December 14, 2006


The world’s theirs again: Sox’ new theme is brass bonanza (Tony Massarotti, December 14, 2006, Boston Herald)

When they got on the plane, chests puffed out, you had to wonder if Theo Epstein was carrying Daisuke Matsuzaka under one arm while Larry Lucchino had Scott Boras under another. This is the way it works now at Fenway Park, where the Red Sox have once again identified the enemy.

Happily, it is no longer one another.

What a difference a year makes, eh? Epstein and Lucchino could not sit in the same room 12 months ago. Now they’re pounding fists on John Henry’s private jet and treating the great Boras as a carry-on. Epstein and Lucchino did a pretty good job beating each other up last offseason. Now, in the winter of 2006-07, the Red Sox collectively are kicking ass and taking names.

In the end, on this one, even the estimable Boras appears to have been no match for them.

For Matsuzaka, No Big Deal (Thomas Boswell, December 14, 2006, Washington Post)
The 26-year-old pitcher, the best hurler in Japan and the MVP of the World Baseball Classic, will get $52 million over six seasons, or $8.5 million a season. The Red Sox, and many others including me, believe Matsuzaka, if he stays healthy, will be one of the majors' elite pitchers immediately. The WBC showed the world his 96 mph fastball, his corner-cutting command, as well as a funky windup and a superb batch of breaking pitches. His urban-legend "gyroball" -- whatever it is and however the "Monster" throws it -- sure looks like a superb screwball. He may be Ichiro elite.

Yet Matsuzaka will make significantly less than utterly mediocre free agents of recent weeks, like Gil Meche ($55 million for five years), Ted Lilly ($40 million, four years) and Vicente Padilla ($34 million, three years). Meche has averaged an 11-9 record with a 4.74 ERA the last four years. Lilly is such a terrible fielder that he's started one double play in his whole career. Padilla is perhaps best known as the pitcher who begged off in extra innings and helped cause the ignominious All-Star Game "tie" of '02.

But they, and plenty of other pitchers, including perhaps ex-Nat Ramon Ortiz, will make as much as Matsuzaka, even though he has starred for six seasons in Japan -- the number of years that would've made him a free agent here. However, in Japan such freedom requires nine years. So by the time his Boston deal runs out, Matsuzaka will be a dozen years into his career before he is truly free to bargain. If, considering how hard he's been worked in Japan, he can still lift his arm.

D-Mat, Sox rev up rivalry (John Harper, 12/14/06, NY Daily News)
It was Red Sox or bust for Daisuke Matsuzaka, so Scott Boras couldn't pull out all of his usual tricks, like, say, pretending to negotiate with a mystery team as a scare tactic. The prized pitcher wanted no part of returning to Japan, leaving Boras without his usual leverage.

Red Sox Land Matsuzaka At the Bargain Price of $52M (TIM MARCHMAN, December 14, 2006, NY Sun)
Yesterday, within minutes of breaking the story that the Boston Red Sox had come to an agreement with pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka that will pay him $52 million over the next six years, I received an email from a correspondent reminding me that I had promised to eat my own head if the Sox managed to sign the pitcher for $8 million a year. While no head-eating will take place, I wouldn't have been much more surprised if I discovered I was able to perform this feat than I was to learn of the deal. Matsuzaka got rooked. He's making as much money as oft-injured no. 5 starter Adam Eaton.

The reasons the Sox were able to strike such a deal are obvious. Matsuzaka was not a free agent, and so was in a bad, though not intractable, negotiating position.

Folks around the team seem pretty confident that they will sign Roger Clemens too. It'd still be nice to dump Manny, maybe to Texas in an Akinori Otsuka deal, but they've had an awfully good off-season this far.

Meanwhile, in one of those "Only in Sox Nation" moments yesterday: John Henry called into NESN to update them on the talks and was watching the flight track of his own plane on-line, where Sox fans had posted it.

This decision goes to Sox, not Boras (Nick Cafardo, December 14, 2006, Boston Globe)

The Sox also got a thumbs-up from former major league third baseman Mike Pagliarulo, who for years has run a sophisticated scouting service for international players, with emphasis on the Pacific Rim. Pagliarulo, who grew up in Medford, had watched the Matsuzaka situation closely because he had inside knowledge of the talented pitcher.

Pagliarulo also recommends what a Japanese player is worth to a major league team by using complicated formulas. Pagliarulo's service has been used by major league and Japanese teams, but the Red Sox aren't among his clientele.

When asked what he would have recommended as a posting figure for Matsuzaka, Pagliarulo said, "Fifty million. That's what I had written down long before the figures came out. That was based on the talent level of the player, the market for the player, and the value of the player to a team. The Red Sox did an excellent job in finding that value. They really did their homework."

Pagliarulo, who played for Seibu and was a teammate of current Lions manager Tsutomu Ito, is close to the Seibu ownership. He knew there was zero chance Matsuzaka was returning to Seibu. Pagliarulo also said that if Matsuzaka tried to return to Seibu, the team would not allow him to be posted again next season.

Pagliarulo figured that at some point Matsuzaka must have told Boras to get a deal done.

The one thing all the folks criticizing the Sox offer had in common was no understanding of Japan.

Blood, Sweat and Type O: Japan's Weird Science (DAVID PICKER, 12/14/06, NY Times)

[W]hat many fans, the Red Sox front office and even Matsuzaka’s determined agent, Scott Boras, may not realize is that in the eyes of the Japanese, Matsuzaka’s most revealing statistic might be his blood type, which is Type O. By Japanese standards, that makes Matsuzaka a warrior and thus someone quite capable of striking out Alex Rodriguez, or perhaps Derek Jeter, with the bases loaded next summer.

In Japan, using blood type to predict a person’s character is as common as going to McDonald’s and ordering a teriyaki burger. The association is akin to the equally unscientific use of astrological signs by Americans to predict behavior, only more popular. It is widely believed that more than 90 percent of Japanese know their blood type.

“In everyday life in Japan, blood type is used as a kind of a social lubricant, a conversation starter,” said Theodore Bestor, a professor of Japanese studies and anthropology at Harvard University. “It’s a piece of information that supposedly gives you some idea of what that person is like as a human being.

“Japanese tend to have a fairly strong kind of inherent belief that genetics and biology really matter in terms of people’s behavior. So I think Japanese might be much more predisposed to thinking about a kind of genetic basis for personality than most Americans would.”

Posted by Orrin Judd at December 14, 2006 11:12 AM

It is widely believed that more than 90 percent of Japanese know their blood type.

Just one of the things that make the Japanese such brilliant conversationalists.

("Hey, baby, I'm O negative. Universal donor. Know what I mean?")

Posted by: Barry Meislin at December 14, 2006 11:40 AM

It really is their equivalent of "what's your sign".

Have they assigned him a player number yet?
Because if I were the Sox I'd make sure the crates of Matsuzaka-numbered jerseys were already in Yokohama before I anounced it.

Posted by: Ralph Phelan at December 14, 2006 1:34 PM

Go Blue Jays!

Now, more than ever...

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at December 14, 2006 2:08 PM

One of the ways the Lions will kick back money is in the marketing. He can be #9 if it gets them they're $50 million.

Posted by: oj at December 14, 2006 2:24 PM

A positive. I'm so smart I even got an A+ on my blood test.

Posted by: Pontius at December 14, 2006 10:37 PM