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Kevin Mech is Going Japanese?

Sorry for the headline. Passing up cheesy pop songs in bigger typeface is almost as hard as walking by a 50-count, gold box of Godiva that just says "free" on top. It doesn't come up very often, so when it does, you probably want to go for it.

That being said, this story could have had another cheesy head, focusing on, well, the size of Mench's head. After a relatively dismal 2007 -- he hit only .243 with a .357 OBP -- Mench's one true claim to fame is his size 8 hat size (the Rangers once made him a Shrek helmet, which MLB wouldn't let him wear), which is the only thing that ESPN anchor Scott Van Pelt ever mentions whenever Mench shows up in a highlight (you know the one: Look at the size of that man's heeed!).

Still, despite a down year at the plate, Mench was able to find a deep-pocketed suitor in a down economy who's willing to pay him $2 million for a one-year contract. Of course, like most good things, there's a catch: That team is the Hanshin Tigers, who play across the Pacific Ocean in Japan.

Patrick Newman over at NPB Tracker broke the signing in English from a translated report from the Japanese newswire Sanspo Sports. The former Blue Jay and Ranger will replace another American import, former Twin Lew Ford, who never flashed the power Hanshin was expecting in the five slot of the Tigers' lineup.

It's a good deal for Mench -- and probably for Hanshin, as well (as Newman notes, the strong yen amidst American recession makes the deal even more affordable in the Japanese league than it looks) -- so long as Mench can adapt and survive in Japan.

Hanshin plays in Koshien, in Hyogo Prefecture, and they're sometimes colloquially referred to as the Japanese Red Sox, both because of their history (they're one of the country's oldest teams) and because they play in Japan's oldest, most historic stadium (Hanshin Koshien Stadium), which has hosted 1930s MLB barnstormers -- Babe Ruth was in that travelling party -- and the annual Koshien Japanese high school baseball championships. You may remember that being the origin of much of Daisuke Matsuzaka's mystique, with the ace throwing a 250-pitch, 17-inning win against one of the Japanese high school powerhouses (PL Gakuen). Of course, that 250-pitch start followed a 148-pitch complete game shutout and preceded a save in his Yokohama team's semifinal. Matsuzaka then pitched in a no-hitter in the Koshien final, and the rest is history.

All of this background is just to say that, while Mench may not adapt overnight, he's going to a place with a slightly more American feel for baseball than some of the more far-flung Japanese outposts. He may not be managed by Bobby Valentine, but he has two American teammates (pitchers Scott Atchison and Ryan Vogelson) and an Aussie (pitcher Jeff Williams). And hey, he might even have Ford around, if the Tigers don't offload him on someone else. Mench will have folks to talk to.

Oh, and while the deal isn't final, Mench is already being listed on the team's Wikipedia page (as well as Mench's personal page).

By Cameron Smith  |  December 1, 2008; 7:22 PM ET
Categories:  Blue Jays , Brewers , Rangers  
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Let me tell you - from personal experience - that having a size 8 head stinks. I can rarely walk into a baseball cap store or the team store at the stadium and buy a cap. Fitted caps, size 8, are few and far between. The "one size fits all" hats are a stinkin' lie. The flex-fit batting practice caps do fit, if you can possibly find one that is L/XL. I feel for Mench . . . but he has the benefit of having a guy in the clubhouse whose job it is to make sure there's a hat to fit his head. Me? I have to wait forever until my size in the Nats BP cap gets off the back-ordered list . . .

Posted by: chrisduckworth | December 1, 2008 8:55 PM | Report abuse

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