10-year, 28 billion yen contract… Munetaka Murakami “celebrates reaching the big time” on the night of the “celebration party”.
The Tokyo Yakult Swallows' greatest hitter of all time, who is on the verge of breaking the record for most home runs and winning the Triple Crown, is sure to be a major league prospect.
On the night he hit his 50th home run, tying Hideki Matsui (48) for the most in the history of the game, Yakult Swallows’ main gun Munetaka Murakami, 22, was in Minami-Aoyama, Minato-ku, Tokyo.
Murakami got out of his Mercedes Benz and entered a commercial building with a bar, dressed in shorts and an oversized T-shirt. It was around 2:00 a.m. when Murakami next appeared, probably celebrating his big breakthrough. He left the restaurant with three men who had probably joined him in the bar. He did not appear to be particularly drunk, and after parting with his friends, he got into his car again with firm steps.
Murakami’s rapid progress continued: as of September 14, he had hit 55 home runs. His .337 batting average and 132 runs batted in are both tops in the league, and his unprecedented record of breaking the record for most home runs and winning the triple crown is finally becoming a reality.
The MLB scout in charge of the Far East revealed that Murakami’s historic success has attracted the keen attention of the Major Leagues, where Murakami himself has never hidden his admiration for the sport.
The scout in charge of MLB’s Far East division revealed, “I have been watching Murakami since 1919, the year after he turned pro, and I have a very high opinion of him. Not only is his technique good, but his adaptability is excellent. His ability to deal with the inside pitch, which was a weak point when he first joined the team, has been refined, and his defensive ability has improved dramatically. Many Japanese fielders, such as Yoshitomo Tsutsugo (30) and Seiya Suzuki (28), have failed to make an impact because they were confused by the different environment, and in the Majors, adaptability is very important. I have high expectations for Murakami in this regard as well.
The two players are very much in tune with each other, but it is not possible for them to make a major move this offseason. The MLB labor-management agreement mandates that players under the age of 25 start out on minor league contracts and that the transfer fee be limited. Because of this restriction, Murakami will not be able to challenge for a major league contract until 2013 at the earliest. Even so, Murakami’s reputation in the local market has skyrocketed in anticipation of the competition in the next three years. Ryoichi Fukushima, a Major League Baseball critic, explains.
Ryoichi Fukushima, a Major League Baseball pundit, commented, “If Murakami challenges for a major league contract, a battle is inevitable. The price of Murakami is $90 million for five years, which Ichiro signed in 2007, and $52 million for four years, which Hideki Matsui signed in 2005. The contract is sure to be a huge one, far exceeding Ichiro’s 5-year, $90 million contract in 2007 and Hideki Matsui’s 4-year, $52 million contract in 2005. Murakami is still young, and considering that a super long-term contract is possible, he will probably get at least a 10-year contract worth $200 million. If Murakami continues his superhuman performance for the next three years, the amount could go up to $300 million over 10 years, which is one of the highest in the majors.
On August 2, Alex Sunderland, a Pacific Rim pro scout for the Yankees, and Manny Noto, a scout for Japan for the Mariners, visited Jingu Stadium. According to Fukushima, scouts are already engaged in an information war behind the scenes.
Fukushima said, “My opinion is based on the current team situation, but there is a possibility that the Yankees, who want a left-handed cannonballer, will try to acquire him. This summer, they tried and failed to acquire Juan Soto (23, currently with the Padres), who is in the same age group as Soto. Another possibility is the Blue Jays, who are also looking for a hard left-handed hitter. With such a hot commodity, any team would try to acquire him if they had the chance.
The countdown has begun for the signing of a $200 million contract, a deal that will go down in Japanese baseball history.
From the September 30 and October 7, 2022 issues of FRIDAY
PHOTO： Ichiro Takatsuka Afro