The improbable comeback to end all improbable comebacks took a step forward Monday when Hideki Irabu signed a contract with the Long Beach Armada of the independent Golden Baseball League. The press release from the Armada calls him the greatest power pitcher in Japanese professional history, and takes special care to note the two World Series rings he won as a member of the Yankees.
Irabu was indeed a member of the Yankees in both 1998 and 1999, but you'll be forgiven if you don't remember his contributions to that epic run. Irabu pitched in one game of the 1999 American League Championship Series, relieving Roger Clemens after the Rocket got thrashed in his postseason return to Fenway Park.
rabu gave up seven earned runs in that contest, and that kind of putrid performance is much more recognizable to American fans than the power pitcher who dominated in Japan and landed a $12 million-plus contract from the Yankees in 1997.
Irabu's comeback is mostly good for a chuckle, but a brief look around the majors shows that he may get a look if he shows anything of merit with the Armada. The Mets just called up 40-year old Ken Takahashi, a 14-year veteran of the Hiroshima Carp but a major league rookie, and injuries and tragedy have so decimated the Angels that going nowhere retreads like Shane Loux and Matt Palmer have already started games for them.
In short, you can never know when a team is going to need to break glass because of emergencies in the starting rotation. That's good news for another member of the Armada staff. Jose Lima joins Irabu in a 1-2 punch that would have been unimpressive a decade ago. Irabu and Lima and pray for any other pitcher in the universe.