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Blatant Homerism

Twins IF Tsuyoshi Nishioka leaves $3.25M on table after asking for, receiving release

With the way the Minnesota Twins first major foray into acquiring the highly sought-after talent available in the Japanese pro leagues played out, it is unlikely the team will be so gung ho about making another attempt anytime soon.

Still, with the class, dignity and humility displayed by epic flop Tsuyoshi Nishioka when he asked to be released from the team and the Twins accommodated his request; at least the Twins saved a big chunk of change on an aggressive baseball decision that was anything but a booming success.

Nishioka started off poorly and never got on track in the MLB after signing three-year, $9 million with the Twins. Although highly coveted after tearing it up in Japan — the Twins had to pay $5.3 million for exclusive negotiating rights — both in the professional leagues and a member of the national team, Nishioka’s considerable talent never translated to how the game is played in the States, and the fact he was sidelined early on in his first year with the Twins, missing 59 games after suffering a broken left fibula after  Yankees outfielder Nick Swisher slid into him while attempting to break up a double play on Apr. 7.

Things went downhill from there, culminating with Nishioka being optioned to AAA before the start of the 2012 season. He was briefly called up in August, but went 0-12 in three games and was sent back to Rochester.

Over 71 big league games and 233 at-bats, Nishioka batted a woeful .215 with 20 RBI, with an on-base and slugging percentage of a paltry .267 and .236 respectively. To make matters worse, his fielding was terrible. He notched 14 errors in those 71 games, but that doesn’t tell half the story, as every play seemed to be an adventure for him.

But through it all, Nishioka somehow managed to keep his dignity intact, or at the very least realized that things were never going to work out, as requesting for and being granted his release, Nishioka essentially surrendered his $3 million salary for the 2013 season as well as the $250,000 buyout following next year.

Nishioka issued the following statement:

“I would like to thank the Twins organization for helping me fulfill my dream of playing in Major League Baseball. 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. I appreciate all the support the team and the fans in Minnesota and Rochester have shown me.”

Talk about classy. In this day and age where pro athletes are perfectly happy to keep cashing checks no matter how bad their production is on the field, to see Nishioka leave that much cash on the table is refreshing. Sure, he did make $6 million-plus stinking up the joint, but he could have just as easily tacked on $3 million more.

It’s likely that Nishioka will return to Japan now, and while he won’t make the money he would have earned in the US, at least he has his dignity and the knowledge that he probably did the right thing. And I guess that should count for something.

[Twins Insider]