Former Boston Red Sox reliever Hideki Okajima is on the comeback trail, wishing to make another run in the MLB. How realistic is this venture?
In the world of professional baseball, you never want to say ‘never’, regardless of how paradoxical that statement really is. However, some news coming out of Japan is making many baseball experts wondering on the truth of that statement. Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com tweeted the following:
Tom Caron of NESN had mentioned those sentiments earlier in the week:
Let’s allow for the possibility, before we decide to dismiss the man. Okajima signed as a free agent in November of 2006 and became an All-Star the following season. He went 3-2 with a 2.22 ERA and five saves in 69 innings. He struck out 63 opposing batters to only 17 walks, helping to make him sixth overall in Rookie-of-the-Year voting in 2007. Okajima’s numbers were fairly similar for another two seasons, until the wheels fell off the proverbial bus in 2010 with a 4.50 ERA in 2010. In just 46 innings, Okajima walked 20 hitters to only 33 strikeouts.
Even with the hope that he would rediscover his form in Boston, after the Red Sox re-signed him for the 2011 season, the signs were there that he wasn’t the same. Injuries and costly runs were too much for him to overcome.
In the 2011 offseason, the New York Yankees signed him only to dump Okajima before February 18th, 2012.
A year later with the Oakland Athletics, he only played four innings. Okajima allowed seven hits, one run, two walks, and one strikeout with a wild pitch to boot. That year would have felt like a roller coaster ride between the majors and the minors for Okajima, making it no wonder that he went back to his homeland of Japan for the last couple of seasons.
And yet, he only played in 10 games last season. Is that telling enough?
His five years in Boston cost the Red Sox a total of only $8.75 million, while he helped the team win a World Series in his first year. He deserves respect for what he accomplished, but that deserves a tip of the cap and a ‘thank you’. He’s a 6’1″ lefty who will be turning 40 years old. The Red Sox already have a 40-year-old reliever, but he’s still proving that he can play big-league ball. Okajima hasn’t exactly done that for a number of seasons, at this point.
If Okajima comes to the U.S.A. again as a professional baseball player, it will likely only be a minor-league role. Anything else seems pointless to debate at this point.