Major League Baseball is by far the best league in the world, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t other solid leagues out there. Perhaps the one most MLB fans are aware of is the Nippon Professional Baseball League, or what we might call the Japan Major League.
The rules of other leagues around the world a bit different when it comes to building rosters. For instance, in Japan each team is allowed to sign as many foreign players as it likes, but they are only allowed four on the active 25-man roster with a maximum of three pitchers or position players.
So let’s take a look at some of those foreign players playing in leagues around the world.
First, we start with a journeyman outfielder who, after a solid year with the Chicago Cubs in 2006, was out of the big leagues just a few short years later, Matt Murton.
Matt Murton was a first round draft pick (32nd) by the Boston Red Sox in 2003. After a few good years in the Red Sox system, he was apart of a blockbuster trade that sent Nomar Garciaparra to the Chicago Cubs.
It was there in Chicago that Murton got most of his playing time and where he succeeded most at the big league level. In 2006, Murton was the starting left fielder for the Cubs. He played 144 games posting a line of .297/.365/.444 with 13 home runs. However, in 2007 the Cubs acquired both Alfonso Soriano and Cliff Floyd, leading to reduced playing time for Murton. In fact his at-bats were reduced almost in half though he still proved to be a nice addition to the club.
After being traded a few times the next two seasons (once to Colorado and once to Oakland), Murton made the move to Asia to play for the Hanshin Tigers, and he started off with a bang.
The 2010 season marked the first for Murton in Japan and it would be record setting. Murton would play in all 144 games for the Tigers, hit 17 home runs, and bat .349. But the biggest thing that happened was breaking Ichiro Suzuki‘s single season record for hits with 214. Ichiro set the record in 1994 with 210 hits.
Murton made a huge splash right away with the Tigers helping them to a second place finish in 2010, and he has been there ever since.
Murton has found a home and a solid career in Japan, and at age 31, he is still putting up good numbers. He had a bit of a down year in 2012, but has started off red hot this season.
Matt Murton NPB Stats:
Check out a video of Matt Murton facing Yu Darvish in Japan. You gotta love those socks!
We will continue to bring you a weekly look at former MLB players who are now excelling overseas in other professional leagues.