Masahiro Tanaka’s apology for injury comes as charming surprise

Written By BY RICK TELANDER | @ricktelander Posted: 07/13/2014, 02:28am

Twenty-five-year-old New York Yankees pitcher Masahiro Tanaka was sailing along this season, his first in the major leagues after starring in his native Japan, making his $155 million contract almost a bargain, in baseball economics.

His 12-4 record with a 2.51 ERA in 18 starts made him a Cy Young Award contender. Some giddy folks thought he could be MVP of the entire American League.

No more.

Tanaka partially tore ligaments in his right pitching elbow and is out indefinitely. To me, it sounds like good ol’ American-style Tommy John surgery is in the offing. Maybe not. Maybe he’ll heal with rest.

Indeed, there’s nothing special about Tommy John surgery anymore, with seemingly every pitcher from high school to the Hall of Fame getting the repair job at some point. But there is something special about Tanaka’s response to his injury and uncertain rehab.

He apologized to fans.

Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t recall an elite athlete ever apologizing to the paying public for injuring himself while performing his job at the highest level.

Usually, they say something like, Woe is me! and weep into their sleeves. Then they promise, through tears, to be back. Then they’re escorted offstage by their handlers.

Tanaka, who doesn’t speak the greatest English, said in a letter to all, ‘‘I want to apologize to the Yankees organization, my teammates and our fans for not being able to help during this time.’’

Yes, he’s rich, and, yes, he may have had the letter doctored-up by his translator or random PR yaks. But the idea of apology is there.

Maybe it’s just Eastern diplomacy disguised as humility and embarrassment and modesty. I don’t care. And I don’t think it is. And I loved it.

THE BRAZIL WORLD CUPRUN-UP came with constant tales of impending mayhem and riots and violence and unfinished stadiums and bankruptcy and even — horrors — sun and rain and high humidity.

Though the bankruptcy part may well be on its way, and the heat, rain and jungle wetness have all occurred, Armageddon is nowhere to be seen.

As with so many of these grandiose, ultimately foolish, build-it-in-a-new-country-and-they-will-come global sporting events — think the Olympics, mainly — the protesters get tamped down by police, undermined by the giddy general public and drowned out by the happy sounds of the revelers, advertisers and deep-in TV networks.

That Brazil has poor people who get relocated and gain nothing from this glitzy indebtedness becomes irrelevant in the face of Germany vs. Argentina, Sunday, 2 p.m., Ch. 7 — don’t miss it!

The only thing Brazilians are truly upset about at this moment is their country’s stunning 7-1 annihilation at the hands of the German machine last Tuesday. The concern over what their motherland has wrought with the construction of giant stadiums and parking lots that may never be needed again — that will come later.

Back to the predictable pre-event cries that this city (country, province, territory, feudal state) never will be ready for the games, nothing is on time, all we have are holes in the ground — well, that’s the norm.

I remember being in Athens two days before the 2004 Summer Olympics, and workers were still putting in doors, laying asphalt and dropping in trees. And come the Opening Ceremony, everything was dandy.

Of course, Greece had hocked itself into financial ruin, but that would manifest itself later, with European Union bailout money and bond restructuring and pension death, etc., when we tourists were all gone.

So here’s the kind of early stuff from Brazil that almost makes one proud that the happy-times atmosphere hasn’t completely obscured the sewer gas. It seems the head of the Brazil World Cup hospitality provider, a British fellow named Raymond Whelan, is a suspect in an alleged ticket-scalping ring along with 11 other suspects.

Fun part? Whelan, as they say, has gone missing. That is, he disappeared and went on the lam Thursday shortly before police arrived to arrest him. According to news reports, he scurried out the back door of the Copacabana Hotel in the nick of time.

He already surrendered his passport during an earlier arrest, so God knows where he might be now. In the jungle with the Yanomami and their blow guns?

This isn’t some little nickel-and-dime, scalping-from-the-corner deal, either. Brazilian officials claim Whelan provided tickets to a network of criminals who netted almost $100 million in a reselling scheme.

Whelan’s company, Match Hospitality AG, is based in Zurich, Switzerland and is minority-owned by a company run by the nephew of FIFA president Sepp Blatter.

Don’t get started on that one.

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