Christmas Conclusion in Tanaka Matter? Tachibana’s Questions Answered

English translation of Nikkan Sports article


Christmas Conclusion in Tanaka Matter? Tachibana’s Questions Answered

by 古川真弥 (Masaya Furukawa) 7:23, December 21, 2013 (Japan time) (from the print edition)

Photo caption: To end his throwing session, Tanaka of Rakuten throws lightly from a side arm slot. (Photo by 山崎安昭 (Yasuaki Yamazaki))

We may find out early next week whether Rakuten pitcher Masahiro Tanaka (age 25) will have the opportunity to try his hand in Major League Baseball. Team president Yozo Tachibana (age 42) responded to reporters at the team office in Sendai on the 20th. The company has ongoing discussions about whether to grant Tanaka’s wish and post him. Team owner Mikitani is involved in the discussions. It appears likely that the team will approve the posting. Tachibana said, “We will talk to Tanaka after we decide which direction to take. We don’t intend to let this drag out.” Tanaka is scheduled to appear in events in Tokyo on the 22nd and 23rd. It appears Rakuten will inform him of their decision on or after the 24th, around Christmas.

There has been progress. When the new system was officially agreed to between Japan and the U.S. on the 17th, Tachibana admitted that some things were unclear about the new rules: “Honestly, we don’t understand everything. We have some questions.” Specifically, they were checking with NPB about whether the Japanese team would have any way of tracking which MLB teams its posted player was negotiating with, among other questions. Today, Tachibana said: “(My questions) have been answered.” President Tachibana takes his accountability to sponsors and other stakeholders seriously, and the fact that his questions have been answered is highly significant.

Asked about Rakuten stakeholder opinion on whether to allow Tanaka to try his hand in the majors, Tachibana says: “Some are for it, some are against it.” Tachibana says that within Rakuten, “the aspect of testing one’s abilities overseas is part of our company culture. It is true that many are of that opinion.” On the other hand, Tachibana also said, “It would be great if the entire [Japanese] baseball world becomes even more exciting, with players not going to the majors, and [the league] becoming even more attractive.” Tachibana gave the impression that explaining to stakeholders and having internal discussions is taking time.

Tanaka worked out at Kleenex Stadium Miyagi today. After playing catch indoors, he did tachinage (literally: standing throws; throwing without using much lower body) in the bullpen. Tanaka explained: "I'm stimulating myself in various ways. You use your body differently on flat ground than on a slope." While forced to wait for the team's decision, Tanaka is steadily preparing for next season.


Will Rakuten post Masahiro Tanaka?

Masahiro Tanaka told reporters that he wants to pitch in the majors in 2014.

He made the announcement after an hour-long meeting with Yōzō Tachibana, president of his current team, the Rakuten Golden Eagles. Rakuten is a successful company, so it’s safe to say Mr. Tachibana had a plan going into that meeting. If the math says Rakuten has to keep Tanaka next year, and the star pitcher starts the meeting by saying he wants to go to MLB, Mr. Tachibana would have said something like: “Listen, I’m sorry but you’re staying. The money makes it impossible for us to post you. This new system screwed up everyone's plans. But we will double your salary. Since you have to stay, don’t hurt the team and the parent company by making us look like a dream-crushing corporation. Tell the press that due to the unexpected change in the posting system, we agreed you'll be posted after 2014.”

Now, I have no idea what Masahiro Tanaka is like in person. I can only guess based on watching his interviews, and I’m not sure that’s even worth doing. But I’ll say anyway that he seems like a standup guy. He seems like a guy whose top priority is being the best baseball player he can possibly be.

At that point in the conversation, he could either say to the president of his team, “Okay, I understand, let’s win another championship and I’ll go after the 2014 season” or he could say, “No, I want to go to MLB now, and if you don’t post me, fine, but I’m telling the media that I want to go.” If the former, Rakuten is relieved, but we know that’s not what happened because Tanaka was very clear that he wants to pitch in the U.S. in 2014.

If the latter, what does Rakuten do?


Masahiro Tanaka Q&A after meeting with team president

Q&A after meeting between Masahiro Tanaka and Rakuten Eagles President Yozo Tachibana
December 17, 2013
(via Nikkan Sports)
Tanaka: I report to you that today, I told the team representative that I wish to have the opportunity to play in MLB next season. I am grateful to President Tachibana for making time for me amid his busy schedule.

Q: You wish to play in the major leagues. What words did you use to communicate your passion?
Tanaka: Well, first, it’s been seven years since I joined the team, and I expressed my gratitude for what the Rakuten Eagles have done for me and for developing me. I also expressed my wish to have the opportunity to test my abilities on a new stage.

Q: How did President Tachibana respond?