COMMENTARY | During a radio appearance Friday on ESPN, New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said the team is expecting newly signed Japanese pitching sensation Masahiro Tanaka to be the team's No. 3 starting pitcher.
Commenters across the Internet have, of course, exploded with over-reaction to Cashman doing exactly what he is supposed to do -- manage expectations and try to take some initial pressure off the 25-year-old Tanaka.
If you missed it, here is exactly what Cashman told ESPN's Ian O'Connor:
"We view him to be a really, solid consistent No. 3 starter," Cashman said. "If we to get more than that, all the better. He's got a great deal of ability.
"There is definitely some unknown because of the transition. We scouted him extensively. Certainly, we look forward to adding him into the mix with the rest of our rotation. That's what we look at him as: A solid, potential No. 3 starter in the big leagues."
Let's be honest. That is a bunch of nonsense, and Cashman knows it is a bunch of nonsense. The Yankees did not hand Tanaka a seven-year, $155 million contract, and toss in a $20 million posting fee to his former team in Japan, for a guy who they think will max out as a "solid, consistent No. 3 starter." If they wanted a guy to be their No. 3 starter, they could have signed Matt Garza, Bronson Arroyo, Ubaldo Jimenez or another middling, decent starting pitcher.
Make no mistake, the Yankees believe Tanaka can become an ace. That is the only reason they outbid everyone for him, and blew up their much-discussed plan to get under the $189 million luxury tax in order to sign him. It would simply be foolish for them to come right out and say it.
Tanaka has yet to set foot on American soil. He has yet to throw a pitch in a Yankee uniform or face a big-league hitter. You don't come right out say, "We think he is going to be our No. 1 from the second he puts on the uniform."
First, all that does is set up Tanaka to fail. If you canonize him as an ace, an All-Star, a dominant No. 1, he has to be that from the moment he steps on the mound or the media and fan base will tear him to pieces. By correctly lowering the bar, Cashman allows Tanaka the opportunity to adjust to his new surroundings without the stated pressure of being the No. 1 starter.
Secondly, by managing expectations Cashman manages not to insult CC Sabathia, who has been the ace for the past few years, or Hiroki Kuroda, the team's best starter a year ago.
Cashman is not admitting a mistake in signing Tanaka or expressing "buyer's remorse," sentiments I have seen in some places. He is doing what a good general manager should do -- trying to set up Tanaka to succeed, not setting up unrealistic expectations that would do nothing but add pressure.
Let's just relax, let Tanaka pitch for a while and see how his talents translate to the big leagues. If he's Kei Igawa, the Yankees have wasted their money. If he's Yu Darvish, the Yankees get what they are looking for. Right now, we don't know -- and neither does Cashman.
-- Ed Valentine is editor of Big Blue View, covering the New York Giants for SB Nation. He writes about the Yankees and Giants on Yahoo Contributor Network.
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