Hey, so apparently the Rangers have this pitcher named Yu Darvish. Have you heard of him?
Since you’ve somehow found a way to stumble upon this article, I’m going to assume it’s because you’re either (a) a die-hard Rangers’ fan and would search to the end of the Internet universe to find content, or (b) that you’re one of my friends or family members simply reading this out of charity to my ego. In either sense, welcome.
After all the drama of Yu Darvish’s posting fee, after all the buildup leading to the signing of his contract, and after hype that maybe only comes around in the major leagues every five or ten years, he finally pitched for the first time this past Wednesday. In his two innings of work against the Padres, he allowed no runs on two hits, walking none and striking out three. Thanks to the brilliance of Baseball Time in Arlington and Joey Matchulat, you can see the devastating movement on his pitches here. The first hit, a double by Orlando Hudson, would likely have been snagged had there been a better defender manning first base than the helpless Michael Young. The second, a towering double off the 40-foot-high wall in center field off the bat of Will Venable, did not carry as much doubt.
In fact, according to Yu Darvish, the only thing that did carry was the ball, because the dry air and gusting winds affected what “didn’t seem like a ball that was hit that squarely.”
This, of course, sparked a miniature Spring Training feud between the 29 year-old lifetime .250-hitting Venable, and the newest most polarizing figure in Major League Baseball, Yu Darvish. Venable responded with: “I would have liked to hear a little more humility from the guy. To each his own. He’s a confident guy. Of course I didn’t square up a ball because he’s Yu Darvish.”
Some are blaming it on Darvish’s arrogant persona that he simply couldn’t give Venable his due; others say his statement could have been lost in translation (which would make sense since, you know, Darvish has been in Japan his entire professional career). But what really peeves me is that Will Venable, who has never been anything to write home about, would actually feel offended enough to work up the onions to fire at Darvish through the media. It’s. Spring. Training.
I hope he enjoyed his fifteen minutes, because his role in San Diego is only as a seat-warmer for the up-and-coming talent in their rich minor league system. It must have been a real thrill having his name on ESPN.com’s front page, though I’d wager my manhood that he doesn’t see it there again.
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Today is March 10th: Opening Day against the White Sox is still about a month away. To this point, we’ve observed mild skepticism surrounding Darvish from the media’s perspective, and an unrealistic set of expectations given to him from the Rangers’ fan base. Yes, his two innings of Spring Training were impressive. But no, that doesn’t make him a bona fide ace under any circumstances. He is, right now, exactly what we thought he would be.
That said, he hasn’t seen the Yankees’ lineup. He hasn’t pitched under the lights at Fenway Park. He hasn’t seen our biggest division rival and their newest $242M prized acquisition. To say he’s officially arrived, and that he’s already a world-beater ace-caliber pitcher is ludicrous.
So, for now, it’s best to withhold judgement until he’s pitching in games that mean something. I can confidently say there’s no Rangers’ pitcher with a higher upside than Darvish. I also acknowledge that every other member of the starting rotation has had significant experience in the postseason the last two years.
In which basket do you place more faith? I exist in a reality where I have to see something to believe it’s true. Spring Training is Spring Training. The regular season is what mean’s something. The postseason is what defines a player. There are still 162 games that have yet to be played in what is the most highly-anticipated season in the history of the Texas Rangers baseball franchise.
Until it’s proven, I’ll be waiting patiently for it to unfold in front of me.