When it was announced that the Twins had won the bid for Japanese shortstop Tsuyoshi Nishioka, I’m sure most people were excited. I certainly was, as the Twins had not had a Japanese-born player since Micheal Nakamura, though he wasn’t like your typical Far East import. Micheal, along with having an English-sounding first name and odd, Jhonny Peralta-like misspelling, had an Australian mother and actually moved to the Land Down Under when he was only 3 years old.
However, our collective excitement over Nishioka has quickly waned. The fear was that being a middle infielder, he may turn into a disappointment like Kaz Matsui, who played for the Astros, Rockies, and Mets. In actuality, Matsui was a fairly decent big leaguer, but he didn’t live up to expectations, thus the perception of him being a disappointment. His defense was shaky despite winning 4 Nippon Pro Baseball Gold Gloves and his power disappeared even though he had a 36 HR season under his belt in Japan, and he was just barely an above-average position player in 5 of his 7 seasons.
Twins fans thought they were getting an intriguing Asian import, and yet Nishioka has looked more like Norihiro Nakamura than Kazuo Matsui. Who? you may ask. Don’t worry, the quizzical look on your face is well justified. I’ll get to Norihiro later.