The word “bravery” gets thrown around a lot these days. Too often it is used to describe the worst kind of reflexive defense of the status quo, where a Torii Hunter-type is cast as a hero by the “you must tolerate my intolerance” set.
That is not bravery. Bravery is turning your back on millions of dollars, walking away from a lifetime of comfort because it just isn’t working out right now. Bravery is Tsuyoshi Nishioka, the Getting Blanked Man of the Year for 2012.
The former Twins infielder is not the Getting Blanked Man of the Year because of some altruistic aversion to riches and the American Midwest. Just deciding that Major League (or, more accurately, Minor League) life is not for you, opting to waive the buyout portion of your contract as to make a clean break from the team which signed you to a three-year, $9.5 million deal takes guts.
But guts alone does not make one Man of the Year material. Neither does going 0 for 2012, though it certainly helps. Stephen Vogt of the Rays had more at bats without registering a single hit but, then again, he didn’t beg out of his contract to escape the endless pain that is playing for the Twins.
The below quote comes from the Associated Press and demonstrates the makeup required to earn Man of the Year honors – the #want, where #want represents a desire to get far from a wholly poisonous situation as soon as possible.
I take full responsibility for my performance which was below my own expectations. At this time, I have made the decision that it is time to part ways. I have no regrets and know that only through struggle can a person grow stronger.
Nishioka represented a major coup for the Twins, inking the defending NPB batting champ after a stellar 2010 season in Japan. Early scouting reports pointed to a player likely destined for second base but the Minnesota either believed his bat would play at second or he could stick at short. Turns out neither were even remotely true.
The Tsuyoshi Nishioka story never got the start it deserved – after a strong spring the 27-year old suffered a horrific injury turning a double play at second base. When he finally returned to the diamond, Nishioka was overmatched at the plate. His final 2011 batting line looks like more like a data entry error than an acceptably level of production for a big league infielder. .226/.278/.249, good for a .241 wOBA. 1.4 Wins BELOW Replacement level.
Things weren’t any better in 2012. After starting the season in AAA, Nishioka came to the big leagues in August, lasting just three hitless games before returning to the International League to stay. One walk, one sac fly, one strikeout, one career…over. All in all, just five extra base hits to show for 254 career big league plate appearances. Which looks like this, heat map-wise:
Nishioka requested his release at the end of the AAA season, waiving not only his 2013 salary but the $250 000 buyout for 2014 as well. The Twins were no doubt happy to oblige. Cheap as laughs at the expense of Nishioka might be, this award is also an indictment of the Twins, something always appreciated by baseball fans the world over.
The Twins shipped out J.J. Hardy just ahead of the Nishioka acquisition, a questionable move at the time compounded by Hardy’s return to form in Baltimore as well as the Twins struggles to find a replacement. It is the Twins who are the bad guy here, not Tsuyoshi Nishioka.
Here’s hoping Tsuyoshi Nishioka returns to the NPB and excels, rediscovering the form that made him such a commodity lo those many months ago. Here’s hoping 2012 is the worst year of his baseball career, not the final one. Here’s hoping nothing but bad things continue to happen to the Twins, who deserve nothing but your scorn and judgment. All the best in 2013, Tsuyoshi. Thanks for the memories?