BY: Richard W. Humphrey
It is barely 48 hours since Yu Darvish finalized his contract with the Rangers, but puns are already rampant. (Yu bet!) As T. R. Sullivan said at Texasrangers.com, it’s a six-year contract. Don’t expect the puns to stop any time soon.
Friday, Darvish arrived in the D/FW area. He stepped off a plane in Terminal D wearing a T-shirt with a picture of a marijuana plant, and the words “we will survive”. One of the first questions he was asked at Friday night’s press conference was about that T-shirt. He claimed he didn’t know the significance of what was written on the shirt until after he arrived.
The press conference was attended by a huge throng of media representatives. Bryan Dolgin tweeted “The whole press conference setting is bigger than any World Series press conference. This is impressive.” Included among those in attendance was outfielder Josh Hamilton, who was seated prominently next to Country and Western recording artist Charlie Pride.
Darvish was dressed conservatively in a dark suit and blue tie. He is said to understand English. “The hearing part is okay, but the talking part will take some time,” he said through an interpreter. He answered questions in Japanese and the answers were translated. He is obviously very poised, and showed no signs of being intimidated by the hords of media.
He said he had not spoken with other major league Japanese players, such as Ichiro Suzuki and Daisuke Matsuzaka about the adjustment to the majors. As for what he expects in terms of adjusting to playing in the US, he said “I have to become Americanized.” As for his expectations for his first season in the major leagues, he said “Regarding this year, the only thing I can say is to do the best I can do to make my starts and do the best for the team.” As for the pressure of playing in the big leagues, he said “I have no worries. I am looking forward to a different environment, a different league and different hitters.”
Perhaps the most dangerous question he was asked was what would have happened if he had been pitching to get the last out of game six in last season’s World Series. He had earlier said that he watched the World Series and tactfully replied, “We (his team, the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters) were rooting for the Rangers. Regarding that last out, if it was last year, I think I would have given up a home run and lost the game. This year, I’ll make sure that won’t happen.”
Ranger General Manager Jon Daniels opened the conference with a statement. He particularly wanted to thank two groups in the Texas Rangers organization for making this day possible. They are the scouts and ownership group. As for the scouts, pariticularly the Pacific rim group, he thanked them for “Their creativity, their due dilignece, their homework, the time they put in, their passion that enabled us to make a recommendation comfortably to ownership that this was the right move. We’re talking about an investment this size, this is no small feat.”
Daniels was also very complimentary of Don Nomura and Arn Tellem, Darvish’s agents for their work in completing the contract. He utilized the term “spirit of parnership”.
“Our fans are fired up. We’re fired up. Our goal since we’ve started is to build a sustained winner to get there year in and year out. We want to stay at this level for a five, ten, fifteen year window. Ideally, to have guys that are in their primes and heading into their primes of their careers all coming together at once on the field. And when you look at the signing of what Yu Darvish means to the Rangers, he fits in perfectly with that. Because when you talk about how challenging it is to acquire people of his talent, his character and competitiveness at his age; you just don’t see it very often, and it really fits in with the core of our club. He really fits the mold we are looking for.”
Ranger manager Ron Washington was asked about his expectations for Darvish. He replied, “We just want him to come in and be Yu Darvish and help the Texas Rangers.”
Friday night in Arlington was an impressive showing, clearly one of the most monumental moments in the history of the Texas Rangers’ franchise. The Rangers have had a very good to superior offense since 1996 if not longer. They have tacked together enough young and veteran pitchers to go to the World Series in each of the past two seasons. The addition of Darvish to the cadre of young arms stockpiled by Jon Daniels in the past six years gives the potential, if not the promise, of a dominant franchise on the field for years to come; a dominance that might some day compare to the dynasties of the Yankees in the late 90′s and early 2000′s and the 15 year run of the Atlanta Braves.