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07/28/2011

A total bummer - former Rangers closer found dead

IrabuspLR This is a sad story - former Yankees pitcher and briefly Rangers' closer Hideki Irabu has been found dead at his home in California. Suicide is suspected.

Irabu is known more for his career with the Yankees than his brief turn with the Rangers in 2002.

Irabu signed with the Rangers when then GM John Hart signed everybody with a checkered past he could find. This was the group that included John Rocker, Carl Everett, Ruben Rivera, Juan Gonzalez, etc. To have some fun, click this to see that team and find some names you haven't seen in a while. This was the team that had Travis Hafner, but let's not talk about about.

For a brief period with the team that season, Irabu was actually a pretty good closer. After a while his poor conditioning caught up with him, and he couldn't handle the load. He was 3-8 with a 5.74 ERA and 16 saves with the Rangers that season.

I covered Irabu that season and what I recall was that this guy kept to himself, and the interpreter assigned to him. And that apparently, according to his teammates, he had some serious bad gas.

I interviewed Irabu that season with his interpreter in the clubhouse in Cleveland. He spoke strictly in Japanese, and he mumbled quite a bit. I was so sure the interpreter was not giving me the straight answers that I took the recording to a Japanese professor at TCU. She said he used a lot of slang, but that the interpreter had pretty much said what Irabu said. He was just, boring.

His transition the MLB was never easy, and his rocky time with the Yankees, and some of the infamous words George Steinbrenner made about him, are what he's remembered for throughout MLB. But he did win a pair of rings with the Yankees, and he never had a losing record in his three seasons with NYY.

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