Friday, December 22, 2006

I didn't really intend to post tonight. After last night's slightly delayed defense of Terrell Owens, I figured I could wait a day and then post what I intend to post tomorrow night. But a friend emailed me this story, and I can't let it pass. This story almost makes me want to read the Metro, that way I could get a free post at least once a week in response to what ever you would call this (I am afraid to give it a genre lest it grow stronger).

I never would have guessed that Daisake Matsuzaka was the victim in his contract negotiations with Boston. But that's what Bob Halloran would have us believe. He says that Matsuzaka may be the best pitcher on the planet, and as a result is grossly underpaid under the terms of the contract he signed recently. If this is the case, he is the first player to be grossly underpaid by the Boston Red Sox since Ted Williams signed his initial contract in the late 1930s.

I sincerely doubt that Matsuzaka is the best pitcher on the planet. I think there is a guy in Minnesota by the name of Liriano who may or may not recover from his arm surgery that has an infinitely more impressive resume in major league baseball. Even if Liriano never throws another pitch in competitive play, he has won multiple games against major league talent in the regular season. That is considerably more than any one can say for Daisuke. And Liriano isn't even the best pitcher on his team.

If we are to believe this claim, we place much more importance on WBC games than any of the participants from MLB did. Daisuke Matsuzaka could only be the best pitcher on the planet if the planet has somehow been reshaped in the last several weeks to the point that Detroit and Minnesota are no longer part of the Earth. The current AL Cy Young Winner is the best pitcher on the planet. Some of the runners-up must be included in that discussion, since they have a multiple game track record against top flight competition. To build a pitcher's Hall of Fame resume on the World Baseball Classic is even worse that thinking that two decent games expunge two seasons of humiliating failure from Jeff Garcia's CV.

Perhaps the World Baseball Classic would carry more weight if it had included series play instead of one game encounters between the power teams. What if the hitters on the Dominican team had had a second look at Daisuke? Would the gyroball have been quite so formidable? If that is a question with merit, what will happen when teams have 3 or 4 cracks at Matsuzaka this year? Obviously, the answer is Matsuzaka will find ways to dispose of opposing hitters that just might boggle the minds of Red Sox Nation if the average Red Sox fan were endowed with the innate capacity to while away the hours talking with the flowers.

Leaving aside the questions that surround Matsuzaka's talent, let us consider the bidding process. Halloran believes the Red Sox thought that Matsuzaka was better than any other available pitcher (hence the $51.1 million bid for the negotiating rights). A more cynical commentator might think the Red Sox out-Heroded Herod (both NY teams, but most directly the Yanks) out of fear more than intelligent management. After all, the Red Sox ended up spending at least more than $18 million the Evil Empire bid to negotiate with Matsuzaka. The Sox were also about $8 million ahead of their closest competitor.

This whole process has been a smokescreen on behalf of Red Sox Nation. They spend fantastic amounts of money to compete with Steinbrenner, but they don't deliver on their promises. Their payroll goes up and up, but it gets no younger. Like the board itself in some ways. But Matsuzaka is the victim here. Imagine that. A guy who has thrown no pitches, recorded no outs, logged no innings and won no games in MLB, but he is the victim in all of this, after he signed a $52 million contract.

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