According to a piece from what’s now being described as a Japanese tabloid, Tanaka was fearful of anti-Asian discrimination in the United States amid the COVID-19 pandemic and opted to protect his family by relocating to Japan instead of staying in New York.
Yankees general manager Brian Cashman commented on what was believed to be the “report” when he spoke to the media on Monday, but apparently the information wasn’t properly disseminated.
ESPN’s Marly Rivera clarified it all for us late Monday night after learning something else from a colleague from Kyodo News.
Apparently, that piece was an opinion column and didn’t quote Tanaka or people close to him. Rivera goes as far to say that more reputable Japanese journalists and insiders have called it “fake news.”
Rivera has reached out to Tanaka for a comment, so perhaps we’ll get a definitive answer soon.
While it’s possible that Tanaka did feel this way given the spike in crimes/violence against Asian-Americans over the last year, there’s been no definitive confirmation of that. And it makes even more sense when you realize this was the first time Cashman’s heard about it.
Why? Because the Yankees were largely quiet on the negotiation front with Tanaka this offseason and it was believed he wouldn’t return after his seven years in the Bronx due to the team’s payroll situation and desire to switch things up with the starting rotation.
Though this potential storyline isn’t unbelievable due to the very real circumstances Asians in the United States are facing at the moment, it probably would’ve made more sense if the Yankees organization knew of this rumored reservation on Tanaka’s end during this past offseason. Either that, or it more than likely — if it were a driving factor in his decision making — would’ve been reported much earlier since his decision to return to the Rakuten Golden Eagles came in early February.
Trustworthy sources like Rivera as well as those in Japan who have covered Tanaka very closely throughout his career both in his home country and in New York should reign supreme here until we get an official word from the veteran right-hander.