Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Sox have $51 million reasons why Matsuzaka better be great

The Boston Red Sox posted the winning bid for the right to negotiate with Japanese pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka. The cost of that conversation? $51 million dollars, American.
In a mind-blowing revelation tonight by Matsuzaka's Japanese club, the Seibu Lions, the winning bid was accepted by the club and said to be $51.1 mil, not the expected $38-45 mil that had been reported last week. This bid easily blew away offers from the Mets, who bid $40 mil, and the Stanks, who came in at a paltry $33 mil (c'mon, Georgie.) The Cubs and Rangers were possible bidders as well.

Boston now has $30 days to work out a contract with the kid, and if a deal can't be worked out by December 14th he would go back to the Lions and the Sox would get their bid back. Yeah, okay, like the sides aren't going to get a deal done. Even with the notoriously irascible Scott Boras representing Matsuzaka it would be hard to fathom the Sox not already having a deal in place, or at least not being ready to offer the kid whatever he wants to come pitch in Fenway. There have been conflicting stories on what he would make in a deal: some have said he is under contract for 2 more years at $4 mil per; others have stated that he will command somewhere in the neighborhood of $7-10 mil /year for at least 3 years. At any rate Boston isn't about to let their prized chip go back to Japan after winning this elaborate human auction.

Since my hometown team is about to make a monumental deal for the club, for better or worse, I decided I'd better find out about this kid. You know, to see whether I should be mad at Theo & his henchmen or not. It's hard to find complete game footage of a guy who has played his entire career on the Pacific Rim, but thanks to the wonder that is YouTube, I was able to catch quite a bit of snipped footage from games in Japan, from the World Baseball Classic (of which he was the MVP) and the Olympics. Let me just say....goooooo Matsuzaka!!!!

-From what I can see of the kid he has got absolutley filthy stuff: a mid-to-high '90s fastball with movement; a nasty low '80s breaker that looks unhittable, and his infamous "gyroball", something that has been likened to a screwball that breaks down & away from rightys. To me it looks like a scroogie, or something really funky, but all I know is that big league hitters are going to have a hard time figuring him out. He pitches to all parts of the plate, he's not afraid to come inside or out, and he likes to paint the corners as well as come right at the hitter. Other than that he's average.-On top of his devastating array of pitches, speeds, movement and location he also has a deceptive motion to the plate, a-la that other famous Japanese import, Hideo Nomo. But Matsuzaka doesn't wind himself up like a top and then unscrew his body as he comes plateward like Nomo. He has like a hitch just as he comes set, almost like a bunny hop or a skip, then he comes to the plate. It got me looking at it so much that I wasn't paying attention to his pitches, which is what I'm sure the Sox are hoping happens to major league batters. It kind of lulls you into a false sense of security before BAM his pitch is eating you up like a tapeworm.

-He's a good athlete. Footage shows him busting down the line on a bunt, stopping a wicked comebacker & wheeling to get the man at second, and even hitting a home run in one Japanese contest. Although it looks like he has gotten a little heavier from the WBC in April to recently, he will not be called a "fat toad" like another Japanese hurler, Hideki Irabu, was by Steinbrenner.

Couple all of this with the real reason the Sox are signing him- to get a foothold in the rapidly growing Asian baseball market- and the deal makes sense from all sides. Boston fans are thrilled with a starting rotation of Schill, Beckett, Papelbon, Matsuzaka and Wakefield; Boston ownership and MLB properties are ecstatic to have millions of Asian baseball fans running all over the Far East wearing officially licensed Red Sox jerseys bearing Matsusaka's number, like Seattle enjoys with Ichiro & the Stanks with Hideki Matsui; and every member of Red Sox Nation is thrilled to have beaten the Evil Empire to the punch for what looks to be one of the best pitchers on the entire planet.

Screw you, New York-

you got the Idiot Caveman,

we got the Scroogie King of Japan.

Na na na na na!

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