Friday, June 03, 2011
Sayonara, Daisuke. Is this for the Best?
Short answer? Yes.
The long answer is a little bit more complicated, but it's headed in the same direction.
Those of you who aren't living in a cave have probably heard the news. ESPN and several other sources are reporting that Daisuke Matsuzaka has decided to have the Tommy John surgery to replace the UCL in his elbow. With the recovery for such a surgery usually between 12-18 months, it's likely that Matsuzaka has pitched for the last time in a Red Sox uniform. His contract expires after the 2012 season, and he's slightly more likely to be re-signed by the Red Sox to a contract beyond that point than you or I are, it would be pretty close.
The response of Red Sox fans to this news has ranged from casual resignation to unrestrained glee. That may be a bit unfair, considering Daisuke DID have his positive moments, but he was a source of unending frustration. The half-dozen starts a year where Daisuke would pitch aggressively, use his fastball, get ahead in the count and look like the pitcher that was advertised made it all the more infuriating when he went back to to nibbling, walking the farm, and leaving the game after 104 pitches through five innings. It wasn't just frustrating to watch, it was ugly, boring baseball.
It wasn't just fans who were frustrated by Matsuzaka. He continually rejected Boston's conditioning program, preferring to undertake his own in a way that was characterized either as enigmatically stubborn or downright insubordinate. Might some of that be the Red Sox fault, for spending big money on a guy who wasn't willing or able to adjust to a different management style? Perhaps, though I suppose we'll never know exactly how that relationship devolved.
Over the last three years relationship between Matsuzaka and his team, as well as his team's fanbase, had become frayed to the point of unsustainability. Now his UCL is too. The best thing for everyone is for him to have his surgery, take the full 18 months to rehab, and have everyone start fresh in 2013. No huge signing bonus, no unreasonable expectations, no conflict over conditioning and pitching approach, no more having to go to bed at 11:15 when it's only the sixth inning, even though the score is 2-2. Daisuke could go to a team where the media and fanbase are bit less rabid, or back to Japan, where the scrutiny will be intense, but the support system will be as it was during his successful 1999-2006 run.
It's over in Boston though. Speaking the the past tense, Matsuzaka won 49 games in over 600 innings. He added three postseason wins, including one in the 2007 World Series. For the $51M he'll make over the six years he's under contract, that's disappointing, but not on the level of, say, Carl Pavano. Pavano won 9 games and appeared in the postseason zero times while making $40M over four years from the Yankees. Matsuzaka had a season where he won twice that many (plus a playoff game). Obviously pitching wins aren't a great indicator of results, and there were many underlying problems with Matsuzaka's game that were hidden by the Red Sox offense, but it does illustrate the point--Daisuke didn't live up to expections, but this was hardly the colossal bust some are making it out to be.
It's just time to move on. And it's for the best.
Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/philocrites/1805220985/