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Daisuke Matsuzaka cost the Boston Red Sox over $100 million, with $51.1 million allotted for the posting fee and another $52 million for the six-year contract. With only 49 wins in 105 starts to go along with a 4.25 earned run average, the $100 million seems like a little bit too much for that production.
Let’s take a deeper look at his personal situation and all of the hype that came with him from Japan. Not many players can live up to the media and fan driven hype that comes with being an international superstar.
Matsuzaka became an overnight household name during the inaugural World Baseball Classic in 2006 after he won the MVP award with three wins and no losses. MLB teams gained serious interest in him after his performance, leading to the bidding war eventually won by the Red Sox.
The sports culture of Boston might not have been the ideal landing spot for a shy 26-year-old Japanese pitching phenom landing his first major league gig. Matsuzaka knows enough English to interact with teammates, but only gives post-game conferences and interviews in his native tongue with a translator – that is not that big of a deal, but it was something that had to take some getting used to for him.
During games where Matsuzaka is not pitching, he would be seen often only with his translator and not so much with teammates. With the poisonous clubhouse issues becoming public knowledge last fall, one has to wonder what effect the actual team had on Matsuzaka. There was a lot he had to deal with: the already extremely tough transition of changing continents, learning a new language, adjusting his throwing habits, worrying about facing major league hitters on a nightly basis, and now throw in an unstable unhealthy locker room that at the time was basically a secret to the fans. Talk about stress.
I’m not making excuses for him not performing to the level that many expected, but looking closely at his situation, I don’t see how he could have come to Boston and performed at that level.
Josh Beckett, being the leader of this pitching staff, could have been the perfect mentor to Matsuzaka on his arrival, but Beckett is one of the main culprits of the clubhouse issues. Now, do we know what the clubhouse was like in 2007? No, but the problems that we now know of didn’t happen overnight.
Fresh off of Tommy John surgery, Matsuzaka has made two rehab starts and is on track for a late May return to the big club. The first rehab start wasn’t so good, but he bounced back in the second, with 74 pitches and allowing only one earned run while striking out seven and issuing two free passes.
With him most likely returning to the Red Sox rotation, he can help out in the fourth or fifth slot. Doing so would bump Felix Doubront or Daniel Bard to the bullpen. Hopefully Bard will be the guy bumped, as Bobby Valentine could use a reliable arm in late inning situations. With only nine wins from starters thus far in the early season and a team earned run average of 5.52, the Red Sox could use some help from the $100 million man.
It’s worth saying that this is the final year of the six-year, $52 million contract Scott Boras got for his client. Matsuzaka could pitch his way into a new deal with the Red Sox or earn a job with a new team next season. His first six years as a pro will be looked at as being an overpaid average starter, but in the big picture, Boston might not have been the best place for him to be the player that we once hoped he would be.