Originally posted on Fox Sports Southwest  |  Last updated 4/10/12
The most memorable scene of "Lost in the Translation," even more so than the whisper at the end, at least to me, was the Suntory whisky commercial shoot. The director talks at length, in Japanese, of how he wants Bill Murray's character to lovingly turn to the whisky bottle and look at it like an old friend. And the interpreter needs to convey this. Translation is important, the director says. Interpreter: He wants you to turn, look in camera. OK? "Is that all he said?" Murray's character asks. I understood this helpless dissonance better after Monday, as I listened to Rangers pitcher Yu Darvish answer questions after his much-anticipated Major League Baseball debut. Amid what was a din of clicking cameras from a packed and multicultural assembly of media, questions flew at him in English requiring Japanese translations, or in Japanese requiring an English translation. On and on it went, a repeating of words and phrases about his win, his nerves, his performance and every intricacy of what went down as an 11-5 Rangers victory against Seattle on the power of Texas bats. Translated speech is a funny thing, the uncertainty of what may be lost in translation and certainty of subtle things that surely are. It came Monday when a reporter asked why Darvish did not tip his cap when he exited after 5-23 innings to a standing ovation from Rangers fans at The Ballpark in Arlington. "I didn't know that thing" or so Darvish's response roughly translated. Talking later with Darvish's translator, he explained what went unsaid, how silly the question seemed to them. Why would Darvish tip his cap? To them tipping the cap signaled that Darvish felt he had pitched well, which he did not by his standards. Yes, he battled his butt off, an impressive feat certainly especially considering his ugly first inning. Yet Darvish expects better from himself. He did not want Rangers fans to think he was satisfied, to think this was what goes for a good performance in his mind. So began a debate of how to translate touching the brim of the cap. Does it mean a player believes he did well? Or does it simply mean he recognized and appreciated the ovation? Rangers general manager Jon Daniels settled this debate later in the clubhouse by saying a quick touch was probably appropriate, a way of acknowledging the fans who had been with him all game with chants of "Yu" and wanted to let him know they appreciated his fight. Darvish will learn what touching a brim means, just as Rangers will learn what a lack of doing so reflects. Because what Darvish said in that moment was: This is what I can do when I am not at my best. I can battle. When my off-speed stuff is working and my body is calm, though, watch out. I will really give y'all a reason to stand and cheer. This is only my rough translation, of course. And I speak only English, un peu Francais and Texan which came in handy when talking to Rangers president and resident pitching legend Nolan Ryan later about Darvish. His praise seemed understated, talk of how Darvish battled despite not having his best stuff, which roughly translated into "I liked this kid's lower guts. " "Cratered," Ryan said, finishing my sentence about how Darvish could have reacted to his first inning of his first start. "But he didn't." And then after a pause, Ryan added in his Texas drawl: "It says a lot about him." Here is the thing. Darvish was making his MLB debut against a Seattle team that features Ichiro Suzuki, the greatest Japanese baseball import ever, and there was all of this hype of Darvish eventually taking that title to go with what has to be half of Japan's media in attendance to chronicle how he fared at this. And the first inning was a flaming disaster. It began with five consecutive balls and ended with 42 pitches and four runs. And it could have been uglier much, much uglier. He struggled again in the second inning, giving up a screaming double to Ichiro and yet another to drive him in, and thus began Yumaggedon. Twitter was all atwitter with premature dejeculation about exactly what a bomb Darvish was. He had to know this would be the reaction. And this was right about when Darvish showed a little of what he'll need to survive his hype. It was not simply that he settled down (he did), but rather how easily he settled into being him. By the fourth inning, Darvish was flashing that explosive, fluid delivery that had turned him into such a coveted commodity this offseason. "It's hard to compare," Ryan said, "because of all of the other things that are involved here. The change in baseball, in league, hitters, culture. And so it is hard to make a comparison. It is (uncharted territory) mainly with somebody who comes over with so many expectations." Those expectations were with him on the mound in the sixth. He began the inning having thrown 98 pitches, breezed to a pair of quick outs and then a walk that left him facing Ichiro yet again. Darvish gave up the single. And this is what was on his mind as he walked off to an ovation. Rangers fans were trying to tell him they appreciated his fight. He was trying to tell them he expects more from himself and so should they. Is that all he said? Probably not, but the rest is lost in the translation for now.
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