Sunday, March 25, 2007

I don't know if you happened to see this past week's episode of South Park. It was highly entertaining and strangely thought-provoking. The episode title is Lice Capades, and the plot revolves around an outbreak of lice in South Park Elementary. There is a parallel story from the perspective of the lice on one student's head where one louse tries to convince the others that the world has become aware of their impact and is trying to destroy them. No one listens, and tragedy ensues.

That one lone louse who tries to convince the community that they're wrong and he's right reminds me of me as spring training winds down. I know it's not a very flattering comparison, but it seems very appropriate since I am about as significant as a louse, writing an anti-Red Sox blog against a vast tide of material embracing the team. And it seems like I am the only one who has even considered the possibility that Daisuke Matsuzaka will not take the world of North American professional baseball by storm.

After watching a couple of spring training starts, Bill Simmons sees a young Pedro Martinez in him. Matsuzaka has a comparable array of impressive off-speed pitches, apparently, even though he isn't quite the intimidator that Pedro was. No word yet on whether the Baltimore game when two guys from the minor league squad took the fearsome Matsuzaka deep was one of the games Simmons happened to see.

I find myself wondering from time to time when I read something about sports if I am the last person who remembers minor, trivial details. But there is this little chestnut about Pedro. It happened about ten years ago, long past the point at which the statute of limitations on memory which enable the mental gymnastics that make a Red Sox fan a Red Sox fan expires.

The real difference between Pedro and Daisuke is that Pedro proved himself against real, honest-to-goodness major league batters before he came to Boston. Pedro even won a Cy Young before he came to Boston. Until Daisuke proves that he can handle a long season in a tough town, I think people would do well to give him a chance to fail before they canonize him. The way it stands now, if Daisuke has a bad run, it's on for him. I hope he can handle it. Personally, I am looking forward to the day this offseason's panic signings blowup in the face of the Nation.

Sports Illustrated has just come out and celebrated the arrival of Daisuke Matsuzaka in a cover that is sure to warm the cockles of Red Sox Nation's collective heart. Even if you don't believe in the alleged SI Cover Jinx (I don't, but anything that works against the Red Sox is good for me), it must stick in the throats of Red Sox fans to see Matsuzaka's picture with the tag line "Fever Pitch."

So many Red Sox fans must resent that movie so much. I just can't imagine it myself, not suffering from the curious mental deficiency that makes a person a Red Sox fan, but I wonder how it must hurt Red Sox Nation. After 86 years of heartbreak, how many of them must have wished they could have run onto that field in Saint Louis to celebrate with the team. And then to find out that the new celebrity poster child for Red Sox Nation, Jimmy Fallon, and Drew Barrymore were among the first to join the players celebrating that most improbable of events. Oh, the humanity.

Daisuke Matsuzaka is pitching in a foreign country, against teams with incredible resources for scouting their opponents, against some (if not all) of the best players in the world. And this time it's for real. It's not some bogus exhibition with a fancy title. This is how these guys earn a living. And on top of that, he is going to pitch every fifth day instead of every sixth day.

And then there's the fact that he's going to have to do a considerable amount of travelling this season. Much more traveling and more often than he ever had to do in Japan. I don't know if you've noticed (and if you're a Red Sox fan, odds are you haven't), but America is a big country. Much, much, much, much bigger than Japan. There are at least two or three more 3,000 mile flights in store for Daisuke than there were last year.

But I'm crazy, right? I'm just pointing this stuff out because I'm a bad person who wants the Red Sox fans to be as miserable as I am, right? As much as there is a grain or truth or two in the first statement, the second one isn't true. I want the Red Sox fans to be infinitely more miserable than I am. But even more than that, I want just once for fans and media people to wait until there is an event and a story before they cover it to death.

After all, should August 1 roll around and the heat of summer and the fatigue of the shorter rotation take its toll on Matsuzaka, I'm going to be writing this blog for my 7 readers saying I told you so. But the fans and the media will be saying and writing that we should have seen this coming with no mention of the fact that they created the hype that failed. And that's going to make me sick to my stomach and even more bitter than I am now.

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