In N.Y., Ken Belson notes if Japanese Pacific League Rakuten Eagles P Masahiro Tanaka stays with the team for at least another season, he "can help the Eagles sell tickets in a market still reeling from the devastating earthquake and tsunami that hit" in '11. Meanwhile, now that there is a $20M cap, the "posting fee for an outstanding player will not be as much of a godsend." Rakuten Eagles Owner Hiroshi Mikitani, a "billionaire several times over, may care more about winning another Japanese title than a posting fee, which is why he might want to keep Tanaka." But now that Tanaka has "announced his desire to play in the major leagues, Mikitani will have to consider whether he wants to hold on to an unhappy player against his will" (N.Y. TIMES, 12/18).
TAKE CARE: In London, John Cross reported EPL club Tottenham Hotspur F Jermain Defoe "was persuaded to join" MLS club Toronto FC "after a phone call from rap mega-star Drake." The Canadian rapper has "been recruited by Toronto FC for an ambassadorial role, and rang ... Defoe to try and talk him into moving." Sources said that the England-born Defoe is "a huge fan of Drake" and was "blown away that he made personal contact" (MIRROR.co.uk, 12/17).
BEARING THE BURDEN: In Memphis, Geoff Calkins notes Grizzlies CEO Jason Levien is still "getting pounded for cutting loose the only coach in franchise history to win a playoff game." Levien "stood by his decision" to dismiss Lionel Hollins in favor of Dave Joerger. But Levien said, "If I was to evaluate in six-week increments, I think we would have been better off keeping the staff from last year." He went on to "make the point that he doesn't evaluate anything in six-weeks increments, and that doing so would be unwise." But it was telling that "even Levien acknowledged that the team's record would have been better under Hollins" (COMMERCIALAPPEAL.com, 12/16).