Crossing the Queensboro Bridge: On the Idea of Masahiro Tanaka

“Anything can happen now that we’ve slid over this bridge,” I thought; “anything at all…”
Even Gatsby could happen, without any particular wonder.”

Here we see narrator Nick Carraway and title character Jay Gatsby crossing the Queensboro Bridge into Manhattan. In the pages prior, Gatsby “cleared up” some misconceptions and rumors about himself and Nick comes away with an idea of Gatsby. The idea, not the man, is the possibility Nick speaks of.

Now that we’ve crossed the bridge of his acquisition, it’s clear that anything is possible when it comes to Masahiro Tanaka.

The idea of Tanaka is invariably familiar to us as Yankee fans. He is the big-ticket “free agent” that has been long coveted by the Bronx faithful. Like countless others before him, we’ve wanted him. Badly. For the last year, his name had hung over the baseball season, spoken in a “low, thrilling voice” that had us counting down the days until he was posted and had us axiously passing time, waiting for hi to sign. In that time, the idea of Tanaka went from want to need. Of course, this isn’t unique to Tanaka. Both Brian McCann and Jacoby Ellsbury–and even Kelly Johnson–were needed to fill certain holes. Like the post-2008 Hot Stove season, circumstances conspired for the Yankees to get what they wanted and what they needed. And of all the wants and needs, Tanaka stands as the biggest question. The idea of Tanaka is the biggest one…the boldest one…the most shapeless one…the one with the most promise for success and failure.

And until he pitches in real games for the Yankees, Tanaka remains an idea. He can be anything we want him to be. We can contour him into an expectation, a predicted and even practiced reality that can’t be proven wrong until after the fact. He can be the mold-breaking, transcendent, all-powerful ace. He can be the next great bust from Japan. Either one of these results could occur “without any particular wonder.”

In this metaphor, Masahiro Tanaka is not the man Jay Gatsby, but the idea thereof. We are the partygoers who assign various characteristics and histories to Gatsby. We can speculate; we can gossip; we can predict; we can accept his “hospitality” when he dominates on the mound. But in a way, we are also Gatsby, grabbing for the green light that will almost undoubtedly fall short of our wild expectations through no fault of its own. We must let go of our idea of Masahiro Tanaka and accept the pitcher; we must accept that our count of enchanted objects has decreased by one.

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