From his tear-streaked farewell after his final regular season start to a cold silence after the year concluded, nobody really believed Tanaka would return when the emotions kicked in, and his return to Japan felt like a sappy consolation prize for many Yankees fans.
We heard a lot at the time of Tanaka’s departure about a few absurd offers from MLB teams that wouldn’t meet his demands, some of which apparently offered him a closer role.
Regrettably, that position switch was far from the most ridiculous thing the Tanaka family had to deal with.
Unfortunately, some of the calculus had nothing to do with the Yankees’ desire to try out different rotation options or the righty’s contract demands.
Per a Japanese article published this weekend, some of Tanaka’s trepidation came from the fact that he felt unsafe, socially, in this country, especially after the emergence of the coronavirus pandemic unearthed a pernicious overgrowth of anti-Asian sentiment.
Former Yankees righty Masahiro Tanaka left the USA for safety reasons.
This should deal a significant blow to the hypothesis that Tanaka might return midseason if the Yankees need rotation fortifying.
Even though he still maintains an amazing relationship with plenty of current Yankees — namely, Gerrit Cole, though Aaron Hicks adorably checked in with him this week — it seems the pause in his MLB career might have to be quite a bit longer, considering the firestorm that’s recently been kicked up in this country.
Violent and random outbursts against Asians and Asian-Americans have dominated the news cycle in recent weeks, something Tanaka seems to have seen coming, especially when he first fled the country for Japan during the league shutdown back in April.
That departure seems to have been spurred on by something highly personal that occurred in Florida.
Tanaka’s cautionary tale is extremely resonant this week, another in a long list of weeks, months and years in which destructive stereotyping has fostered a horrific culture of attacks.
We wish the stalwart righty well in his old-home-turned-new-home, and hope he’s able to regain the comfort that has allowed him to be successful for so long. This is a bitter pill to swallow yet again.