How badly did Tsuyoshi Nishioka want to quit playing baseball in America?
Bad enough that he told the Minnesota Twins on Friday that they could keep the $3.25 million the team still owed him if it released him from his contract.
It's unclear if any members of the Twins front office blew any horns or popped any champagne upon receiving that request, but the answer was a no-doubt-about-it "yes." The imported second baseman has been an unmitigated disaster ever since he signed with the team before the 2011 season.
Though Nishioka had his 2011 interrupted by a broken leg last season, the 28-year-old was awful when he did find the lineup and he was also a defensive liability in the infield. He hit .215/.267/.236 with zero homers and 20 RBIs over 71 combined games over the two seasons and spent most of 2012 playing at Triple-A Rochester. His only big-league playing time this season came in three games at the beginning of August before he was demoted again. That had to be tough for someone who was a five-time All-Star and three-time Gold Glove winner with the Chiba Lotte Marines, but he simply wasn't getting the job done.
The Twins have already paid over $11 million for Nishioka's two seasons and negotiating rights. They'll save the $3 million he was owed for 2013 and the $250,000 it would have cost to buy out his option for 2014.
Here's what Nishioka said in a 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. Arigatou gozaimasu (Thank you very much)."
This isn't the first time that we've seen a player choose pride over a guaranteed paycheck worth millions. Back in 2011, Gil Meche told the Kansas City Royals that he could not possibly accept the $12 million they were legally obligated to pay him and decided to retire instead. The big difference here is that Nishioka will presumably try and give baseball another go in Japan, though you still have to commend him for his decision to admit that his great American experience just wasn't working out.
So that's that, I suppose. Nishioka will likely head back to his homeland, leaving a multitude of Boston Red Sox fans to wonder one thing: Why couldn't Daisuke Matsuzaka have done the same?