I remember pretty clearly when Hideki Irabu hit the Major Leagues.
It was in 1997, and at the time my team the Lawr of Averages (I always liked that name) was hunkered down in last place in my Bill James League. The rules were that a player was not eligible for drafting until the Sunday following the player's Major League debut, so that Sunday, July 13--three days after his Yankees debut--I picked Irabu off the free agent pool.
Now, we all knew Irabu was coming, and we all knew that I was going to have first shot, so I got a number of trade offers for the rights to the import, who if you remember had this circuitous route to the Bronx after the Padres purchased the right hander's contract from Chiba Lotte.
But, Irabu would only play for the Yankees, and eventually the Bombers offered a bunch of prospects like Andy Fox and David Weathers for the rights to negotiate with Irabu.
The pitcher eventually signed for $12.8 million.
Unfortunately, I got caught up in the same hype as the Yankees, and I not only did not trade the then untested in the Major Leagues pitcher, I froze him with six other players.
I think I might have learned a valuable lesson, though, for it made me want guys like Daisuke Matsuzaka to prove themselves to me before being willing to go on a limb.
In the end he was 34-35, 5.15 over 126 games, and 514 innings. Irabu started 80 and whiffed 405, numbers that pale in contrast to his Japanese totals of 72-69, 3.55 over 1286.1 innings, with 1282 whiffs. And, I had forgotten that Irabu garnered 16 saves over his last season of 2002 with the Rangers, when he was a non-complementary 3-8, 5.74 mark.
Ultimately he never really pitched well enough over all six seasons together to deserve the total $12.8 million, and after the Yankees he was dealt to the Expos, and finally the Rangers when the lights went out.
I'm not sure what really did not work for poor Irabu, but he was both hyped, and like so many never lived up to the advance press. In fact it was not even close.
But, as if the inability to consistently get hitters out was not enough of a plague, Irabu had the pleasure of being publicly ridiculed by his boss, George Steinbrenner, who referred to his pitcher as a "fat pussy toad" when Irabu missed covering first.
Poor Irabu was found dead--an apparent suicide--in his home earlier in the week. Obviously none of us will ever know why he did what he did. But, I have to think all that success in Japan followed by all that mediocrity here could not have helped.
Beware the hype.