All Good Things....Matsuzaka Watch is sad to report that Seibu's season has come to a crashing end. After outdueling the likely 2006 Sawamura Award winner Kazumi Saito 1-0, Daisuke Matsuzaka watched his teammates cough up the best of 3 series by dropping the final two games by scores of 11-3 and 6-1, respectively. Superstar Nobuhiko Matsunaka did the damage in the second game by driving in 5 runs, while #5 hitter Julio Zuleta broke a tie ballgame in the 8th inning with a titanic 3-run blast in the conclusive game. I've been saying since opening day that whatever the records say in the standings, SoftBank is the best ballclub in Japan this year. I fully expect them to beat Nippon Ham to win the Pacific League pennant and then Chuinichi for the whole enchilada.
What does this mean now for the young ace? It means that he won't be donning the Seibu colors again, in all likelihood. It is virtually assured that he will be posted following the conclusion of the Japan Series in a few weeks. Fans around the country have already begun to prepare for the posting, and are excited to see the man they call "The World's Matsuzaka" or "The World's Ace" don an MLB uniform come Spring Training. In an article from the post-game coverage of the Seibu elimination I found this:
Matsuzaka Greets Fans, But Is It a Parting of Ways?
"Despite Seibu ace Matsuzaka's complete game shutout victory in the first game, the team has missed advancing to the second round by "losing two consecutive". Matsuzaka pined, "I was frustrated because I wanted to pitch a little more." After the game, he appeared on the field alone and performed polite greetings. He took a hat for a fan who was buried in the right wing seats and in the first base infield stands, and bowed to them. Rumors about his right arm being transferred to the U.S. Major Leagues by the posting system (a bid system) did not die out, and he seemed to say his last good-byes to the fans now. Matsuzaka said that he "believed in a Seibu victory, and a lot of fans came to support us" regarding this action."
There is one step before the posting process moves to a frenzy pitch. That last step is the Aeon MLB All-Star Series, called the Aeon NichiBei Yakyu here in Japan. Aeon is the largest retailer over here and they have sponsored the previous two installments of this series in 2002 and 2004. They also provided sponsorship for the season opening games between the Yankees and Tampa Bay in recent years, and others.
You'll note that I wrote about Matsuzaka's participation in the 2004 event in my feature on international competition, linked at right as "vs. the World". Daisuke tossed a complete game against a team of MLB All-Stars in which he gave up one run, 5 hits, no walks, and 6 strikeouts. He'll likely face an even better lineup this November as the series is renewed. The details of this competition are as follows:
2006 JAPAN ALL-STAR SERIES
NOV 2 MLB All-Stars vs. Yomiuri Giants
NOV 3 MLB All-Stars vs. NPB All-Stars
NOV 4 MLB All-Stars vs. NPB All-Stars
NOV 5 MLB All-Stars vs. NPB All-Stars
NOV 7 MLB All-Stars vs. NPB All-Stars
NOV 8 MLB All-Stars vs. NPB All-Stars
The rosters have yet to be announced, but a number of MLB players have committed to play. The Japanese rosters will be selected in part by fan ballotting, a la the MLB All Star Game, and the manager of the NPB club, Rakuten's Katsuya Nomura. To date the following Major Leaguers have been named as participants in the event:
C Kenji Johjima
1B Ryan Howard
2B Tadahito Iguchi
SS Jose Reyes
3B David Wright
OF Andruw Jones
IF Chase Utley
SP Johan Santana
The rest of the team will be announced later. Typically, the players coming in from the Bigs spend more time buying electronics and picking up women than they do focused on baseball according to some newspaper accounts of the previous events, but there is a different sentiment this time around by all accounts. The Major Leaguers are out to reclaim some dignity for their league in the wake of the WBC competition. A number of guys have been quoted as saying they want to get back some of the pride that was lost in the March event.
Whatever happens, Daisuke Matsuzaka will be there. I'm not certain if we will learn who has won the posting rights during the same timeframe, or if they will announce everything after the games have concluded. I'm also not sure how soon we can expect to get the official press release from Seibu that the posting will go on as planned. I'll be there to cover everything for you. Keep coming back, and get ready for some interesting games.
On a final note, this blog has topped 10,000 hits after slowing building readership every month, and I'd like to thank fans of all stripes for coming by, linking to me, and entering through various search engines. I've had visitors from countries all over the world, and I hope you've enjoyed my work here. More soon..........