M’s C Johjima opts out of deal, will return to Japan
Seattle general manager Jack Zduriencik said Monday the decision came somewhat unexpectedly over the weekend, and that it was solely Johjima’s. Zduriencik said the
Johjima’s contract gave him the right to end it by Nov. 15 for the purpose of finishing his career in Japan. He gave up salaries of $7.7 million next year and $8.1 million in 2011.
“After lots of very deep thought and deliberation, I have decided to return home to resume my career in Japan,” Johjima said in a statement. “I have had a wonderful experience competing at the major league level. The last four years have been extraordinary, with great teammates and great coaches. I will always be indebted to the
“This was a very difficult decision, both professionally and personally. I feel now is the time to go home, while I still can perform at a very high level.”
“It does leave a void,” Zduriencik said, adding his offseason priorities have now changed to address the catching situation. “My understanding was for him to be part of his organization for the next couple years. He made a personal decision to return and play close to home.
“Joh’ made the decision which a lot of players do who have 14 years in as a professional. Sometimes guys choose the opportunity to play close to home. … We have to respect and honor that,” said Zduriencik, who before this season replaced Bill Bavasi – the man who originally signed Johjima in Seattle.
Seattle, run by titular franchise chief and Japanese billionaire Hiroshi Yamauchi, had re-signed the 33-year-old Johjima in April 2008 to a $24 million, three-year extension covering 2009-11.
Veteran starters complained about how Johjima handled games. And when Johjima wasn’t injured this year, the
Johjima hit .268 in his four seasons with Seattle, with 48 homers and 198 RBIs in 462 games. He holds the
Johjima slumped to .227 as part of Seattle’s 101-loss collapse in 2008. He hit just .247 in 71 games this year.
He signed with Seattle for $16.5 million and three years in 2005 after playing 11 seasons with Fukuoka of Japan’s Pacific League and winning seven consecutive Gold Gloves for defense there. He had almost no grasp of the English language upon his arrival, and he and the team went to great lengths to bridge the communication gap. Even before he signed with Seattle, he had a live-in English teacher at his home in Sasebo, Japan’s southwestern-most island.
Many major league teams have gotten used to communicating with Japanese players in their clubhouses. But none of Johjima’s predecessors – including perennial
When asked to assess how the first Japanese catcher handled English-language pitchers during his milestone tenure in Seattle, Zduriencik said: “You know, pitchers have responsibilities and catchers have responsibilities, too. His dynamic with the pitching staff was fine.”
This is the second time in five years a Japanese-born player has left the