Masahiro Tanaka said goodbye to Yankees fans on Thursday morning.
Masahiro Tanaka’s departure from the New York Yankees was a slow burn after a quick case of sticker shock.
When the bizarre, fan-less 2020 season began, many of us assumed Tanaka would be back by the time fans returned to Yankee Stadium. He felt like a lifer, and we weren’t yet adjusted to the team’s suddenly-bridled budget
But once October approached, every fan had a sense of finality. Every time Tanaka tipped his cap to a cold block of seats, he seemed to be saying goodbye to the only major-league city he’d ever known. The place where his big-league journey started in earnest, where he shook Hideki Matsui’s hand in the original dugout across the street, kickstarting a decade-long process of arriving in the Bronx himself.
In case Yankees fans still weren’t ready after months of transparent budget-crunching, Tanaka’s former-now-current team in Japan, the Rakuten Golden Eagles, announced a one-year, $7.7 million deal to bring their “hero” back home on Thursday.
And with a push of the “Tweet” button, it was time for both sides to say goodbye.
Tanaka, after weeks of hints, finally published a full and emotional farewell to his many fans in the Bronx, explaining his decision.
Of course, we all know how terrible the landscape is in Major League Baseball this offseason, and no one could blame Tanaka for heading home as a heroic conqueror, choosing to pitch for a team that fully appreciates him.
Not shockingly, Tanaka didn’t find what he was looking for in the states this offseason; his reported demand of $15 million annually was completely reasonable, yet still got scoffed at by the teams in charge.
In fact, SNY’s Andy Martino reported on Thursday that one team offered him a closer’s role. Yeah. Embarrassing.
Tanaka made the right decision for him in heading back to Japan for at least this strange bridge year, and we can possibly even reevaluate his free agency next offseason (post-lockout?) when financials balance themselves out.
It might not be goodbye for the Yankees and Tanaka; there’s a lot of love here, and we’ll cross our fingers it’s, “See you later.”