Mini Essay: Celebrating Munenori Kawasaki

When Lawrie met Kawasaki.

During the offseason, the Blue Jays acquired Jose Reyes, a four-time all-star with a batting title on his résumé; Mark Buehrle, who’s thrown a no-hitter and a perfect game, and 12 consecutive 200-innings seasons; Josh Johnson, a two-time all-star who’s struck out over 20 percent of the batters he’s ever faced; Melky Cabrera, an all-star game MVP with a, uh, checkered past; and R.A. Dickey, arguably the greatest human being alive, who with his magical knuckleball struck out 230 batters last year, and won the Cy Young.

Yet on Monday and Tuesday nights at the Dome, it was Munenori Kawasaki – signed to a minor-league contract in early March, and called up from Triple-A Buffalo to replace the injured Reyes – who was being feted by the crowd, with chants of “KA-WA-SA-KI! – Clap, Clap, ClapClapClap!

Of all the guys who’ve recently become Blue Jays, of all the guys who were going to be singled out by the home-town crowd on the second homestand of the year … it was Munenori Kawasaki. He caught the attention of the faithful. And in only four games. Hell, Monday night, when the chants began, was Kawasaki’s home debut.

I don’t know if it’s a Toronto thing. It might be. It probably is. We love the Munenori Kawasakis of the world. (Just ask the Blue Jays supporter in your life about John McDonald, known up here, thanks to Drunk Jays Fans, as “The Prime Minister of Defence.”) And we love them unconditionally. The guys who play with passion, who run out ground balls, who flash “Lo Viste” signs, and who, in the case of Kawasaki, in keeping with Japanese tradition, bow to Maicer Izturis after Izturis hits a home run. The guys who, if we’re being honest, aren’t all that good; who, for the most part, can’t hit.

Maybe it’s the fact these guys aren’t good enough to play every day. Maybe we relate to that. Maybe it’s the losing. They loved Kawasaki in Seattle, too. Maybe this is what years of losing does to a town. And, well, maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe all the bloody losing hasn’t been in vain. Maybe it’s important to appreciate the Kawasakis of the world, just as much, or more, than the Reyeses and the Johnsons and the Bautistas and the Dickeys.

I was there on Monday night. I was chanting “KA-WA-SA-KI!” It doesn’t take much. Not in Toronto.

Welcome to our fine city, Munenori. I don’t know how long you’ll be staying — you weren’t supposed to be here in the first place — but it’s a pleasure to have you.

Image credit: My man James, who’s at every home game in Toronto, and who takes some great photos. Check out his Flickr page.

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Navin Vaswani is a replacement-level writer. Follow him on Twitter.

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I’ve also spent more time than most people would deem acceptable trying to chew over the Kawasaki mystery, and I think it’s best described with the following fraction: Personality divided by Talent. Charismatic all-stars are only entertaining when they perform at a high level; A charismatic everyman is entertaining whenever they are present. Even though a replacement level player is still incredibly talented, it appears that they’re playing ‘harder’ to keep their role because there’s no room for comfort / a lackadaisical attitude that superfluous talent can sometime make up for.

Is Kawasaki more valueable than Mike McCoy? Debatable. Is Kawasaki more charismatic than Mike McCoy? Undeniable.

Pep talks in Japanese and dancing and bows and laughs all share one very characteristic: Fun. We (Jays fans) are in the early stages of dealing with the Reyes injury and a slow start. A nice fun distraction that won’t ever really let us down because our expectations aren’t high to begin with is much needed.

Kawasaki Everything.