Kikuchi Stays Home
(returns after a while)
It’s later in the evening, and here’s more.
This news doesn’t come as a surprise, as even though I had been reserving some skepticism, all the reports over the last few days said that he was staying in Japan. The quotes that are getting repeated by everyone are Kikuchi saying, “I want to be given the chance to play in Japan,” followed by “for now I’m closing the door to the Majors, and after becoming a top pitcher in Japan I want to take on the world.”
I’m glad to see this come to an end. The media frenzy was clearly starting to get to Kikuchi; he acknowledged developing a bad case of acne in the last couple of days and broke down during his press conference. Had he chosen to pursue MLB, the madness certainly would have continued until he signed with a team. I think it took a lot of guts for Kikuchi to challenge the norms even to the extent he did. He’s earned himself at least a footnote in baseball history for that.
Kikuchi is leaving some money on the table with this choice. ZakZak, a site that I normally don’t take too seriously, estimated that Kikuchi’s MLB offers would be in the $4-6m range. I thought that seemed a little high, but ZakZak points out that the top high school lefty in the 2009 MLB draft, Tyler Matzek of the Rockies, signed for $3.9m.
NPB is a clear winner here. Kikuchi’s drawing power is certainly higher having gone through this affair, which will benefit both the league and the team that drafts him. At the same time, it’s an opportunity for take a look in the mirror and look for new ways to compete for talent with MLB. Unlike last year with Junichi Tazawa, we saw NPB bend it’s own rules a little bit to try to keep Kikuchi around, rather than throw together a weak deterrent. It’ll remain to be seen how proactive they’ll be with the next guy that tries this.