Masahiro Tanaka: The Big If

Tanaka admitted, "It wasn't easy, but I thought I had to do it. I didn't have much gas left."

And Darvish tweeted after Game 7, "I bet major league scouts are worried."

But on the victory tour in the days and weeks after the game, Tanaka said he has fully recovered: "I am doing fine now, as you can see, so I've got no worries."

He accompanied the Eagles to the Asia Series in Taiwan to thank the Taiwanese for their help in the earthquake recovery, but he did not pitch.

Since then, Tanaka has been necessarily cagey about his plans, finally saying earlier this week that he wants to move to MLB in 2014. Wherever he pitches, those plans include another title. After the Nov. 24 parade, he said, "I didn't expect that a parade would be that much fun. Hopefully, I will be able to have another one during the rest of my life in baseball."

Where the rest of that life plays out is still a matter of conjecture. Just over a week ago, Eagles president Yozo Tachibana expressed his disappointment over the new posting system in an impromptu news conference in the lobby of the Dolphin Hotel at baseball's winter meetings in Walt Disney World, and owner Hiroshi Mikitani is said to be furious with the other 11 Japanese team owners for agreeing to the new system. There is even a rumor that the other clubs will sweeten the posting deal to: (1) appease Mikitani and (2) get Tanaka out of NPB.

But Rakuten is an e-commerce company similar to Amazon, so Mikitani, a Harvard MBA, is not hurting for money. And even if he holds on to Tanaka, the Eagles could lose him to international free agency after the 2015 season.

In the end, Mikitani may accede to the wishes of both Tanaka, who can't really top what he's done in Japan, and the Japanese public. As beloved as Ma-Kun is in Japan, many of his fans there would welcome the chance to see how he does in America. One male fan from Sendai put it this way: "If he goes now, he can play over there at his peak. So it is what it is, and we wish him well."

And a woman from Morioka said, "I can understand that he wants to go over there and be successful. We'd definitely miss him, but I want to say, 'Good luck!'"

Good luck, too, to his suitors.

Do we hear $125 million?

Jason Coskrey is a sports writer for the Japan Times in Tokyo whose primary focus is Japanese baseball.

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