Thursday, November 30, 2006

Okajima Wears Red Socks

It's somewhat surreal, but Red Sox Sign Lefty Okajima is the headline of the afternoon. Contract's for 2 years, $2.5 million according to the AP.

Hideki Okajima, a tall hefty lefty who will be 31 on Christmas, played for most of his career with the Giants, winning two Japan Series with them before being part of the Nippon Ham Fighters team which won this year. He grew up in Kyoto, and went to Higashiyama High, pitching at the spring invitational Koshien tournament in 1992 and 1993. He was drafted as the Giants third-round pick in the 1993-1994 offseason, and went on to pitch well in various roles, shining as both a lefty relief ace and a closer for the Giants. This year he was 2-2 with 4 saves and an ERA of 2.14, striking out 63 in 54.2 innings with a WHIP of 1.09. Lefties hit a miniscule .186 against him, and all of the 5 home runs he gave up were to right-handed batters.

He came to the Fighters in a trade right before the 2006 season, the Fighters sending no-bat catcher Kazunari Sanematsu and journeyman infielder Shigeyuki Furuki to the Giants for him. It's easily one of the best trades the Fighters have ever made. I will always remember Okajima best for moments like this, striking out Kosuke Fukudome in the Japan Series, over and over and over again. Hopefully he will find a suitable new lefty slugger over here to become the bane of. Personally, I suggest Big Jim Fuku-Thome.

The real downside to Okajima's new team being the Red Sox is that there's very little chance of me getting to tell him how awesome I thought he was in the Japan Series, as Sox fans are notorious for filling up Safeco within about five seconds of the gates opening for batting practice, and all the Japanese fans are going to come in to see Matsuzaka, too.

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