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[1/23/2014] Masahiro Tanaka News and Notes (UPDATED 6:56pm, includes press conference quotes)

by on Jan.23, 2014 @ 2:29 pm, under MLB

Masahiro Tanaka updates from Thursday, January 23, 2014.

  • Tanaka arrived at Kobo Stadium in a suit at 9:02am.  Reporters congratulated him.  He replied, "Good morning," then disappeared into the facilities for workouts. [Nikkan Sports 1/23/2014]
  • Tanaka is scheduled to hold a press conference at Kobo Stadium at 3:00pm (Japan time). [Sponichi 1/23/2014]
  • Tanaka once visited the old Yankee Stadium when he was in high school (August 2006).  He was there with a team of high school players which also included Nippon Ham's Yuki Saito.  The game he was supposed to watch was rained out, but he still had a chance to meet Hideki Matsui. [Sanspo 1/23/2014]
  • Tanaka's glove manufacturer could be down to Mizuno and Asics.  He also started using Asics cleats during workouts at Kobo Stadium on the 18th.  He may have been basing some design decisions based on feedback he received from Yu Darvish. [Tokyo Sports 1/23/2014]
  • Hiroki Kuroda comment:  "I would like to work with him to win another World Series Championship.  I also hope his presence can push me to become a better pitcher." [Nikkan Sports 1/23/2014]
  • Norichika Aoki comment:  "Going to the Yankees will probably mean a lot of pressure, but I think he will be able to handle it.  I think I will have opportunities to face him.  This gives me another thing to look forward to." [Nikkan Sports 1/23/2014]
  • UPDATE @ 2:56pm - Senichi Hoshino comment: "I got a phone call from him last night.  He said he decided on the Yankees.  I told him to make sure he prepared himself properly. ... Like I always say, if a young person says they want to take on the challenge, I want to let them do it.  I am a little said, but this is a happy occasion and I want him to flap his wings [and fly].  I think he will live up to Japan's expectations if he is in good condition.  Congratulations." [Daily Sports 1/23/2014]
  • UPDATE @ 3:31pm -
    • J Sports is planning to televise all of Tanaka's starts during the upcoming regular season.  This will also be broadcasting exhibition games. [official announcement]
    • Tanaka wore a navy blue striped suit with a light blue shirt and greyish necktie to the press conference. [Sports Hochi 1/23/2014]
    • Fifteen TV camera and over 100 members of the media covered the press conference. [Nikkan Sports 1/23/2014]
  • UPDATE 1/24 @ 3:22am - After the press conference and before leaving, Tanaka turned to the field and bowed toward the mound. [Sponichi 1/23/2014]

US media coverage via Japanese sources.

From MLB.com's Bryan Hoch:

... The Yankees shipped an eight-person contingent to California to sell Tanaka and his agent, Casey Close, on the appeal of pitching in the Bronx, proudly showcasing a presentation that was highlighted by a taped message from Hideki Matsui and an MTV "Cribs"-style tour of Yankee Stadium.

... That group consisted of team president Randy Levine, Cashman, manager Joe Girardi, assistant GMs Billy Eppler and Jean Afterman, pitching coach Larry Rothschild, special assistant Trey Hillman and translator George Rose.

"They spent about 2 1/2 hours with Tanaka and Casey Close," a person with knowledge of the meeting said. "It was very, very good."

... The total value of Tanaka's contract is the fifth-highest for a pitcher in Major League history, falling in line behind those of the Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw ($215 million), the Tigers' Justin Verlander ($180 million), the Mariners' Felix Hernandez ($175 million) and the Yankees' CC Sabathia ($161 million).

... "I was told after it concluded that we were the highest, and that it was very competitive and the other teams were in the vicinity of our team," Cashman said.

Source: MLB.com 1/22/2014 via Daily Sports 1/23/2014

From ESPN's Ian O'Connor:

... So the Yankees sent a recruiting party to Los Angeles to court Tanaka, a party nearly big enough to fill the bleachers in the Bronx. Team president Randy Levine, GM Brian Cashman, manager Joe Girardi and interpreter George Rose were among those in the meeting, as were special assistant Trey Hillman, who managed in Japan, and executive Jean Afterman, who was instrumental in the recruitment of Hideki Matsui, the 2009 World Series MVP. Matsui put in a call to Tanaka, too, and was part of a video presentation about Yankee Stadium that Cashman likened to a tour on MTV Cribs. It didn't hurt that the pitcher's agent, Casey Close, understood how much the Yankees brand meant to his signature client, Derek Jeter.

Cashman said the Yankees had been scouting their man since 2007, and that he kept getting better and kept performing when the stakes were high. "He would dial it up," the GM said.

Over two hours and change in their pitch meeting, the Yankees loved what they heard from Tanaka. "He's a remarkable kid," said one team source familiar with the meeting. "He's very confident and focused and determined, but quiet, like Matsui. He wants to be the best on the biggest stage. He's not afraid of New York at all.

"There's nobody like Tanaka in the system, a 25-year-old ace, and there's nobody like that on the free-agent market. So you had to go for it."

Source: ESPN 1/22/2014 via Sanspo 1/23/2014

From Metro's Larry Fleisher:

... "Am I comfortable offering him 155 million?" Cashman said. "It's the cost of doing business. I think that no matter when you want to acquire some of the best talent in the world — whether it’s coming from the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, the United States or Japan — obviously the highest talent costs a lot of money."

... "He's just gotten better and better and then with the competition it seems like whether it's the playoffs and the WBC, it seemed like the bigger the game, the more he would step up," Cashman said.

... "You always have concerns," Cashman said. "That's something that you can't ignore or deny. … With the age, the talent, scouting assessments and the pitching market the way it is — it's certainly something that we're still willing to take the risk despite acknowledging that there's a workload there."

Source: Metro.us 1/22/2014

From MLB.com's Steve Gilbert:

... "I think we were very close," D-backs team president/CEO Derrick Hall said. "We made a very, very competitive offer. It was just nice for us to be playing with the big boys and I think we did a nice job of illustrating who we were to the player. I think he had a nice sense of our organizational culture and our commitment to winning, and I think in the end we made his decision a difficult one."

From the very beginning, the D-backs pursued Tanaka hard.

... Tanaka's representatives, however, had each team meet with him in California and kept the process very uniform.

... In an effort to differentiate themselves, the D-backs brought All-Star first baseman Paul Goldschmidt to their meeting with Tanaka and let him talk about what it was like to play for the D-backs.

... As part of their pitch to sway Tanaka, the D-backs talked about the family atmosphere within the organization, while pointing out the state-of-the-art facilities at both their Salt River Fields spring home and Chase Field.

... And, it turns out, they also dug deep when it came to finances.

Source: MLB.com 1/22/2014 via Nikkan Sports 1/23/2014

[UPDATE @ 5:25pm]

Some quotes from Tanaka's press conference (there are similar quotes since I am taking them from a variety of sources):

"I am grateful to [the Rakuten Eagles] for this opportunity to speak today.  I would like to announce today that I have agreed to basic terms with the New York Yankees."

"The Rakuten organization took care of me for seven years and I appreciate the fans that supported me."

"I took a lot of time to make this decision and I now feel relieved."

"I found out yesterday when my agent contacted by telephone."

"I contacted [Senichi] Hoshino last night.  He told me to take care of myself and to do my best."

"My teammates congratulated me."

"[The Yankees] thought highly of me and they are a franchise well known around the world so I think I will be able to play with feelings I have never had before."

"I will be a rookie over there and there will be a lot of things I have to experience, but baseball will not be new to me so if I can just do what I have been doing up to now."

"It would be great if I can pitch in much the same way I did with Rakuten."

"My goal is winning the World Series."  (Note: He uses the word sekai ichi, which generally means World Series, given the context, but could also mean world's best.)

"I have not spoke [to Hideki Matsui]."

"I have been using the MLB baseball during workouts, but there is so much I do not know so I will try to deal with issues as they come up."

"My greatest  memory in Japan is becoming Nippon Series champions.  I knew nothing when I graduated from high school and I made it this far because they gave me a chance to take the Ichi-gun mound and I have really experienced so many different things because of that."

"I will be moving away from Sendai, but I will do my best to provide good news so people can watch the news or read newspapers and talk about how hard I am working."

"I will be going to a new world and as a baseball player I will probably be inspired by new and different kinds of things and hopefully, I can experience growth within all of that."

"It is not like I have no worries, but I will try to make the necessary adjustments."

"I am looking forward to...  standing on the mound at Yankees Stadium."

"Just going [for the sake of going] is no fun.  I want to make the team to win a World Series and it would be great if I can help the team accomplish that."

"This is just my own thinking, but mistake pitches that went for singles over here end up going for extra base hits or home runs because of the difference in power.  In that sense, it will be completely different kind of experience."

"Four days of rest, but pitch counts are also considered, I will probably make mistakes, but I think I will be able to handle it."

"I am sorry, I cannot speak English.  I feel the only way I can win over fans is by building their confidence with my performance on the field.  I cannot speak English but I would like to show them [what I can do] on the field."

"I have spoken to players like Takashi Saito and Yu Darvish.  They have told me things about various teams...  I cannot go into deals."

"I was asked a similar question in my first year in the pros, I did not think I would get the same question again, but let me see.  I think fastball."

"[My wife] respected my opinions.  She knows nothing about New York."

"I went [to New York] once [to play some] games when I was in high school.  It was cloudy so all I can say is that it seemed dull.  I will begin by doing some research to learn more about New York."

"I would like to take MomoClo live performance DVDs [to New York with me]."

In response to what he plans to take with him to the United States, he said with a smile, "I think DVDs of Momo Clo's live performances."

On his first impression of New York: "I went once when I was in high school for [a series of games].  It seemed cloudy.  I want to start by learning more about what ind of place New York is."

When asked what he looked forward to, he replied, "Standing on the mound at Yankee Stadium.  It is no fun just to go [for the sake of going] so I want to make the team to win a World Series."

When asked to provide an English message to the fans in the United States, he replied, "I cannot speak English."  He then said in Japanese, "If I am going to win fans over, I will have to do it by gaining their confidence with my performance on the field.  I cannot speak English but I would like show them [what I can do] on the field."

When asked about his first pitch, he replied, "Fastball."

About his wife, Mai Satoda, he said, "She respected my opinions.  [She] know nothing about New York."

Source: Daily Sports 1/23/2014Sponichi 1/23/2014Sponichi 1/23/2014Sports Hochi 1/23/2014Nikkan Sports 1/23/2014

[UPDATE @ 6:56pm]

Nikkan Sports has posted portions of the press conference.  Some of the quotes from above can also be found below.

I am grateful to the Rakuten Eagles for providing me with this opportunity.  I first wanted to say that I have agreed to basic terms with the New York Yankees.  The Rakuten Eagles supported me for seven years and the fans watched over me warmly.  I want to thank everyone.

What are your current feelings?

I made the decision and I feel relieved.

How were you notified?

I have been communicating with my agent over the phone so that is how I was notified.



Did you speak to [Senichi] Hoshino?

I spoke to him over the phone last night.  He told me to take care and to do my best.

Why did you pick the Yankees?

They gave me the best offer.  They are a franchise well-know around the world and I thought they could give me a chance to experience many things and feel different things as I play.

You signed a seven-year deal.

It was a great offer.

You spoke to the general manager.  What did you talk about?

We spoke about about a number of things.  I cannot [go into details].

A video message from Hideki Matsui?  Or a phone call?

There was none.  Phone call?  I did not call him.

How do you plan to approach things?

I will be a rookie over there so I will have to experience a lot of things, but baseball is not a first so I would just like to do what I have been doing when I take the mound.  If I am going to do this, I want to win the World Series.  I plan to do this with that in mind.  It would be nice if I can be myself and pitch over there the way I did with the Rakuten Eagles.

What is your goal?

To win a World Series.

How are you preparing?

I am using the MLB baseball during workouts...  There is a lot I do not know so I will deal with things as they come up.

When will you head to the United States?

It has not been decided yet.

Did you think you would go to the Majors when you first joined [the Eagles]?

Not at all.  I thought my career would end in Japan, I never considered it.

Your best memories over the last seven years.

The league pennant.  The Nippon Series.  They gave a high school graduate that knew nothing a chance to pitch at Ichi-gun.

What kind of pitcher do you want to become?

I still have a lot further to go.  I want to work toward becoming an even better pitcher.

A message for the Rakuten fans?

I may be leaving Sendai, but I will do my best to provide good news to everyone through TV and newspapers so that they can say Tanaka is working hard.  Now that I have selected my destination, I feel like things will finally start moving.  I do not want to lose myself, lose my style.  I want to put myself out there, see how things go and then adjust accordingly.  I will be going to a new world and as a baseball player, I will be inspired by a lot of new things.  I hope that I can continue to grow.

What about the pressure?

It is not like I have no worries, but it would nice if I can make the necessary adjustments.

What are you looking forward to?

To stand on the mound at Yankees Stadium.  But, it is not a lot of fun if it is just going there and that is not what I am planning...  I am going there to win a World Series.  I want to help the team win.

What are your thoughts on pitching in the Majors?  Did you talk to Andruw Jones about it?

I have not spoken to either AJ or [Casey] McGehee.  This is just me, but I think the mistake pitches that went for singles over here end up turning into extra base hits or home runs, so I think everything will feel completely different.

On pitching on four days of rest.

But they also keep track of pitch counts.  I will try to make the necessary adjustment.  Of course, I will probably make mistakes, but that should help me figure things out.

How does the MLB baseball feel?

So far no problems with what I have done in Japan, but I think that might change based on the climate and then it is a matter of getting used to it so I am not really worried.

Do you have a message for the fans?

If I want to win the fans over, I will have to earn their confidence with my performance on the field.  I may not be able to speak English, but I would like to win them over with my performance.

Did you have any dreams of becoming a Yankee?

Honestly, none.  I think they are a famous team with a rich history that can be consider one of the best in the Majors.  I have never played in that kind of environment so I thought that might be a nice change.

Did Takashi Saito or Yu Darvish say anything to you?

I did talk to players like Takashi Saito and Yu Darvish [about the Majors].  [Darvish] gave me some information about the teams.  I cannot really say what was mentioned in my conversations with [Saito].

Were you thinking about the Yankees when picking out today's suit?

I almost did not wear this suit because I had a feeling someone would ask that (laughter).  I really was not thinking about anything in particular.

Did you wife have anything to say?

She respected by opinion.

What is your impression of New York?

I went their once when I was in high school for baseball.  The weather was bad and it was cloudy.  I can only say that it seemed dreary.  I will begin by doing some research to learn more about what in of place New York is.

What will you take?

My MomoClo DVDs.  The DVDs of their live performances.

Before you decided on the Yankees, did you consider other teams?

I cannot say.

Is there anything your family is preparing ahead of your move to New York?

No.  I do think my wife and I will have to begin studying.

Will your wife also study cooking?

Anything is okay.  As long as it is edible.

Source: Nikkan Sports 1/23/2014

[UPDATE 1/24 @ 3:50am]

From Tanaka's blog:

An announcement

I was able to sign an agreement with the New York Yankees.

I am thankful to the [Rakuten] organization and to everyone involved for respecting my dream and accepting my desire to play on a new stage.

And to the fans that warmly cheered for me no matter what happened, from the day I joined the organization, thank you very much.

Your cheers really provided me with support on the mound.

It made me very happy.

I will now play for the Yankees and will do my best every day to bring everyone good news using what I have learned with the Rakuten Eagles.

Thank you for the last seven years!

And I look forward to your continued cheers of support.

Source: blog 1/23/2014

From Mai Satoda's blog:

Good evening.

I will be going to New York because of my husband's job.

I was planning to happily go where ever my husband wanted to go so I am happy that he was able to decide on where he wanted to work.

As always, you need courage any time you start a new job.

I am a little worried and I am sure there will be problems and setbacks.

But I want to be strong than that, I want to grow, I want to overcome and see what things look like on the other side.

There is a part of me that is looking forward to taking one step forward.

And I am sincerely grateful for this opportunity.

Right now, I just have to accomplish each task that is in front of me.

And I plan to continue this blog where ever I go.

Especially when there are people that are checking it...

I also like writing blogs so I want to continue.

Please continue to cheer for me!!

PS: the idol DVDs were the first to be packed (laughter)

That is all for now!

Source: blog 1/23/2014