For $60 million in salary and a $51.7 million posting fee to his former Japanese team, Yu Darvish came to America last season.And now all of baseball knows what the Texas Rangers knew:He’s worth every yen.In the first outing of his second major league season, Darvish came within an out of adding a historic chapter Tuesday night. Twenty six Houston Astros came up and 26 were set down before Marwin Gonzalez grounded a sharp single through Darvish’s legs and into center field.With Darvish’s pitch count at 111 pitches, manager Ron Washington called on reliever Michael Kirkman to get the final out of a 7-0 Rangers victory.Nothing was lost in the translation on this night, however. The crowd at Minute Maid Park, which had been standing throughout the final inning, gave the Japanese star a standing ovation as he walked off the mound.Darvish had come one out shy of the franchise’s first no-hitter since Kenny Rogers’ perfect game on July 28, 1994.But in some ways, his performance was even more dominating than Rogers’. Darvish struck out 14. Rogers fanned eight in his gem.Disappointing? The groan from the 22,673 who were there in Houston seemed to say so.Yet, Darvish has been throwing strikes and overpowering hitters all spring. In four official spring training starts, he allowed only eight hits. And in his final tuneup last week, an exhibition against a Mexico City team, the right-hander threw 52 pitches, 42 for strikes, and allowed only one soft single in four innings.He is more than capable, in other words, of duplicating Tuesday’s performance — with an even happier ending.But that’s why general manager Jon Daniels and the Rangers’ front office were willing to let free agent lefty C.J. Wilson go elsewhere last season and, instead, use a princely ransom to sign Darvish.Wilson, now with the Angels, hasn’t let it go. On ESPN Radio last week, he said, “When you’re a free agent and the team that you’re with tells you that they don’t think you’re that good or whatever, it doesn’t give you any incentive to sign back.“They’ve played the whole wait-and-see card. It didn’t really work with [Josh] Hamilton, and it didn’t work with me, either.”Clearly, C.J. still doesn’t get it. Darvish was an upgrade, a potentially championship-deciding one, and the Rangers realized that.Best of all for the franchise, Darvish wanted to be here, just as shortstop Elvis Andrus assured about himself before Tuesday’s game.As the I’s get dotted and the T’s get crossed on his reported eight-year, $120 million contract extension, Andrus told reporters in Houston that he hopes to remain the Texas Rangers’ shortstop for a very long time. Maybe his entire big league career.“That’d be awesome,” Andrus said, phrasing it in very Elvis-like fashion.Say what? He didn’t hear about the palace revolt? The franchise’s impending implosion? The promised fan revolt when CEO/legend Nolan Ryan leaves?Guess not. At Rangers Inc., the business of baseball goes on — looking to the future, spending money wisely, doing what the new owners promised they’d do on the night they left bankruptcy court.A franchise committed to winning championships has to decide who meets that standard, and at what price. Who gets signed and who gets left behind.In Darvish’s case, the money clearly seems worth it.He has already earned the respect of his teammates for his work ethic and humble style. In characteristic modest fashion, Darvish managed to smile at his misfortune after Gonzalez’s ninth-inning single.He’ll get another chance. You can bet your yen on it.
Gil LeBreton, 817-390-7697 Twitter: @gilebreton