A tribute to Hideki Okajima, the 17th best reliever of all-time

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Well, by one measure anyway.

After failing his physical with the Yankees, Hideki Okajima returned to Japan over the weekend, signing with the Softbank Hawks. He’ll bring with him the 17th best ERA+ among all major league relievers to throw at least 200 innings:

1. Mariano Rivera – 206
2. Takashi Saito – 199
3. Jonathan Papelbon – 197
4. Billy Wagner – 187
5. Mike Adams – 187
6. Joakim Soria – 181
7. Brad Ziegler – 173
8. Francisco Rodriguez – 172
9. Akinori Otsuka – 171
10. Bryan Harvey – 162
11. Peter Moylan – 161
12. Tom Henke – 157
13. Jeff Zimmerman – 152
14. Joe Nathan – 152
15. Alfredo Aceves – 151
16. Rafael Soriano – 149
17. Hideki Okajima – 149
18. Crad Cordero – 149
19. John Wetteland – 149
20. Joel Zumaya – 148

Obviously, that’s a silly list — many relievers not included have had better five-year runs than some of these short-career guys — but it does sort of demonstrate the quality of Okajima’s innings. My favorite Okajima factoid: he gave up a homer to the very first batter he faced (John Buck) in his major league debut and then went 21 2/3 innings without giving up another run

Okajima ended up 17-8 with a 3.11 ERA over 246 1/3 innings in five seasons with the Red Sox. He also had a 2.11 ERA in 21 1/3 innings postseason innings. And he did it all for about $7.5 million, which is less than Soriano will make with the Yankees this year alone.

Sayonara.

Must-Click Link: Remembering Eddie Grant the first major leaguer to die in combat

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As you get ready for Memorial Day weekend and whatever it entails for you and yours, take some time to read an excellent article from Mike Bates over at The Hardball Times.

The article is about Eddie Grant. You probably never heard of him. He was a journeyman infielder — often a backup — from 1905 through 1915. If you have heard of him, it was likely not for his baseball exploits, however: it was because he was the first active baseball player to die in combat, killed in the Battle of the Argonne Forest in October 1915.

Michael tells us about more than Grant’s death, however. He provides a great overview of his life and career. And notes that Grant didn’t even have to go to war if he didn’t want to. He was 34, had the chance to coach or manage and had a law degree and the potential to make a lot of money following his baseball career. He volunteered, however, for both patriotic and personal reasons. And it cost him his life.

Must-read stuff indeed. Especially this weekend.

The Indians are unveiling a Frank Robinson statue on Sunday

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The Cleveland Indians will unveil a Frank Robinson statue at Progressive Field on Saturday.

Robinson’s tenure in Cleveland was not long, but it was historic. On April 8, 1975, he became the first African-American manager in Major League history. He was a player-manager. One of the last ones, in fact. He spent two years in that role and then a third year — a partial year anyway — as a manager only. Robinson would go on to manage the Giants, Orioles and the Expos/Nationals, compiling a career record of 1065-1176 in 16 seasons. He is now a top MLB executive.

Robinson was, of course, a Hall of Fame player as well, lodging 21 seasons for the Reds, Orioles, Dodgers, Angels and Indians. He won two MVP awards and hit for the Triple Crown in 1966. Overall he hit 586 home runs – 10th all time – and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1982. For an inner-circle Hall of Famer with that kind of resume he is still, strangely enough, underrated. I guess that happens when your contemporaries are Willie Mays, Hank Aaron and Mickey Mantle.

Anyway, congrats to Frank Robinson for yet another well-deserved honor in a career full of them.