was in English says something about his eagerness to take on the challenges of coming to a new country and adapting to its culture.

The willingness to embrace challenge was later confirmed as Tanaka discussed adjusting to the larger baseball in the Major League, the pressures of pitching in New York, and his eagerness to take part in the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry.

The guy seems to be a bulldog. He seems to have a presence. He seems to have that "it" factor great players have.

But we won't truly know if Tanaka is a great player until he gets on the field and delivers.

What we do know is that Tanaka will wear No. 19. Other players to have worn No. 19 for the Yankees include Dave Righetti, Robin Ventura, Whitey Ford in 1950, Dick Tidrow, Bob Turley, Roberto Kelly, Fritz Peterson, Johnny Murphy and, of course, Aaron "Bleeping" Boone.

Who knows? If Tanaka can live up the hype and expectation, they just might start calling him Masahiro "Bleeping" Tanaka in Bah-ston.

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