So it's only natural that I have a special place in my heart for any MLB baseball players of Asian descent (even if they do play for the damn Yankees.) Part of it has to do with the inherent pride when we see people who look like us achieve success in any field. However, a bigger part of my love and admiration for Asian baseball players has to do with the fact that they are our greatest weapons in battling mainstream media's perception of the emasculated Asian male.
Look at some of the Asian baseball players in MLB today. Future Hall-of-Famer and perennial All-Star Ichiro Suzuki, with his matinee idol good looks, has modeled for the cover of GQ while making a strong argument for being one of the best hitters to ever play the game. Hideki Matsui is a modern-day Paul Bunyon who strikes fear in opposing pitchers by putting up some of the game's most awesome power numbers. And stud rookie sensation Kosuke Fukudome is already being hailed as the savior who will lead the Cubs to their first World Series title in 100 years.
Back when I was a slick-fielding Little League shortstop and dreaming of playing for the NY Mets, there were NO Asian players in Major League Baseball. Although the legendary Masanori Murakami briefly pitched for the San Francisco Giants in 1964-1965, it wasn't until Chan Ho Park made his debut with the Dodgers thirty years later that we saw another MLB player of Asian descent.
It makes me extremely proud to look around the clubhouses of Major League Baseball now and see so many Asians playing at virtually every position. I was thinking about this recently and I began wondering whether there were actually now enough Asian baseball players in MLB for me to draft an All-Asian Fantasy Baseball team. And how would that team stack up against the rest of baseball?
Let's take a look:
CF Ichiro Suzuki (Seattle Mariners)
2B Tad Iguchi (Chicago White Sox)
RF Kosuke Fukudome (Chicago Cubs)
LF Hideki Matsui (NY Yankees)
3B Akinori Iwamura (Tampa Bay Devilrays)
C Kenji Johjima (Seattle Mariners)
SS Chin-Lung Hu (Los Angeles Dodgers)
1B Kaz Matsui (Houston Astros)
DH Johnny Damon (NY Yankees)
SP Daisuke Matsuzaka (Boston Red Sox)
SP Chien-Ming Wang (NY Yankees)
SP Hiroki Kuroda (Los Angeles Dodgers)
SP Akinori Otsuka (Texas Rangers)
SP Kei Igawa (NY Yankees)
RP Hideki Okajima (Boston Red Sox)
RP Chan Ho Park (Los Angeles Dodgers)
RP Cha Seung Baek (Seattle Mariners)
RP Takashi Saito (Los Angeles Dodgers)
(1) I put Kaz Matsui at 1st base because there currently no Asian 1st basemen in MLB. I figured he was well-suited because of his glove skills. He's lost some arm strength over the years and Chin-Lung Hu is more of a natural shortstop.
(2) Yes, Johnny Damon is half-Asian. His mother is Thai. You didn't know that?
So let's take a look. How does my All-Asian Fantasy Team measure up?
Actually, I think we look pretty damn good. We've got a great blend of veteran leadership and young players. We've got a nice mix of guys who can get on base and guys who can hit for power. Even though Ichiro is probably the sole Golden Glover, the defense is pretty solid.
Our pitching staff is led by D-Mat and Chien-Ming Wang. I'll put those two aces up against any 1-2 combo in baseball. Kuroda was a freaking stud in Japan and could have a monster year for the Dodgers this year. Otsuka and Igawa should be more than serviceable filling out the back end of the rotation.
The bullpen is probably the team's biggest weakness. Saito is a decent enough closer. Probably better than most others in MLB right now. Unfortunately, I'm not sure how much we'll get out of Okajima, Park, and Baek. The plus side is that our starting pitchers tend to eat up a lot of innings so a top-notch bullpen might not be as important.
You know what? This is a pretty damn good team. I'll bet they could win 80-90 games. Put them in the National League and they might end up making it to the World Series. How great would that be?
Play ball, my Asian brothers!
Cross-posted over at Rice Daddies.
Is there any better time of year than the start of Major League Baseball? I just got my season tickets in the mail and I'm looking forward to long summer evenings at Shea Stadium. We love going to Met games as a family. In fact, I think BossLady holds the Shea Stadium record for most cotton candy consumed during a single game. And Peanut thinks the greatest thing in the world is when everyone stands up to sing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame!" These are some of the fondest memories I think we'll all cherish as the Peanut gets older. Hopefully, she'll still want to go to the game with her old man.
Let's go Mets!