December 17, 2006

AND SOX MUST HAVE THEIR MATS:

Wooing of pitcher was wowing: Sox had bases covered while chasing, landing Matsuzaka (Gordon Edes, December 17, 2006, Boston Globe)

"When Leslie Epstein's 28-year-old son became general manager of the Red Sox," Henry said at last Thursday's news conference announcing Matsuzaka's signing in the State Street Pavilion at Fenway Park, a spacious suite barely able to contain a media crush of 300 and their TV cameras, popping flashbulbs, and breathless narrators from here and Japan, "he gave him two words of advice: Be bold."

But the morning before, as he sat on a southern California runway in Henry's private plane, a Dassault Mystere 900 Tri-jet, waiting to see if Matsuzaka and Boras would indeed show up to fly back with the Sox' traveling party to Boston, the thoughts of a sleepless Epstein drifted not to his father but to his grandfather, Philip, and Philip's twin brother, Julius, the famed screenwriters. An airfield, a small plane, the uncertainty of who would get on the plane -- Epstein could not help but think of "Casablanca".

The story of how Matsuzaka, a 26-year-old pitcher who is mostly a mystery to the baseball fan in the United States but has had Michael Jordan-like status in his native Japan almost from the day he became a national hero as a high schooler, has played out for the last month mostly as a protracted financial negotiation. It culminated with Matsuzaka coming to terms with the Red Sox on a six-year, $52 million contract that they signed Thursday afternoon shortly before the news conference. While Boras completed the paperwork, finalizing the handshake agreement they had made the night before while Matsuzaka was undergoing his physical at Massachusetts General Hospital, Matsuzaka was being guided through the Red Sox clubhouse by the owners. He broke into an enormous smile when he saw a locker with "Matsuzaka" on the nameplate and a Sox jersey bearing his No. 18 hanging inside.

But that is not the end of the story of how the Sox acquired Matsuzaka, just the beginning.

Posted by Orrin Judd at December 17, 2006 9:37 AM
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