Derek Jeter was the story last night and justifiably so. Dude is a living Yankee legend and he went out in storybook fashion. But it's highly likely that last night was also the final game in a Yankee uniform for Hiroki Kuroda and that needs to be acknowledged. I already got Axisa'd on this post yesterday, but I made a point to remember to write something on Kuroda this week and I'm sticking to that.
Hirok had his best start of the season and one of the best starts of his Yankee career last night. It was a fitting way to go out for the man who, factoring in health, performance, consistency, and the fact that he was the only starter to pitch the full season, was the sneaky best starting pitcher on the staff this year. Just like he was the sneaky best pitcher last year when CC was battling health and regression and Nova was riding his roller coaster of ups and downs. Just like he was one of the sneaky best pitchers in the AL in 2012 when CC was still at his peak.
Kuroda's 3-year Yankee tenure has been an exercise in frightening consistency and under-appreciated greatness. 32+ starts every year, roughly 200-220 IP every year, mid-3s ERA every year, sub-6% BB rate every year, 3.5+ fWAR every year. He has 38 wins in the last 3 years and if he'd have gotten a little more run support he would probably be closer to 45. As the performance of his surrounding cast has been all over the place and the faces around him change year-to-year, week-to-week, and sometimes game-to-game, Kuroda has been the constant. He takes the ball every 5 days and he goes out and bare minimum gives his team a chance to win almost every time. Many more times than not, he gives his team a great chance to win.
Hirok has strongly hinted that this season was going to be his last as a Yankee. He still wants to go back and pitch in Japan before officially retiring, and with age 40 coming up on him in February, it would seem like this is the perfect time to go and do that while he is still pitching incredibly well. If he has any interest at all in returning, the Yankees should be all over him like they were with Andy Pettitte the last few years of his career. Make him a QA, negotiate another 1-year raise, and bring him back because he's been the only thing the Yankees have been able to count on in their rotation for the last 3 years.
He's never going to get his plaque in Monument Park and there won't be a Hiroki Kuroda Day ever. His time in pinstripes has been overshadowed by the ends of much longer, greater Yankee careers, but if it is over it deserves recognition and appreciation for how great it was. Hiroki Kuroda fit the traditional Yankee mold perfectly and should be welcomed back with open arms, as an active or former player, for the rest of his life like the many other short-term pitching studs who came before him.