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.
The Astros and Nationals share a spring training facility, so it was only natural that they would open Grapefruit League play together. The Astros were the home team. Here’s the lineup they rolled out.
Teams typically include at least a few regulars in their spring training lineups as a courtesy to the fans, who are spending money to see big league players play baseball. This is especially the case for home games. However, the Astros have decided to roll out a lineup with a combined 323 MLB plate appearances.
There might be a reason for that. Houston was lustily booed as they took the field. This was after running a video on the scoreboard celebrating their 2019 AL championship.
That’s all with the team that beat them in the World Series (and is widely regarded as baseball’s current heroes for beating the big bad cheating Astros) in the other dugout, of course. Nationals starter Max Scherzer has not thrown at any Houston player, and the game is now in a rain delay. But it seems like the Astros decided to spare their players from some possible rough treatment, both from fans and opposing pitchers.
The same could not be said for Astros mascot Orbit, who was also booed.
One can quibble with the merits of booing a bunch of players who have barely touched the big leagues because you’re mad at Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman, but sports fandom is something of an irrational business. Fans are going to want their pound of flesh, especially when they paid for the right to be in the ballpark and give the Astros a piece of their mind. Some of them even brought props! This is just how it all works, unfortunately. If you’re in an Astros uniform, you’re probably going to get booed.
Welcome to the 2020 season, Astros. It’s probably going to be like this all year.