5 Key Takeaways from Masahiro Tanaka's Yankees Press Conference
When the team welcomed him to America with a press conference at Yankee Stadium, the brightest pitching star from Japan entered Major League Baseball. Within a few days, fans and media members will garner a live view of his pitches and ability.
For now, we have his personality and demeanor to dissect.
After shelling out $175 million for Tanaka, including the posting fee to his Japanese team, the Yankees are counting on him to lead their rotation for a long time. If his first press conference was any indication, the franchise just landed a star.
Here are the key takeaways from Masahiro Tanaka's first Yankees press conference.
Tanaka or Bust
After listening to the Yankees talk about Tanaka, all of the coverage and skepticism around his eventual landing spot could have been shelved. It was abundantly clear that the Yankees weren't going to allow any team to outbid them for a pitcher they wanted this much.
When Yankees manager Joe Girardi spoke about Tanaka's free agency and the need for an infusion of top-tier pitching talent, he used the word "covet" to describe the way New York went about its pursuit of the righty.
General manager Brian Cashman stated that the team has been scouting him since 2007, per Jesse Spector of Sporting News.
Finally, owner Hal Steinbrenner stated that the team didn't mind surpassing its self-mandated payroll of $189 million for a pitcher of this caliber, per Eric Fisher of SportsBusiness Journal.
Hideki Matsui Was a Major Influence
From 2003 to 2009, Hideki Matsui was one of the most productive hitters in baseball. Upon signing him from Japan, the Yankees brought in a power bat, clutch performer and well-liked teammate.
That experience clearly made an impact on their pursuit of Tanaka.
From the moment the press conference began, Matsui's shadow hung over the festivities. Yankees PR executive Jason Zillo told reporters that the gathering was the biggest the team had staged since introducing Matsui, per USA Today.
Later on, Tanaka revealed that he had spoken to Matsui about the Yankees and playing in America, per Jesse Spector of Sporting News.
When the Yankees landed the left-handed-slugging Matsui from Japan over a decade ago, they didn't just revive their lineup with an excellent hitter. They set the stage for landing Tanaka all these years later.
World Series Glory Will Define Tanaka's Career
As Tanaka attempts to learn the English language, don't expect too many colorful quotes or proclamations from the newest Yankees ace.
However, he did reiterate a goal that should make every Yankees fan excited: to win a World Series championship.
Years from now, the dust will have settled on Tanaka's career in America. Regardless of how many games he wins, how low his ERA dips or how many top-five finishes in the American League Cy Young race he garners, only one thing will truly matter in New York: World Series glory.
If Tanaka leads the Yankees staff to October glory, it will be $175 million of well-spent money.
For what it's worth, Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner believes that goal is achievable during the 2014 season.
Over the next seven years, Tanaka will likely have the chance to compete on many teams with championship aspirations, giving him ample opportunity to fulfill his goal.
Tanaka Must Adapt to New York Media
A language barrier won't be the only hurdle Tanaka faces when dealing with the media. In order to succeed with the Yankees, New York's newest star must find a way to block out the distractions and incessant coverage around the team.
If his responses Tuesday—direct, short and to the point—are a precursor to future interactions with the media, he'll be left alone to do his work. As Derek Jeter has showed over the last two decades, answering the media in a bland and benign way is an easy way to deal with the coverage.
Yet Tanaka's cool demeanor may have been an act. When speaking to YES Network's Michael Kay, the newest Yankees let his guard down on the entire experience.
"Inside I'm very very nervous, I'm kind of intimidated by this whole thing today," Tanaka said to Kay.
Win or lose, Tanaka will face the media and fan reaction on a start-by-start basis. If he can adapt to it quickly, it will be one less obstacle to overcome.
Ready for Rivalry with Red Sox
If the Yankees are going to reclaim the American League East, they'll have to go through the Boston Red Sox. Tanaka says he's ready for the task and the intensity of the rivalry, per Jesse Spector of Sporting News.
“You can see how intense the games are. I’m very much looking forward to playing in that environment," said Tanaka when asked about watching the games on television.
Soon the star righty will be on the mound for big games with Boston. Last year, New York finished 12 games back of Boston in the AL East standings. With Tanaka in tow, New York has closed that gap, but it will need an All-Star-caliber season from him in 2014 to actually challenge Boston in the division.
Considering the pursuit of his right arm and $175 million paycheck from the Yankees, many in baseball believe he's capable of that kind of production. If he can transfer that into big-game victories over Boston, a new star will be born in New York.
What are your expectations for Masahiro Tanaka in New York?