Darth Vader came down from Planet Vulcan and told me that Takashi Saito is awesome

Friends, let’s step back in time for a moment. Back to the distant past of.. February 2006. So let’s hop into the DeLorean with a creepy older scientist, pump up the Huey Lewis, and hit 88 mph as we make our first foray into the Mike Scioscia’s tragic illness time machine.
Way back in that long-gone offseason, the Dodgers were in a state of complete upheaval. Coming off a 91-loss debacle, Jim Tracy and Paul DePodesta had both been shown the door, while Grady Little and Ned Colletti were just arriving. By February, Colletti had already made huge changes to the roster. Amongst his major free agent signings were Rafael Furcal, Nomar Garciaparria, Brett Tomko and his wife, Kenny Lofton, and Bill Mueller. Coming via trade were Jae Seo, Andre Ethier, and Danys Baez. In the midst of all those big names, there was the usual flurry of has-beens and never-was’s. The Kurt Ainsworths, the wrong Ramon Martinez’, and the like.
Buried amongst them was this otherwise unremarkable line in the transaction log:


2/7/06: Signed Japanese RHP Takashi Saito to a Minor League contract with an invitation to spring training. Signed RHP Brian Meadows to a Minor League contract.
And there you have the first and only mention of the illustrious Brian Meadows on this blog. Oh wait – who the hell was that other guy? If anyone even noticed – I sure didn’t – then they saw an old mediocre import, just another past-his-prime athlete trying to cash in with his twilight years in America. Norihiro Nakamura, I’m looking squarely in your direction.

Saito, originally from Miyagi, Japan (must.. resist.. obvious.. joke.. waxonwaxoff! Damn it!) wasn’t exactly on the Ichiro/Dice-K level of young, successful ballplayer coming to take America by storm. After all, over 12 seasons in Japan he was only one game over .500. In two of his previous 5 seasons he had ERA’s north of 5.50. Worse, he seemed to be injury prone, having only pitched in 93 games since 2001. And now, 9 days from his 36th birthday, he was going to try to come to the bigs?
Beyond that, the Dodgers were pretty set in the pen, or so it seemed. The pen the Blue opened 2006 with featured four guys with closing experience – Baez, Yhency Brazoban, Lance Carter, and the rehabbing Eric Gagne. At this point, it was hard to tell which was more unlikely – that Saito was good enough to have an impact on the Dodgers; or that the Dodgers would even need him.