Watashi wa Hensugiru!!!
Now, I have no earthly idea what the exact translation of that means, nor do I even know how to spell it correctly. Maybe Deanna or someone else can help edit -- THANKS DEANNA! Indeed, it's spelled with an "r" at the end. I do know that it loosely means something along the lines of "I am crazy!" or "My Name is Really Silly!" At least that's what the Japanese exchange students I hung out with in college told me, and always giggled thoroughly whenever I said it -- especially when I'd walk up to their friends (who didn't know me yet) out of the blue. I'm certainly no expert in Japanese culture and, though I've studied linguistics a bit, Japanese language, but I have spent a lot of time with Japanese exchange students. So, I'm not completely naive, either.
The M's continue to show goodwill towards players in the NPB, and have signed Kenji Jo(h)jima to a 3-year contract. According to Art Thiel, in Out of Left Field, the majority Japanese owner (who since has transferred his personal shares of the team to the company he owns, Nintendo) never gets involved with the day-to-day operations of the team. The only time he wants to be involved in decision-making is with Japanese players. One can assume that he personally wanted the M's to add the 7-time NPB Gold Glove winner, 6-time NPB All Star to their fold. So, really, this move might be less of a Bavasi move than a Yamauchi move.
But the risk involved certainly is Bavasi-esque.
Being the first catcher to come over from Japan, there has been some concern about the language barrier that would throw some extra difficulty above and beyond the bigger hurdle of having to a) learn a pitching staff (that will undergo, hopefully, a huge turnover in the starting rotation) and how to get them back to pitching effectively, and b) learn the tendencies of the hitters in MLB, and how to get them out. Those two things require much more discussion, and are much more of a legitimate concern than the perceived language problem. I will say this, though -- we all respect Ichiro for being a heady, intelligent, serious, and focused baseball player. Our new catcher shares these qualities, from what I've heard, with Ichiro. I don't think this will be a huge problem.
Now, back to that perceived language barrier...
So, here's how we fix it. Over at ITP, I proposed that we teach our pitchers a few lines of Japanese:
So there's three words for fast ball; two words for curve ball; one or two words for slider; and one word for change up. Doing my quick math, that's like 6-7 total Japanese words our pitchers would have to learn. I know we're all anglo-centric and such, but that'd be easy enough. Heck, Jojima could practically yell out the Japanese terms to the pitcher (unless either Matsui's in the park, or Valentine comes back to manage in the U.S.) for a few games at least.Let's take this a step further. We all know Jamie Moyer's going to be back with the M's in 2006, right? Good. We also all know that part of a catcher's job is to know when to go out to the mound to calm a pitcher down when he's struggling, right? Good. So, here's a potential future mound conversation between Jamie and KJ:
Taking this a bit further -- can you imagine Ryan Franklin's accent? Dude would struggle with the Nihongo, I'm sure ;-) I can just see the confused look on Matt Thornton's face when Jojima approaches the mound with a deep glare on his face (only partially hidden from his catcher's mask), yelling quite irately: Aredama! Aredama! It might actually help Matt to get some Japanese lessons. That's a word I'm sure he'll figure out rather quickly...
Still, joking aside, I'm certain his baseball English is good enough to say what he needs to say. And, I'm sure his fingers won't need a translator -- 1 still means "fastball" in Japan, right?
KJ: Dude. Ooh la LA!
JM: Cracks a big smile, and starts chuckling... Arigato(u), Jo(h)jima-san. I'll give 'im my fastball.
Hey -- with all the Spanish-speaking folks around (including the pitching coach), why stop at English and Spanish?