Monday, March 31, 2014

Four Players to Play for the New York Yankees and Yomiuri Giants

I was watching the opening day game between the fabled Japanese league rivals Hanshin Tigers and Yomiuri Giants on One World Sports (@ONEWorldSports) when the announcer Ed Cohen (@edcohensports) mentioned that Giants legend Hideki Matsui was in the announcers booth at the Tokyo Dome. Cohen would talk about Matsui's career in Japan as well as his career with the New York Yankees (2003-2009). Cohen would mention that there have been four players to play for both the New York Yankees and the Tokyo/Yomiuri Giants.

1. Roy White
Photo Credit Japanese Baseball Cards
Roy White played his entire career with the New York Yankees (1965-1979) with a quiet style that contrasted to the legendary "Bronx Zoo" Yankees teams of the mid to late 1970's before making the trip over the Pacific to play for the Giants.

White played three seasons in Japan starting in 1980 (1980-1983) and would play alongside Japanese leagues legend Sadaharu Oh. White would make history when he hit three homers in the same game. One was a game tying homer and the last a game winning homer. White, being a switch hitter homered from both sides of the plate. Here is a video showing his homeruns.

White would help the Giants win Central League pennant and the Japan Series in 1981 and would retire from professional baseball after the 1982 season in Japan. Here are White's Japanese statistics courtesy of Baseball

2. Jesse Barfield
Photo Credit Japanese Baseball Cards
Barfield was a player with a cannon for an right arm while forming a dominant duo with George Bell on the Toronto Blue Jays teams in the mid-1980's. Barfield would be traded to New York in what seemed to be an unending series of trades that had the Yankees trading young prospects for veteran players. On April 30, 1989, Barfield was traded to the Yankees for pitcher Al Leiter and played in New York until 1992. Barfield would sign to play in Japan for the 1993 season.

According to the Random Jays Stuff tumblr post Jesse Barfield Yomiuri Giants 1993 BBM card:
the Yomiuri Giants gave him a chance in 1993, and signed him for a reported $1.7 million for the season. Jesse hit a two-run HR in his debut to help the Giants to victory, but by the All Star break he was only hitting .185. He wound up with a .215 average in 104 games, missing a month with a relapse of the wrist injury. He did manage to hit 26 HR (6th in the Central League) and his cannon arm still impressed, but had only 53 RBI and led the league in strikeouts with 127.

Still, the crosstown (Tokyo) rival and Central League pennant-winning Yakult Swallows offered Jesse a contract for the 1994 season, thinking they detected and could correct a big flaw in his swing, and he verbally agreed to a deal.

However Barfield was living in Houston in those days and when the Astros invited him to spring training for 1994 he took the risk (the Swallows offer was guaranteed, the Astros’ was not) and accepted the Houston offer instead. This displeased the Swallows’ management greatly, but Jesse ended up writing the team president a letter of apology. Jesse was projected to be the Astros’ opening day RF by some (James Mouton ended up playing the most games in RF that year), but again injuries held him back and he retired before the season began.

Interesting note on the 1993 Giants: Jesse’s teammates included Lloyd Moseby and a 19 year old Hideki Matsui.
Here are Jesse Barfield's statistics from his one season in Japan courtesy of Baseball

3. Mariano Duncan
Duncan was the man who was quoted as saying "We play today, we win today. That's it." while playing second base for the 1996 Yankees. Duncan has spent his entire career in the National League with the Cincinnati Reds, Los Angeles Dodgers and Philadelphia Phillies before signing as a free agent with the Yankees for the 1996 season. After he got into a public issue with Yankees owner George Steinbrenner during the 1997, Duncan would be traded to the Toronto Blue Jays (after a voided trade with Kenny Rogers to the San Diego Padres for slugger Greg Vaughn). Duncan would end up signing with the Tokyo Giants for the 1998 season. His contract was deemed to be between $1.5-million and $2.0-million dollars. Duncan did not have a very successful season in a limited role with the Giants.

In the article Mariano's Journey to the Far East Not Far Enough to Forget Boss by Rafael Hermoso from the New York Daily News website dated February 25, 1999, describes the difficulties Duncan had adjusting to the Japanese game:
Duncan's attempt to forget the Boss took him to Japan last season, a decision he now regrets and blames on his now being a non-roster invitee. "I wanted to go to Japan because I wanted to get my mind straight, I wanted to clear my mind of all the problems I went through in New York," Duncan said. "To tell you the truth, I think I made the wrong decision. For me, going to Japan almost cost my career.

" Duncan asked to be traded and was, twice. First he went to the Padres in the aborted Greg Vaughn deal, then to the Blue Jays for outfielder Angel Ramirez. Duncan's problems followed him to the Yomiuri Giants, where hit .232 with 10 home runs in 207 at-bats last season, saying he never adjusted to the Giants' strict management style. "Those guys are very difficult to play for," Duncan said. "They don't communicate with you. I only talked to the manager one time in seven months and that's not right. I wanted to know what was going on and nobody would tell me anything.

" "The politics of baseball," is what Bobby Valentine, who managed in Japan in 1995, called it. "They make it difficult.
Duncan would be a non-roster invitee with the New York Mets for the 1999 season and would not make the team and retired. Here are Mariano Duncan's Japanese statistics courtesy of Baseball

4. Hideki Matsui
Photo Credit Japanese Baseball Cards
Matsui came over from the Yomiuri Giants in 2003 with a legendary reputation as a major home run hitter and major superstar in Japan. Matsui was a three-time Central League MVP award winner (1996, 2000, 2002) with nine all-star appearances in Japan and three Japan Series championship with MVP awards honors in the 2000 Japan Series. Here are Hideki Matsui's Japanese statistics from Baseball

During the exhibition series in Japan following the 2002 season, Matsui and Barry Bonds locked up in a homerun hitting contest with Bonds winning the event eight homers to Matsui's five. Here is the newspaper article Bonds beats Matsui in home run hitting contest from the Ludington Daily News from November 15, 2002 from the Google News Website:

The Yankees signed Matsui to a three-year $21-million dollar deal on December 19, 2002.  contract on December 19, 2002. Instead of the slugger the Yankees expected to sign, they received a complete player who never complained and let his bat and abilities in the field speak for him. They would later sign/extend him to a four-year $56 million dollar deal on November 15, 2005. According to Tyler Kepner in his article Matsui Signs With Yankees Just Before Deadline from the New York Times website dated November 16, 2005:
Matsui's previous contract stipulated that the Yankees had to release him and allow him to become a free agent if they did not sign him by Nov. 15. They would have then lost their rights to re-sign Matsui for six months...In signing before last night's deadline, Matsui forfeited his chance to test the free-agent market; he would have been among the best players available.
Matsui was a two-time All-Star (2003-2004), runner up for the 2003 American League Rookie of the Year award (which he should have won) and would end up winning the 2009 World Series MVP award in his last season with the Yankees. He would play for three more seasons before signing a one day contract with the Yankees and retiring as a Yankee in 2013.

(***AUTHOR'S NOTE I originally posted that the Yankees signed Matui to a six-year $73 million dollar contract in 2002. I was thankfully corrected by +Patrick Newman of the blogsite He is also a regular contributor to the website Feel free to check out both sites to keep up with news and points of view on the world of Japanese YakyĆ«.)

If I happen to miss any other players to don the New York Yankees and Yomiuri Giants uniforms, please feel free to let me know. Happy Opening Day!!!!!

Until Then Play Ball
Baseball Sisco