Kazuhiro Sasaki

Already the Japanese all-time saves leader, the 32-year-old Sasaki set a rookie record with 37 saves for the Mariners in 2000. After the season, he became the second Asian ever to win the Rookie of the Year Award (Hideo Nomo won in 1995) and the oldest man so honored since Sam Jethroe in 1950.

Sasaki, who had been wooed by a number of American clubs before the season, quickly wrested Seattle’s closers’ job from Jose Mesa in spring training and was Lou Piniella‘s top man out of the bullpen for most of the year, although he briefly dropped to a setup role at the start of the season. He worked his magic wearing his beloved #22, which he considered lucky because he was born on 2/22 at 2:22 in the morning.