Newspaper article International New York Times

In Japan, Eyes Are on Yankees ; Lots of Media Attention Is Expected Once Tanaka Suits Up Alongside Suzuki

Newspaper article International New York Times

In Japan, Eyes Are on Yankees ; Lots of Media Attention Is Expected Once Tanaka Suits Up Alongside Suzuki

Article excerpt

With Hiroki Kuroda, Ichiro Suzuki and now Masahiro Tanaka on their team, the Yankees are bracing for unprecedented media attention from Japan.

There was a pitcher in Japan in the 1950s and '60s named Kazuhisa Inao who was so good that the popular saying at the time was God, Buddha, Inao, in deference to the pitcher's almost otherworldly talent.

Inao retired in 1969, and the saying stood for decades, until last year, when it was resurrected and modified in honor of a pitcher who had a perfect season. Now it is God, Buddha, Inao and Tanaka.

Not even Daisuke Matsuzaka or Yu Darvish, two celebrated Japanese pitchers who preceded Masahiro Tanaka to the major leagues, could stake that claim. But Tanaka, like Buddha, never lost a regular- season game last year. He went 24-0 with a 1.27 earned run average for the Rakuten Eagles, and so warranted the rephrasing.

And with exalted status will now come Olympian news media coverage in the United States. The Yankees signed Tanaka, 25, to a $155 million, seven-year contract last month, and Tanaka will now be joining a New York Yankees team that already has two revered Japanese players on its roster in Ichiro Suzuki and Hiroki Kuroda.

Other major league teams have had as many as three Japanese players on the roster at the same time, and one -- the Boston Red Sox -- even briefly had four. But none have had the prestigious group the Yankees now has. As a result, the entourage of Japanese news media trailing the Yankees in 2014 could be a record-setter.

When Darvish joined the Texas Rangers in 2012, he was met at their spring training facility by about 150 reporters, the overwhelming majority of them from Japan, according to John Blake, the Rangers' executive vice president for communications. And when Darvish arrived, the Rangers already had Koji Uehara and Yoshinori Tateyama on their roster. But only Darvish was a star.

The Yankees, in contrast, were already attracting a great deal of attention from the Japanese news media because Suzuki and Kuroda are such prominent players, with Suzuki almost surely headed to the Hall of Fame. …

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