Although we’ve covered the heck out of Yu Darvish around here lately (and will continue to do so now and in the future, because DARVISH), I have a different type of post for you today.
This time around, we’re going to drop the numbers (dollars, stats, projections, etc.) and the video, and instead talk about something you rarely ever hear from a player, an executive, or even a fan: apathy towards winning the World Series.
In an excellent piece at MLB.com, Joe Posnanski lifts the offseason curtain, revealing a bit more about the Cubs’ pursuit and eventual signing of free agent starter Yu Darvish, and it’s a really great read.
Among the many takeaways, I learned that Darvish, like Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer, and the rest of the front office, really placed a high value on finding the right fit this offseason, from an individual standpoint. The front office wanted to know more about Darvish, the man, before they would entertain signing him … and it turns out that Darvish wanted to know much more about the Cubs before he would entertain signing.
I’m not surprised Epstein’s interest ticked up upon learning how seriously Darvish was considering the non-financial, non-baseball side of the decision, but that’s not the part that stuck out to me (or Epstein) the most.
“He was open with us,” Epstein says. “He was very open with how – and I found this very interesting – for the first years of his Major League career he wasn’t all that interested in the team. Everyone would do that, ‘Rah Rah, we’re going to win the World Series,’ speech from the first day of Spring Training, and he admits it didn’t resonate with him. He didn’t get it. He was like, ‘I didn’t dream of winning the World Series. I didn’t grow up dreaming [of] getting to the World Series.'”
It’s almost taboo in sports culture to not pine over hoisting that trophy at the end of the year, or, at least do a good job faking it. But Darvish freely admits it wasn’t something that really got him going. While not growing up in the U.S. probably played a small part in that position, his apathy was not tied to a lack of competitiveness. Instead, as Darvish puts it, he had a lot more to pitch for.
At the time Darvish first came to the U.S. (2012), a 38-year-old Ichiro Suzuki had already started his decline, Daisuke Matsuzaka had started struggling, and Hideki Matsui was in his last season. So to Darvish, the spotlight of his country – a “baseball-mad nation” – was entirely on him.
Think about that pressure. That pressure to be good. That pressure to succeed. That pressure to represent an entire country on the biggest stage.
It’s all very much understandable that Darvish’s drive for success would look a little different than most stateside players.
But now I’m wondering … does he still feel this way? Not quite.
Although Darvish played with some playoff teams in Texas, nothing could’ve prepared him for the intensity and significance of going to the World Series with the Dodgers last year. Apparently, the atmosphere and clubhouse intensity really inspired, him and helped spark that hunger to win the World Series … and then, of course, he failed, frankly, in spectacular fashion. That further ignited the hunger.
“Ultimately, failing the way he did,” Epstein said via Posnanski (MLB.com), “he is now at a point where he’s dedicating the rest of his career to winning a World Series and being a significant part of a championship team.”
Well, he’s certainly come to the right place to do it.
For more on Darvish and his newly-discovered fire to win the World Series, be sure to check out Joe Posnanski’s piece at MLB.com – he’s got more quotes from Darvish, Epstein, and others, and it’s really worth your time.