Cubs Fire Fukudome’s Translator After Discovering He Doesn’t Speak Japanese
November 5, 2008
(Chicago, IL) – On Monday, the Chicago Cubs announced that they had fired outfielder Kosuke Fukudome‘s Japanese translator. Ryuji Araki had served as Fukudome’s translator throughout the 2008 Cubs season, and during Fukudome’s transition into the United States before the season began.
But late in the season, rifts began to emerge between Araki, Fukudome, and Cubs’ managment. The differences centered on philosophical problems, complex cultural issues, and the fact that Araki can’t speak Japanese worth shit.
Though the Cubs understood Araki to be from Japan when they hired him, it was later revealed that he had spent the better part of his formative years in Hoboken, New Jersey, and was born in Mexico City, Mexico. The Cubs say they discovered this fact in mid-July, but allowed Araki to continue on as Fukudome’s translator.
“At the time, we didn’t like that we felt like we were misled, but at the same time, he was really, really cheap,” Cubs general manager Jim Hendry explained. “Plus, whenever I tried to talk to him, he spit out all this crazy gibberish. I just assumed he was speaking Japanese.”
The Cubs remained unaware of the unilingual nature of Araki’s communication abilities until this past weekend when some team members, including Fukudome, went out for a casual sushi dinner.
“It was just kind of weird,” Cubs second baseman Mark DeRosa said. “He kept looking up and down the menu, and asking us what things were. He couldn’t translate spicy tuna roll. I mean, we all got a little suspicious.”
After further probing by the team, Araki confessed that his Japanese skills left a good deal to be desired. So how did he make it through the entire year as Fukudome’s translator?
“Well, I mean, the thing is, when Kosuke complained, he complained in Japanese,” Hendry said. “I just smiled and nodded. I had no idea he was telling me that his translator didn’t speak Japanese, and had been stealing his underwear.”
The team’s investigation also revealed that what little of Japanese Araki did know, he put to use regularly. He often translated questions from teammates as “what do you think of my balls,” and “you honor me with aroma.”
But perhaps the worst indiscretion came in early June, when manager Lou Piniella was instructing Fukudome on improving his approach in the batter’s box. Piniella asked Fukudome to “stay on those outside pitches, and don’t fall away,” which Araki translated as “fall away from those outside pitches, stop hitting well, failure is success.” Fukudome barely managed to hit .200 from that point on.