Back on December 12th I was told the moon was going to be the biggest in years but when I went to take a walk with my wife tonight I could have sworn this moon was the biggest I'd ever seen. I'd just finished reading Eric's take on Sammy leaving us for Boston and it left me feeling wistful about losing one of my favorite players.
So with a full moon bathing my back yard in the glory of it's moonlight it was a good time to bask in the good times that Takashi Saito gave me over the last three years. His smile was like the moon I was looking at tonight, large and infectious, if Sammy was smiling good things had happened. In reflection it was hard to belive that the diminutive Saito would give us anything to remember him for, however by the time he said good bye this week he had touched all Dodger fans with his smile and skill.
Back in February of 2006, noted Dodger author Jon Weisman had this to say about Sammy Saito
Takashi Saito, P: This year's Norihiro Nakamura, pitching side. A 36-year-old (on Valentine's Day) pitcher with a 3.82 ERA in Japan last season doesn't excite.
I wasn't blogging back then but I would have agreed with the above sentiment. Even for a mere 500,000 I felt it was wasted money and his spring training did nothing to absolve those doubts. As 2006 started he was an after thought but he got off to a great start and gave up one run in his first 12 appearances. With a .69 ERA going into his 13th game he had gotten the attention of Dodger fans. Then reality seemed to settle in as he got hammered in back to back games and his ERA swelled to 3.68. This surely was the real Saito and I did not expect him to last much longer.
From that point on May 6th, 2006, Takashi Saito put together some of the best relief pitching any Dodger team has ever seen, and he did it with a smile that won over all Dodger fans. When Eric Gagne went down it could have been a catastrophe but when smiling Sammy stepped into to fill the void the Dodgers didn't lose a thing.
It took a while for me to believe in Sammy, I even went into the 2007 season still a skeptic but quickly became his biggest fan when he proved his 2006 was not a fluke but the result of a solid fastball, killer slider, and incredible command.
I love players who love the game and are not afraid to show such love, and Sammy was one of those players. My best memory of Sammy occurred when he had failure, not success, as I was moved by how devastated he was by his failure. It was the infamous 4 + 1 game and Sammy felt he was the goat because he gave up 3 runs in the 9th. One of the greatest regular seasons game at Dodger Stadium would never have happened if he hadn't picked that inning to implode. In fact I left that game in the 9th because Sammy imploded and I felt like Sammy with with his head down in the dugout.
The Dodgers have made a baseball decision to let him go but you have to wonder if it was the right thing to do. Some will argue that this was simply a business decision and that due to his health we owed him nothing. They will say it matters not at all that he performed for 500,000 in 2006, 1 Million in 2007, and 2 Million in 2008 while giving the Dodgers millions more in performance and memories then he was paid.
They may be right but it does not feel right to me that the Boston Red Sox feel he is a good enough bet that they are willing to bet on him and we weren't. Currently the Red Sox are betting on two of our past heroes regaining past glory. One left here as a malcontent who evidently burned his bridges and that was that. The only memory I have of him is that loved his hair more then his team, and that when Depodesta needed him to come up big his nerve gave out. The other left here after giving us everything he had.
I know which one I'll be rooting for to make the Dodgers look foolish.