Mistakuzaka?

Books, Fantasy/Roto, Free Agents, Games, Management, Media, Paul Lebowitz's 2011 Baseball Guide, Players

The Red Sox spent a lot of money on Daisuke Matsuzaka.

In retrospect it can be seen as a mistake; in practical terms, it was. But no one’s really to blame.

Regardless of the amount of money the club made from marketing in Japan as a result of their acquisition of Matsuzaka, he’s been a disappointment on and off the field.

From his overrated stuff; the difficult transition from the Japanese training style and 6-man rotation; and the way he declined from would-be superstar to being injury-prone and always teetering on being bounced from the Red Sox rotation, they didn’t get what they paid for on the field.

But was it a foreseeable gaffe?

Many teams were after Matsuzaka; respected voices like Orestes Destrade (who played in Japan for the Seibu Lions before Matsuzaka’s time with the club) and Bobby Valentine (who managed against him) repeatedly said how good he was and that he wouldn’t just make it in North America, but he’d make it big.

It’s not as if the hyperbole was coming from unqualified voices.

The Red Sox have made some ghastly errors in judgment with some of their players and tactics and covered them up with money, but Matsuzaka can’t be counted among them.

His statistics in Japan were impressive—link; there were the stories of his exploits of durability and courage in high school—NY Times Story 2.11.2007; and the aforementioned endorsements of baseball people who knew him.

There was the talk of a vast array of pitches including a power fastball and a “gyroball” that was supposedly thrown by a righty with the rotation of a lefty throwing a football spiral.

He was a legend before he arrived and failed to live up to the hype in any way.

He was good at times; he was terrible at times; his record was far better than he actually was. Because he would sprinkle in a game in which he’d pitch a near-no hitter in the middle of his bouts of wildness and penchant for the home run ball, the expectations never wavered.

His mechanics are far from perfect, but they can hardly be blamed for Matsuzaka needing Tommy John surgery. His arm was mostly healthy for his career and at age 30, his elbow blew.

A free agent after 2012, I’d expect he’ll be back in a Red Sox uniform at some point before his contract expires. After that, I would think he’d prefer to go back to Japan and finish his career. He didn’t achieve the predicted success in MLB, he never appeared comfortable and didn’t enter the public consciousness as Ichiro Suzuki did; nor did he become a popular teammate with big time clutch performances and laudable professionalism as Hideki Matsui did.

But Matsuzaka’s failure isn’t something to hang on the Red Sox.

It didn’t work and should be more of a cautionary tale as to the risk run when spending over $50 million simply to have exclusive negotiating rights.

That money would’ve been better spent elsewhere.

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