Regardless, this time I can do a proper one.
Now the last time goodbyes were sent to Hiroki Kuroda, it was less somber due to how he was still going to pitch as a professional, just in another country than the one I currently live in. No big deal, considering how I have deep ties to Japan, it's the land of my ancestors. I lived there for crying out loud.
But this time Hiroki Kuroda is hanging up his spikes for good.
Yes, after 20 years of bi-continental baseball, Big Hirok has announced his retirement from professional baseball after the end of this season. Which isn't much longer as the Japan Series (the NPB equivalent of the World Series) is about to start (by the time this post goes up it will probably have started).
Hiroki Kuroda had a 3.43 FIP (3.09 ERA) in 151.2 IP in Japan for his final season stats courtesy of ヌルデータ. Going 10-8 in the process as well (lack of run support continues for Hirok). He could totally continue pitching without any problems (even in the majors) if he wanted to, but he feels as though he can't reach the high standards he set for himself anymore (like not being able to throw complete games anymore).
I've already gone on record saying that I think Big Hirok is the most successful Japanese pitcher to ever come stateside, and I've seen nothing brought up to make me think otherwise.
Let's put it like this. Kuroda was here and being Big Hirok after Dice-K fell from grace (and the Igawa debacle too). Japanese pitchers didn't have the best reputation in the late 2000's because of failures/flame-outs like Dice-K, Igawa, Irabu and Nomo (the guy everybody mistakenly thinks is the best Japanese MLB pitcher ever). Kuroda stayed the same during his entire MLB tenure and gave his team lots of innings and few runs per outing. All accumulating to what were usually like 200+ IP, 3-4 ERA seasons. And he did this consistently. He never fell off.
I mean do you think teams would've been as willing to dish out massive deals for Yu Darvish or Masahiro Tanaka (or Shohei Ohtani) if Big Hirok hadn't been there to basically show that Japanese pitchers can be just as durable and good as the best of them? I really doubt it. Hirok kept Hirok'ing the competition and front offices took notice. The game of baseball owes Hirok a lot of debt.
Anyway this reminded me that I had a whole series dedicated to Hiroki Kuroda that ended after like two posts lol. About his legacy both here and in Japan. His role in Kershaw's development (and Kershaw's role in his adjustment to American ball), the loyalty he still has to this day about the very team that gave him a shot at pro ball, etc... He's got stories that need to be chronicled and told. Sadly the only guy wanting to undertake that task has a lousy work ethic.
Also this means that my low-key goal of getting a certified Hiroki Kuroda autograph made by a Japanese company (BBM, Epoch, etc...) is likely ruined because his prices will skyrocket. As if they aren't already SMH.
But if this means I can get more sets dedicated to Big Hirok, I'll take it.
Anyway thanks a ton for the memories and your immense (but likely forever under appreciated) role in baseball Hiroki Kuroda. Hopefully you and the Carp can win it all in the Japan Series and go out into the sunset with some hardware and lots of alcohol showers.
As always thanks for stopping by and take care :).
Hirok >>> Nomo