Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Masumi Kuwata Elimination Challenge

The very first thing I thought about after we officially signed Masumi Kuwata to a minor league deal yesterday was that it seems like some kind of reality game show, in which a washed up player from the Japanese equivalent of the Yankees (the Yomiuri Giants) tries to make the cut with the worst baseball franchise in America. Then I realized that if the Pirates ran with it, it would be a hell of a show. Just imagine, a washed up player trying to make it in a new league is Disney stuff. Then throw in the fact that Kuwata is the first Japanese player in the storied history of the Pirates organization. Let Dave Littlefield design some challenges for the show and you've got yourself some must see TV.

Cultural Assimilation Task #1: Teach Ryan Doumit one phrase in Japanese.
Doumit spends the entire half hour trying to convince Kuwata to bring cases of Sapporo to the next house party he and Chris Duffy host in Bradenton, saying that "Everyone just keeps getting pissed when we buy 2 kegs of High Life." Kuwata is crestfallen, thinking that he has failed his first challenge and will be forced to return home. When asked to recite a Japanese phrase, Doumit looks into the camera and says "Domo arigato, Mr. Kuwata" and begins doing the robot. Kuwata is confused, but happy to be advancing. Task accomplished.

Physical Challenge #1: Pitch a scoreless inning against Manatee County Community College.
After loading the bases with two outs in the seventh inning against MCCC's second string, Brian Bixler makes an outstanding stop up the middle to save Kuwata's bid for the team, prompting Masumi to yell in jubilation, "YOU'RE WITH ME, LEATHER!!!" The team begins to suspect that this may not be as hard as they think. The commenting overlords at Deadspin get wind of the incident and proclaim "YWM,L" to have officially jumped the shark, forgetting that the very phrase itself jumped the shark way back when Mulder first left the X-Files. Task accomplished.

Cultural Assimilation Task #2: Act as Ian Snell's personal pitching coach for one day.
Unfortunately for Kuwata, he draws the day Ian pitches against the Red Sox for this task. He repeatedly tells Snell through a translator that pitching to David Ortiz might not be a good idea. Kuwata's translator struggles to translate, "Snell doesn't do that," which is all Ian will say back. Finally, Kuwata tells him that he's ugly and shorter than most people he knows in Japan. Snell punches Kuwata out, then pitches three perfect innings. Task accomplished.

Physical Challenge #2: Face Ortiz, Ramirez, and Drew without dying.
In the same game as the Snell game, Kuwata comes in to relieve Ian. He must face the dreaded heart of the Red Sox order without taking a life-ending line drive to the face. He surrenders three consecutive monstrous home runs. Speculation emerges on "Where have you gone, Andy Van Slyke?" that "Only on a Dave Littlefield-created reality show could a contestant give up three straight home runs and advance." Discussion in the comments initially agrees, but then drifts to how hot Trenni Kusnierek looked during the post-task interview. Task accomplished.

Cultural Assimilation Task #3: Bad Japanese stereotype survival.
Zach Duke runs around the clubhouse screaming, "Yattaaaa!!! Newwwww Yooooooork!!!" and keeps asking Kuwata if he can bend space and time. Salomon Torres asks if he wants to watch the new Jet Li movie. Jason Bay asks him if he is a ninja. Dave Littlefield tells him that the next task is the "Rotating Surfboard of Death." Kuwata tells Bay to shut his flapping head while shoving Littlefield and muttering "Out of my way, Ethan Hawke." Task Accomplished.

Physical Challenge Task #3: The Rotating Surfboard of Death.
Kuwata passes with flying colors. After the competition he announces to Dan Potash in perfect English, "I hate Dave Littlefield." Despite his 9.50 ERA to that point in the spring, he is embraced by the internet Pirate community. Task accomplished

The Final Cutdown.
Kuwata makes it to final cut-day in camp. Dave Littlefield announces that despite his 7.42 ERA Kuwata will make the team because of his veteran leadership. When asked how he will be a veteran leader without speaking much English, Littlefield responds, "He'll lead by action of course." When asked again about his 7.42 spring ERA, Littlefield says, "He made the team for his veteran leadership." Dejan Kovacevic stabs himself in the eye with a pen, Ed Eagle writes a headline about "JAPANESE SENSATION MASUMI KUWATA!" and John Perrotto starts a rumor about the Pirates trading Kuwata for Manny Ramirez because the Red Sox will need help in the pen with Jonathon Papelbon now in the rotation. In order to make room for him on the 40-man roster, Ryan Doumit is cut. Littlefield reasons, "What, I was only going to make excuses not to play him for another three years, then trade him for a starter with an ERA of over 7. Why dick around? We figured we should just cut him now." Romulo Sanchez is kept on the 40-man roster despite his spring ERA of 56.20. Wilbur Miller is heard for miles screaming "Romulooooooooo!" in a Shatner-esque manner.