The Yankees have a long and storied history of signing players to contracts that don't work out. This comes with the distinction of (once upon a time) being the most aggressive and wealthy of all MLB franchises. A side effect of that history of failures is that any time the Yankees sign/might sign a player, comparisons will be made between that player and one of those "failed signings". For example, when word of just how many years Robinson Cano was seeking began to leak out, some pointed to Alex Rodriguez's huge 10-year contract as evidence as to why approaching the length of that deal would be folly. Now, I'm not trying to stump for the concept of giving 31-year olds 10-year deals, it's just I don't see the usefulness in comparing two completely dissimilar players that way. Apples to moon rocks, says I.
That's where Hideki Irabu, Kei Igawa and Masahiro Tanaka come in. The first are two highly publicized, failed Yankees signings. Both pitchers happen to be from Japan. And those facts, in my opinion, have zero relevance when it comes to the discussion of signing Masahiro Tanaka. Irabu and Igawa were different pitchers with different personalities and different pitching attributes. In fact, Igawa's projections as a starter were so inferior to those of Tanaka that his even being brought up at all is absurd. At least Irabu had something of a pedigree. All of those distinctions are more than enough to render any similarities that the two share with Tanaka completely superfluous. Just being Japanese imports should be no more a factor in acquiring a player than if they were born in the same state as famed draft pick flameout Brien Taylor. Judge the player on their own merits.
Let it be said that I'm not arguing Tanaka's being an import or pitching only in the NPB are to be ignored. His career statistics, usage and quality of opponent during his time there should all be considered. But even then, his resume is so different from Irabu's and Igawa's that they are to be totally removed from the discussion. Even comparing him to a more recent contemporary, Yu Darvish, is of questionable usefulness considering the types of pitchers they are. It will be mostly up to the scouts to attempt to try to predict how well Tanaka should translate as a MLB starter.
We can only hope that the Yankees are over whatever possible anxiety disorders the failed acquisitions of Irabu and Igawa have caused. Any sort of misgivings they have because of those players from times past can only serve to cloud their judgment in coming to a decision regarding Tanaka. And these sorts of vital, franchise-altering decisions are complicated enough as is without letting mistakes of years gone by impair your judgment.