Hideki Irabu found dead; suicide suspected

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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.

A couple of former major leaguers choose to stay in Asia

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Two guys who spent some time in the bigs but who have found more success in Asia have decided to stay in Asia.

Darin Ruf has re-signed with the Samsung Lions of KBO, per MLB Trade Rumors. Ruf, who played five years for the Phillies but didn’t really have the numbers to stick, has stuck just fine in Korea. In two seasons in the offense-friendly league he has hit 64 homers and has put up a line of .322/.412/.587. His new deal with Samsung will pay him a guaranteed $1.4 million with $300K in potential bonuses.

The other guy — Nick Martinez — has signed a $2.5 million plus incentives deal to stay with the Nippon Ham Fighters of NPB. The former Rangers starter went 10-11 with a 3.51 ERA for the Fighters in 2018. He was 17-30 with a 4.77 ERA in four seasons with Texas.

Maybe Ruf and Martinez still have U.S. major league dreams, but guaranteed bucks in the Korean and Japanese majors is better than signing minor league deals and riding busses here.