As we all know, the Twins won the bid for Japanese infielder Tsuyoshi Nishioka. Like many Japanese imports before him, Nishioka’s contract includes the rights for an interpreter. While many players also come to America from Latin America, it’s clear that these athletes are not given the same rights.
White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen had a public rant back in August 2010 about the differences in treatment between Japanese and Latino baseball players. From my recollection, Guillen’s complaints – like many of his complaints – were met with criticism. Clearly, this is not “new” news. However, the reason I bring this back up is that with Nishoka now on the roster, the Twins can now be included as a target in Guillen’s grievance.
I remember hearing another complaint about how Japanese players are afforded the luxury of making a major league roster despite only having the experience equivalent to between Triple-A and the majors, while the Latinos are usually guaranteed time in the minors first. Even Aroldis Chapman, who posted a 2.03 ERA and 12.83 K/9 with a 100 MPH fastball, had to spend a majority of 2010 in the minor leagues.
Is this fair? Well, I’m not fully sure. While it may seem like a player’s race is determining their placement into the MLB system, we also need to consider their age. Most Japanese players are brought to America when they are in their late 20s to mid 30s. Nishioka will be 26 on Opening Day. Ichiro Suzuki’s first MLB season was when he was 27. Meanwhile, Chapman was only 22, and Miguel Sano was 16 when he signed with the Twins.
This leads into another part of Guillen’s complaint, where he said that most Latino players above the age of 17 were considered too old to be signed by an MLB squad, while American college athletes are drafted when they’re in their early 20s. To me, this is more a function of the laws in place than anything else. In America, athletes need at least a high school degree before being eligible for the MLB draft. In Japan, teams could scout teenagers, but they’d also have to compete with the NPB teams in order to get these players. In Latin America, these rules and complications aren’t as big of factors.
With Nishioka, he is indeed receiving some benefits that would not be given to players of another race. As I said above, I’m not sure where I stand on this issue. I do feel that Ozzie Guillen made a good point in bringing this up, but there hasn’ t been many complaints apart from him. If you have an opinion on this, what do you think? Should MLB teams change their ways to be more fair to Latinos compared to Japanese players, or is the system working just fine?