Former Yankees pitcher Hideki Irabu was found dead at his California home yesterday. The initial reports came from the Japanese paper, Asahi Shimbum, and his death has since been confirmed by the New York Yankees. Suicide by hanging is suspected.
Irabu has had a troubled post-baseball career. He was arrested in Gardena, California last year for drunk driving. Back in 2008 he was arrested for assaulting a bar manager in Japan after allegedly consuming 20 glasses of beer.
After achieving stardom in Japan, Irabu’s contract was purchased by the San Diego Padres in early 1997. Irabu wanted no part of San Diego, however, and a trade to the Yankees was arranged. Irabu earned World Series rings with the Yankees in both 1998 and 1999, but he fell far short of expectations and drew the ire of George Steinbrenner who famously dubbed him the “fat toad.” The Yankees shipped him off to Montreal for Jake Westrbook following the 1999 season. He lasted two seasons with the Expos and one season with the Rangers before retiring after the 2002 season. Matthew Pouliot has a more thorough analysis of Irabu’s career here.
We’ll update with more information when it becomes available. For now, however, it appears to be a sad end to a troubled life.
Yasiel Puig is in New York to face the Mets this weekend. Yesterday was a day off so he got to explore New York. You can tell he’s not a New Yorker because he actually went to visit the Statue of Liberty.
I likewise assume that Puig made it to where the boat leaves for Liberty Island with plenty of time to spare, because God knows he’s had a week in which him hustling to make it just in time wasn’t gonna happen.
In other news, Puig made a friend on the boat:
The other day we had the non-controversy of Wade Boggs wearing his 1996 World Series ring, which he won with the Yankees, to a ceremony honoring the 1986 Red Sox. Last night, however, Boggs was feted as an individual, with his number 26 being retired at Fenway Park.
It was an emotional night for him. He was visibly choked up and said all sorts of things which clearly showed how much more, at heart, he is a Boston Red Sox legend than he is a legend of either of the other teams for which he played. And he made a comment about the Yankees ring thing too:
He wore his Hall of Fame ring on Thursday.
“I’m proud of it,” Boggs said of the ’96 Yankees’ ring. “But I didn’t feel like it was appropriate today being that it’s my day, it’s my number and everything like that. So I left it off.”
The dude hit .328 for his career and had 3,010 hits despite not even playing a full season until he was 25. He could wear a Little Orphan Annie decoder ring out there and no one would have the right to say boo to him.
Over at Vice Rian Watt has a great story about how technology is changing baseball. No, it’s not about sabermetrics or statistical analysis. At least not as you all know and understand those things. It’s about how the players themselves are now becoming the data. About how wearables — little devices which monitor everything about an athlete’s behavior — and analysis of that behavior is changing clubs’ understanding of what makes baseball players excel.
Which is fine if you approach it solely from a technological standpoint and do that usual “gee, what a world we live in” stuff that such articles typically inspire. Watt, however, talks about the larger implications of turning players into data: the blurring of their professional and personal lives:
Welcome to the next frontier in baseball’s analytic revolution. Many of this revolution’s tenets will be familiar to anyone who works for a living—the ever-growing digitization and quantification of things never-before measured and tracked, for instance, or the ever-expanding workplace, the blurring distinction between the professional and the personal, and the cult of self-improvement for self-improvement’s sake. These broader trends are colliding with baseball tradition on backfields and in training facilities around the major leagues, and those collisions have raised questions about privacy, security, and what employees owe their employers.
Players already accept drug testing and rules about personal behavior. But can a club, armed with knowledge about how it affects a player’s performance, make rules about how he sleeps? What kind of shoes he wears off the field? Everything he eats?
I’m the last person to fall for slippery slope fallacies. In most instances there are lines that can be drawn when it comes to regulating the behavior of others and making new rules. But in order to draw those lines you have to ask questions about what is and what is not acceptable. You also have to acknowledge that it’s really easy for technology to get ahead of our ability to comprehend its ethical implications.
You all probably know my thing about “Field of Dreams.” Specifically, that I hate it. Maybe my least favorite baseball movie ever. And I have sat through “The Slugger’s Wife” at least twice. That’s really saying something. At some point I’ll watch it again and liveblog the experience to explain my position on this — I know all of you think I’m nuts for not liking it — but just accept that I don’t like it for now, OK?
But just because a movie stinks doesn’t mean every aspect of it is bad. I loved Burt Lancaster in everything he did and he did an excellent job in “Field of Dreams.” Same with James Earl Jones for the most part. I thought he did a great job playing a character which, at times, didn’t have as much to work with as he could’ve had. No, there are good elements of “Field of Dreams.” If there weren’t — if it were just a total turkey — it wouldn’t inspire the feelings I have about it. If it were an unmitigated disaster, I’d occasionally re-watch it on a so-bad-it’s-good theory.
The “People will come” speech is good. Not necessarily for its content — there’s some hokeyness to it — but because James Earl Jones does a great job delivering it. He could read the dang phone book and make it compelling
Yesterday Major League Baseball launched a partnership thingie with the Field of Dreams site in Iowa. Part of that effort involved having Vin Scully recite the “People will come” speech over some baseball footage. Watch and listen:
Personally, I’d prefer Vin to tell some kooky story about an opposing player actually being a part time flautist or what have you. He’s had many monumental moments, but Scully is Scully for the way he makes the workaday and the mundane sound poetic, not because he takes the already poetic and elevates it further.
Still, this is good. Even to a hater like me. And I’m sure a lot of you will love it.