On an occassion on par with Branch Rickey signing Jackie Robinson to a contract in August of 1945, or Roberto Clemente becoming the first Latin player to be elected to the Hall of Fame in 1973, the Washington Nationals announced on Monday that they would venture forth into a brave new world full of peril and mystique. It is full of unknowns – but they will cavalierly march forth for the glimmer of hope that untapped potential lies ahead.

They will start scouting Asian players.

Wait, what’s that you say? Other teams have been doing this for years? It’s not new? Then why the hell did the Nationals wait so long?  

All right, so maybe I laid the sarcasm on WAAAAAAAYYYYYY too thick, but come on. For all the talk about competitive imbalances in baseball due to the lack of a salary cap, aren’t oversights like this just as big (if not bigger) a reason? There have already been over 30 Japanese players who have played a big league game. South Korea has produced twelve and Taiwan three. Some of them have gone on to play some top-notch baseball – Ichiro, Hideki Matsui, Takashi Saito, Chien-Ming Wang, etc.  And the Nationals just realized that they were missing out. Here’s what Bill Rizzo, Nats VP of Baseball Operations, said about it:

“This is the first time we really went in and saturated (Japan). As time goes by, we’ll build databases and have more information. But we feel like we have a good handle on it.”

Now I understand that a team like the Nationals never really had much of a shot to get players like Hideki Matsui and Daisuke Matsuzaka for financial reasons. But there is one instance where the Nationals can get a leg up on the competition – find a newer, better, version of Mac Suzuki.

Suzuki was the first Japanese player to enter the Major League  without having first played a day of professional ball in his home country. He signed with the Mariners in 1993 as an 18-year old and went on to have an otherwise undistinguished career. But I am curious as to why there aren’t more like him. Granted, having the option of playing professionally in Japan and make a pretty good living may seem like the safer bet for many young players. But there must be some viable prospects who would be very interested in skipping this step altogether. With the current value of young talent in MLB, shouldn’t a team such as the Nationals exploit this before the bigger clubs get in on the action?

No Responses to “God, I Hope the Nationals Get This Right…”

  1. I’m gonna go with … umm… Tommy John!

  2. Jojo Fireball says:

    Kerry Wood… just a guess… I\’m not even sure if he had the procedure…

  3. Nick Kapur says:

    That is a good guess, Coley! Actually, Tommy John is still in second place, even after all these years! But there is still one man ahead of him…

  4. Sarah Green says:

    Ummmm. John Smoltz?

  5. Smoltz is too obvious. Can’t be him. Maybe John Lieber?

  6. Tommy John played for something like 15 more years after he had his surgery. Seeing as the guy won close to 300 games in his career, we must be talking something like over 150 wins AFTER the procedure at least. So basically, we’re talking about someone who had it done at least 10-12 years ago if not far more. It’s probably someone who had it done early in his career. I know that Mo Rivera had it done in the minors, but obviously he doesn’t have that many wins.

    I’m stumped.

  7. Sarah Green says:

    Kason Gabbard had it in the minors, too, I believe, but it’s obviously not him….as much as Nick wishes it were!

  8. Sarah Green says:

    Hmmmm….too obvious, eh Ward? What about someone not as obvious…like….David Wells. He’s had surgery on every joint in his body. It could be him.

  9. Wells never had Tommy John surgery.

  10. What about Kenny Rogers? I hear his name among the list of guys who have had it, but I don’t remember hearing about it when it happened, which makes me think it was before I really started paying attention to baseball.

  11. Sarah Green says:

    Sorry, Coley. I brought my A-Game to UmpBump today. Looking for something with which to prove you wrong, I may have found our trivia answer.

    Now, I will have to wait for Nick (who is now on Japan time) to tell us whether this still holds, but in 2002, USA Today reported:

    “[Tommy John’s] 164 post-surgery victories remained unsurpassed until last year, when David Wells eclipsed it. (Wells had the surgery in his early 20s, as a minor leaguer.)”

    Yes, write it down: Sarah Green has won her first UmpBump trivia question EVAH.

  12. But Sarah, Wikipedia does not list David Wells among the players who have had Tommy John surgery. Could Wikipedia possibly be wrong?

  13. Sarah Green says:

    My God, Coley. Wikipedia! Wrong?! Say it ain’t so!

    Wikipedia, have you no decency? At long last, HAVE YOU NO DECENCY, SIR?

  14. It’s Wells. But I’m not sure you can get full credit if you just Google up the answer though, Sarah… I mean, pretty much any of these questions are answerable by Googling!

  15. Sarah Green says:

    I guessed it before I googled! But then when Coley said he hadn’t had the surgery, I had to check, didn’t I? Come on!

  16. Okay, okay, in light of your sworn affidavit and especially your allusion to the Army-McCarthy Hearings, I have decided to award you full credit!

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