Still Waiting for Travis Ishikawa to Bite the Bullet and Go to Japan
I’m still waiting for Travis Ishikawa to bite the bullet and sign with an NPB (Japanese) team.
Ishikawa recently exercised his option and forced the Orioles to either bring him up from AAA or release him. The Orioles brought him up, and he went 2-f0r-17 over six games in a ten day period.
The Orioles waived him, and the Yankees claimed him. He went 0-for-2 with two strike outs in a one game trial for the Yankees. Today, Mr. Yankee, Derek Jeter, came off the D.L., and the Yankees designated Ishikawa for assignment to secure the necessary roster space.
Travis is 29 years old and turns 30 in late September. He isn’t likely to get many more opportunities in MLB. But he has significant major league experience, and he thumped the ball in 49 AAA games this year — where a successful professional baseball future lies is obvious, at least to me.
Yes, I fully recognize that Travis is as American as apple pie and has three young AMERICAN children. Yet, his last name and ancestry are what they are.
Baseball, and professional sports in general, are nothing more than a form of entertainment. Give the people what they want, and the people want what they want.
A foreign player with Japanese ancestry will play well in Japan (for the record, many Japanese Americans have had successful careers in Japan — ever heard of Wally Yonamine? Probably not, but he was Japanese American born in Hawaii who starred in NPB for 12 seasons between 1951 and 1962. He was hardly the only Nisei to have had a significant NPB career), for exactly the same reasons that great Italian American ball players (Dimaggio, Lazzeri, Crosetti, and Camilli) were a particularly good value for New York City teams.
If you think things have changed all that much, ask yourself why the Los Angeles Dodgers bid more than any other team for Korean ace Hyun-Jin Ryu. Yes, the Dodgers are a big-market team with a lot of money, and yes, Ryu was a very promising major league prospect. However, I think the fact that the Dodgers play in a market with a lot of Korean Americans made Ryu particularly appealing and worth the risk to the Bums.
Travis Ishikawa looks for all the world like a player who will at most only get cups of coffee in MLB in the future. He isn’t young, and he hasn’t made the most of his MLB opportunities.
Yet, he looks like an ideal player for an NPB future based only on his career statistics to date. The fact that his ancestry is Japanese is only sweet, rich gravy.
Is Travis willing to leave his family and his comfort zone to pursue possible future riches and career success in Japan? We’ll have to wait and see.
P.S. One of the inspirations for this post was fangraphs’ Dave Cameron’s piece on why the Mets should trade Bobby Parnell and the Twins should trade Glen Perkins. Perkins is from Stillwater, MN and attended the University of Minnesota. You don’t think the Twins are afraid they’d get raked over the coals by their fan base if they traded Perkins away?