Season Preview: The Hitomi Tanakas

When Emperor Lovetron disbanded his franchise this year, league officials put out an open invitation for new ownership but times being what they are, pickings seemed slim. Luckily, Sensei Fukudome answered the call. From the moment the vetting process began, it was clear that this diminutive, bespectacled gaijin had what it takes to join these elite ranks.

Fukudome arrived at league headquarters wearing a silk kimono, flanked by a stunning, jaw dropping really, pair of Japanese twins who attended to his every need throughout the day. When asked if he needed introductions to his soon to be fellow owners he replied, “Beneath the cherry blossoms, there are no strangers.” Asked to describe his basic understanding of the game, he answered, “baseball is but a tale of a clockwork sparrow.” Clearly, here was one ready to take his place at the table.

Draft day did not disappoint, as the newly minted Hitomi Tanakas drafted the great Ichiro and later added countrymen Akinori Iwamura and Kosuke Fukudome himself. When questioned by a reporter about the subsequent release of the latter two, Sensei Fukudome quipped, “Externally keep yourself away from all relationships, and internally have no paintings in your heart.” The zen mind is nothing if not pragmatic.

The roster, for the most part, reflects the eastern obsession with striving for balance. Veterans like Ichiro, Posada and Jeremy Affeldt stand on the one side of the age continuum, promising youngsters like Nyjer Morgan, Clayton Kershaw and the electric Aroldis Chapman to the other. Flashy talents like Dexter Fowler, Kyle Blanks and Alexei Ramirez share the clubhouse with a heavy contingency of underrated workmen Jason Kubel, Casey Blake and Asdrubal Cabrera. If these players fill the background with archetypal faces, like the feudal townsfolk in a Kurosawa movie, then top pick Tim Lincecum occupies center screen like the shogun warrior. He will need to be every bit the hero in this film to justify the early selection.

On offense, Kendry Morales, Kubel and post-hype sleeper Hunter Pence should provide enough pop to keep the competition honest. Six of the nine probable starters hit .300 or better last year, including Ichiro’s gaudy .352 mark. There’s plenty of speed here too. It’s not an offense that leaps out at you; rather it reveals itself slowly. One would suspect Fukudome prefers it that way.

Lincecum, Kershaw and Adam Wainwright give this team a potent Big Three, and the complementary starters all come with some upside potential. The bullpen will be a lonely place to start the year, with just Jose Valvede and Affeldt pitching in relief. However the Tanaka’s appear active on the waiver wire, having made more than twice as many moves as any other team before the start of the season, and relief pitching can be had as the year goes on.

The activity on the waiver wire is a promising sign for the future. Championships can be lost in the draft but are seldom won there. I think this will be a playoff team.

Prediction: Those who know do not speak. Those who speak do not know

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