Minnesota Twins: Empty in the East
The Twins, with an American League-worst 6-16 away record, engender a 10-game road swing today, beginning with three against the Mariners before four versus the A's. Yet while the schedule denotes that we look West, the club's present-day opposition (both past and ensuing) offers myriad reasons to look East.
Among the Twins past three opponents (Boston, Tampa, and Cleveland) and their next two, all five are teams that sport standout Asian ballplayers on their roster. Penning with a wider pen, the Twins are one of 13 clubs in the States (Blue Jays excluded) with no Asian players on the 40-man roster. Such Eastern influence really doesn't mean all that much from a seasonal standpoint, however to look at the numbers in a broader sense, the Twins' historic lack of Asian ballers becomes notable.
In their hardball history, just one Asian player, relief pitcher Mike Nakamura, has ever donned a Twins uniform. Back in 2003, Nakamura (originally hailing from Nara, Japan) tossed in a dozen June games for the eventual Central Division champs, accruing a 0-0 record in relief, with a bloated 7.82 ERA. Nakamura, in brief: didn't pitch in the playoffs that season, tossed for Toronto in '04, and then was out of Major League Baseball. A story in itself? No; heard that baby before.
But the yarn spins tighter when acknowledging that, since 2000, the Twins are just one of three teams in baseball (along with Detroit and Pittsburgh) that either haven't rostered multiple Asian players, or haven't had an Asian player suit up for multiple seasons.
To contrast the lack of Asian ballers from a community vantage is to further magnify the point: According to the 2000 U.S. Census, of all MLB cities, Minneapolis - at 6.1 -- has the 9th highest Asian population via percentage. Of the eight cities with higher Asian populations, just one MLB club, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, currently have no Eastern players on their 40-man roster.
If the World Baseball Classic is an indicator of Eastern influence on the game, one need look no further than Japan's consecutive titles in 2006 and '09. While the Twins have flown many
a' flag within the WBC, the most franchise's most notable contribution can be viewed via their Australian pipeline, where the club has had seven representatives (infielder Luke Hughes twice) in said tourney's brief history. Still, it's worthy of mention that while Hughes appears on the MLB track, none of the ballers has yet to actually done a Twins jersey.
While the reasons are both myriad and mysterious regarding exactly why the club has no
Asian ballers, I feel it namely comes down to two reasons. The first (remember what club we're discussing here) is, of course, money. Many of the top Eastern imports - as established by Hideo Nomo's L.A. splash in 1995 - command high dollars to move West. Ichiro has a $90 million contract with Seattle; Hideki Matsui makes $52 mil in New York; Dice-K is getting $52 in Beantown, although the Sox had to cough up another $51 million just to obtain the Matsuzaka's negotiating rights. Of course, these are polar examples. Yankee starter Chien-Ming Wang (54-23 in five seasons) is signed for $5 mil this year; productive Indian outfielder Shin-Soo Choo makes a tenth of that.
Reason number two is born of the fact that the Twins pride themselves (and rightfully so) on developing and farming their own talent - the Twin way. The results of said approach are aptly celebrated throughout baseball, and the present-day results of the homegrown crop (Mauer, Morneau, Cuddy, Span, Slowey, Blackburn, the list goes on) offer little with which to argue.
Last season, the Gulf Coast League Twins (Rookie) actually had four Asian players on their roster: outfielders Wang-Wei Lin (Taiwan), Hyun-wook Choi (South Korea); catcher Jae-Hyung Jang (South Korea), and second baseman Hyeong-rok Choi (South Korea). Whether such rostering portends either major league signing/sightings, or an altered roster makeup come the days of Target Field, well, as they say in the East: "If you do not enter the tiger's cave, you will not catch its cub."
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