Thursday, February 16, 2006

When the Going Gets Tuffy, the Tuffy Get Going... to Cincinnati

Japanese baseball fans should be pretty familiar with Karl "Tuffy" Rhodes by now. After a pretty mediocre career in the states, he went over to Japan, where he pretty much became a superman, clubbing 360 homers in ten years, including tying the single-season HR record of 55 in 2001. Rhodes was around so long that he became a free agent by the NPB service time requirements; at that point he was technically a Japanese player and no longer counted as a foreign player for teams' foreigner quotas. Unfortunately, he sort of went nuts this year and started openly criticizing the Yomiuri management, which is a pretty good way to NOT stay around in Japan (just ask Roberto Petagine's wife). The fact that he also holds the NPB career record for ejections from games is an impressive but career-hindering feat.

At any rate, I always thought Ro-zu was pretty cool. I went to a Giants game in Tokyo a few years ago, and the co-MVPs of the game were Rhodes and the pitcher Takahashi. Rhodes got it for hitting two home runs, and Takahashi got it for pitching a complete game (because the Giants' bullpen was absolutely abysmal). They had the guys say a few words into the mic, and Rhodes muttered some stuff about how happy he was to help the team in English, and the staff were like "In Japanese, please?" and he said pretty much the same exact thing in Japanese. What I found amusing was that I could understand him in Japanese better than I could in English.

Anyway, I did sort of wonder what was going to happen to the Tuffmeister this year, and it appears that he'll be on this side of the Pacific, signing a minor league contract with the Cincinnati Reds. Gosh, it'd be funny if he made it up to the outfield with Griffey. "I hit 360 home runs in ten years in Japan!" "Yeah? Well, I hit 360 home runs in ten years in America, and more."

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