As I've discussed on these pages before, two of my greatest passions in life are (1) being a proud Asian-American man, and (2) baseball.
So it's only natural that I have a special place in my heart for any MLB baseball players of Asian descent (even if they do play for those dreaded Yankees.) Part of it has to do with the inherent pride when we see people who look like us achieve success in any field. However, a big part of my love and admiration for Asian baseball players has to do with the fact that they are our greatest weapons in battling mainstream media's perception of the emasculated Asian male.
Look at some of the Asian baseball players in MLB today. Future Hall-of-Famer and perennial All-Star Ichiro Suzuki, with his matinee idol good looks, has modeled for the cover of GQ while making a strong argument for being one of the best hitters to ever play the game. Hideki Matsui is a modern-day Paul Bunyon who strikes fear in opposing pitchers by putting up some of the game's most awesome power numbers. And rookie sensation Kosuke Fukudome is already being hailed as the savior who will lead the Cubs to their first World Series title in 100 years.
Back when I was a young child playing Little League and dreaming of being the starting shortstop for the NY Mets, there were NO Asian players in Major League Baseball. Although the legendary Masanori Murakami briefly pitched for the San Francisco Giants in 1964-1965, it wasn't until Chan Ho Park made his debut with the Dodgers thirty years later that we saw another MLB player of Asian descent.
It makes me extremely proud to look around the clubhouses of Major League Baseball now and see such a wide array of Asians playing virtually every position. I was thinking about this recently and I began wondering whether there were actually now enough Asian baseball players in MLB for me to draft an All-Asian Fantasy Baseball team. And how would that team stack up against the rest of baseball?
Let's take a look:
CF Ichiro Suzuki (Seattle Mariners)
2B Tad Iguchi (Chicago White Sox)
RF Kosuke Fukudome (Chicago Cubs)
LF Jideki Matsui (NY Yankees)
3B Akinori Iwamura (Tampa Bay Devilrays)
C Kenji Johjima (Seattl Mariners)
SS Chin-Lung Hu (Los Angeles Dodgers)
1B Kaz Matsui (Houston Astros)
DH Johnny Damon (NY Yankees)
SP Daisuke Matsuzaka (Boston Red Sox)
SP Chien-Ming Wang (NY Yankees)
SP Hiroki Kuroda (Los Angeles Dodgers)
SP Akinori Otsuka (Texas Rangers)
SP Kei Igawa (NY Yankees)
RP Hideki Okajima (Boston Red Sox)
RP Chan Ho Park (Los Angeles Dodgers)
RP Cha Seung Baek (Seattle Mariners)
RP Takashi Saito (Los Angeles Dodgers)
(1) I put Kaz Matsui at 1st base because there currently no Asian 1st basemen in MLB. I figured he was well-suited because of his slick glove. He's lost some arm strength over the years and Chin-Lung Hu is more of a natural shortstop.
(2) Yes, Johnny Damon is half-Asian. His mother is Thai. You didn't know that?
So how does my All-Asian Fantasy Team measure up?
Actually, I think we look pretty damn good. We've got a nice blend of veteran leadership and young players. We've got a good mix of guys who can get on base and guys who can hit for power. Our defense is solid but nothing spectacular. Ichiro is probably the sole Golden Glover.
Our pitching staff is led by D-Mat and Chien-Ming Wang. I'll put those two pitchers up against any 1-2 combo in baseball. Kuroda was a freaking stud in Japan and could have a monster year for the Dodgers this year. Otsuka and Igawa should be more than serviceable filling out the back end of the rotation.
As for the bullpen, it might be a little weak. Saito is a decent enough closer. Probably better than most others in MLB right now. Unfortunately, I'm not sure how much we'll get out of Okajima, Park, and Baek. The plus side is that our starting pitchers tend to eat up a lot of innings so a top-notch bullpen might not be as important.
You know what? This is a pretty damn good team. I'll bet they could win 80-90 games. Put them in the National League and they might end up making it to the World Series. How great would that be?