Still on the theme of our soon to be starter DM, this from the Toronto Globe Sun. It's a little long, but so well written, so well said. I think it's worth your reading time of 2 minute max. Hey, thanks! ......
AND THE WINNER IS THE RED SOX
BOSTON PAYS $51.1-MILLION (U.S.) JUST FOR THE RIGHTS TO NEGOTIATE WITH SUPERSTAR JAPANESE PITCHER DAISUKE MATSUZAKA
Daisuke Matsuzaka will help Red Sox Nation plant its flag in Asia and maybe squeeze a little more yen out of some remote corner of Fenway Park not yet graced by some logo or product name.
But the Boston Red Sox seem prepared to defend in baseball terms the fact that last night they paid a reported $51.1-million (all figures U.S.) just for the right to offer a contract that could be worth at least $30-million over three years to a pitcher with the Seibu Lions who has yet to win a major-league game. After all, it's not the first time baseball people have thought the organization has lost its collective mind.
(And doesn't one team do that every winter, anyhow?)
The Red Sox have 30 days to negotiate a contract or lose the rights to Matsuzaka. If he doesn't sign by Dec. 15, Matsuzaka would return to Japan and play for the Lions again next season.
Everyone tut-tutted when the Red Sox gave another 26-year-old pitcher, Pedro Martinez, six years and $75-million in the winter of 1997, making him at the time the best-paid player in baseball. This despite the fact that he was still a year away from free agency.
All Martinez did was change the culture of one of the most white-bread teams in baseball. And while the relationship was often tempestuous, Martinez's contract was the first step the Red Sox took toward eventually ending the Curse of the Bambino.
Of course, Martinez had also won 65 games by the time the Red Sox gave him that hefty deal. And had a Cy Young Award, won in that 1997 season when he buzz-sawed National League hitters for a 1.90 earned run average before the cash-strapped Montreal Expos traded him to the Red Sox.
But Matsuzaka, well, he's done some things, too. Like . . . well . . . he was named the most valuable player at the World Baseball Classic.
And he has a changeup that former major-league manager Bobby Valentine says is the best in baseball. He may or may not throw a "gyro-pitch," which Japanese scientists claim exists, but which Matsuzaka slyly says might just be his changeup or slider.
(Valentine told a New York reporter this year that "if that's what they're calling the gyro, it's the best gyro I've ever seen.")
Mostly, though, he has stood by and accepted a happy confluence rarely granted by the gods of baseball, a game that is flush with cash, rife with labour peace and loaded with massive amounts of so-so free-agent pitching.
Toss in the fact that Curt Schilling and Tim Wakefield are both 40 and the New York Yankees have pitching issues of their own, and the Red Sox have every reason to throw that kind of money at Matsuzaka and his agent, Scott Boras.
Really, what the Red Sox have done is no different from what the Toronto Blue Jays did last winter when they identified A.J. Burnett as the best available free-agent starter and paid what it would take to get him signed. And like the Blue Jays, who beat out the St. Louis Cardinals to get Burnett, the Red Sox had competitors for the right to talk to Matsuzaka, including the Yankees.
The Red Sox believe Matsuzaka is the best pitcher on the market at an unusually young age. Circumstances dictate an unusual premium for his services. So be it.
Are there risks? Of course there are.
Matsuzaka, who had a career record in Japan of 108-60 (2.95 ERA) and who is said to have an above average curve in addition to his changeup and a fastball that sits in the low-to-mid-90s, has never faced competition like the kind he will see in the American League East.
Like most Japanese pitchers, he normally worked every sixth day -- not every fifth -- and there are concerns about arm abuse that may have been suffered in the loosely monitored Japanese development system.
And even if he is successful, the Red Sox could find themselves paying dearly for that if he ends up being a free agent at the age of 29 or 30.
The guess here is that the Red Sox's money folks have already figured out what this will be worth in terms of merchandising and broadcast opportunities overseas and they can take some solace from the fact that the posting figure will not be included in their luxury-tax calculations.
And perhaps landing Matsuzaka will open the door to landing Ichiro Suzuki down the road. But Matsuzaka is not a position player like Ichiro or Hideki Matsui; the most he will appear on television screens in his homeland is once every fifth day, not every day. So it stands to reason that might diminish his impact slightly, especially in a market that sells out on a daily basis.
Baseball is expanding its borders -- the World Baseball Classic will be back in 2009 -- and Matsuzaka could either be a big step forward or an unfortunate growing pain. There will be winners out of this deal, it says here. And if they're lucky, the Red Sox might even be among them.
Height: six feet.
Weight: 187 pounds.
Experience: eight years with Seibu Lions of Japanese baseball league.
Career ERA: 2.95.
Peter here....I told you it was a well-written piece. It seems to sum up what all of us, all of us who have the Red Sox in their hearts and souls, are thinking about on this cloudy but wonderful Wednesday morning. I hope you're enjoying it with me. Doin' my best!