Friday, December 15, 2006

Welcome to America

Matsuzaka is official. Red Sox Nation rejoice!!

For those of you that have been coming to Matsuzaka Watch for a long time, and for those just checking in, I'd like to share my feelings with you about the addition of Daisuke to the Red Sox roster for the forseeable future. I'm not going to get into my feelings about his performance. You can read about how highly I think of him in my various pieces of writing here. I want to write about some feelings I have as a person.

I'm a Yankees fan. For some people in Red Sox Nation, that means there's a license to go around the internet trolling and generally casting dispersions about my mental health, personal character, and intellect. So be it. I live in Japan and I love the respect that people have for one another, that seems to be sadly absent from US culture at the moment. I'm a big boy, and I can take it. On the other hand, there are a lot of intelligent, well-mannered, and decent fans in Red Sox Nation that have exchanged ideas and thoughts on Japanese baseball, Matsuzaka, and the Yanks/Sox rivalry. I enjoy those conversations. Thank you for raising the rivalry out of the gutter for a minute.

As a Yankee fan, and an absolute Daisuke fanatic, I've walked a very tough road personally over this turn of events. I think it's great that American fans will get to see the real top flight talent that exists among the Japanese pitching ranks, and maybe put to rest the Irabu comparisons for good. I also think it's a wonderful thing that the bridge between two cultures that understand so very little about one another will be extended to another American city. I hope people in New England will learn something about Japan. What you think you know about this mysterious country is probably not 100% accurate. I'd like to continue to bring you some pieces of writing about Japan via Baseball Japan, my comprehensive blog on the whole of the game over here. I will be working more and more on content over there, and I hope you drop by.

As much as I wish it was Brian Cashman putting a Yankee hat on Daisuke, I was extremely proud as an American to observe the first class treatment that the Red Sox organization has given to Matsuzaka. If anyone from the organization happens to read this blog, I want to thank you personally as an American living abroad in Japan. I work very hard to be a good ambassador to my country every day I'm here, and the work you've done to make Matsuzaka feel welcome hasn't been lost on the Japanese people. The smile on Daisuke's face told a million stories, and I think you've probably won a lot of fans through your show of courtesy.

I'm in the difficult position of wanting Matsuzaka to win every start he makes, but not at the expense of the Yankees winning the division. That won't win me any fans here, but I promise to keep writing as objectively as I can. I am too big a fan of this player to let any team allegiance spoil it for me. I've spent too many hours and days working on this blog to piss it all away on pettiness. If you will accept me as a mouthpiece for the great chronicle of Daisuke Matsuzaka in America, I promise that I will never treat the Red Sox with disrespect here, and I will always do my best to present as unbiased an account of things as is humanly possible. I believe in that very much.

Last word today. Please extend Daisuke the courtesy of a little wiggle room should he struggle to start the season. For all I know, he'll come out guns blazing, but there is a very real cultural adjustment between the East and the West, and the transition between Japan and the US, and vice versa, is a trying and confusing one. We are the same in some fundamental ways, but in most respects we are almost opposites culturally. Thanks for reading. Go Daisuke!! Give 'em hell.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

On the Cheap

Well, it's finally over. Matsuzaka and the Red Sox have come to an agreement on a 6 year, $52 million deal that could reach $60 million with some bonus milestones. All in all, I think Theo Epstein got an absolute bargain, and should be celebrated by Red Sox Nation.

Including the posting fee, the Sox will be paying an annual expenditure of $17 million for Matsuzaka, which is beyond reasonable in the current climate of spending. In my opinion, it shows one thing. Boras had zero leverage in the end, and ran one of the great smoke and mirrors campaigns of all time in these proceedings. With Matsuzaka having said goodbye to Japan, and no free agency even possible for 2 years, he played the brash, greedy Gordon Gekko, but looks a bit more like Kenneth Lay in the end.

For Theo's part, he and Lucchino looked liked bumbling imbeciles at times, and I had t wonder how far over their heads they were in the negotiations. As this has now played out, I think they deserve a tickertape parade in Boston. They get a 26 year old pitcher, who by most estimation is one of the top 5 to 10 pitchers in the world. They lock him up at Meche money on the payroll to a long term deal, and outplay Boras in the process.

As a Yankees fan, I'm not looking forward to facing the Sox when Daisuke's on the mound these next 6 years. It hasn't been easy for me to watch this unfold, as I've devoted a year of my life to promoting this player to the American public only to see him land with my arch rival and a reasonable price. It's admittedly a tough pill to swallow, but as a fan of this player, I am delighted that he will have a chance to show the world what he can do. I wish him the best of luck, and look forward to attending a few games at Fenway with my Matsuzaka Seibu jersey on my back. (It sure as hell will be easier than the times I've been in attendance with a Matsui jersey and Yankees hat.)

I'll be back with more as it unfolds in the coming days, weeks, and years.....

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Boras relieved? Matsuzaka to Take Offer?

UPDATE: This from Rotoworld (for what that's worth).

"The Boston Herald reports that the Red Sox's latest offer to Daisuke Matsuzaka is for six years and a total of $48 million, while Matsuzaka is asking for $66 million over six years."

Asahi Television's evening news was just reporting on the big story, and had a man on the street in LA covering the wee morning beat on the Matsuzaka front. The LA reporter indicated that the Red Sox had in fact increased their offer, Boras seemed relieved, and the decision was now up to Matsuzaka about what he wants to do.

If all of that is true, and I read the tone of the report correctly, they believe that Daisuke is going to take the money. That said, I think no one knows. It's still all speculation.

Just thought I'd report that from Japan.

Olney's Lament

UPDATE: Bob Ryan writes an article today, echoing the sentiments I've been writing here throughout the posting and "negotiating." Give it a read. I think he's 100% dead on correct.

I'm sorry, but this is the biggest horse manure I've ever heard in my life. (As quoted by Boston Dirt Dogs).

"And you'd have to wonder: For Scott Boras, when does this stop becoming a chase of dollars and start being about his clients' doing what they love in their work and playing baseball?...

"Boras is extraordinary at what he does, at extracting a volume of dollars from places that you never would've imagined. He is like a chess master, and every negotiation is a match to be won. But in this era, when players are now making more money than they can ever spend in their lifetimes, it's debatable whether the extra cash actually improves the quality of life of his players, and whether all this angst pays off, in the big picture." -- 12.12.06, Buster Olney, ESPN

First of all, for Scott Boras, his job is to get as much money as is humanly possible for his clients. That's the whole reason they hire him, rather than asking Joe Average agent to represent them. To cry about it now shows a fundamental lack of understanding of the situation. Everyone, including Theo Epstein, knew that they would pay top market dollar for Matsuzaka WELL IN ADVANCE OF THE BIDDING. The Red Sox can be pissed off that Boras and Matsuzaka are being greedy, but they shouldn't cry because they are shocked or surprised. I have sympathy for the former, but none for the latter.

Regarding the second part of Olney's comment, cry me a river. If CNNSI was waiting to pay him double for his services, but he had to sit out a year to cash in, are you sincerely going to sit there and tell me that the money is good enough at ESPN? Bullshit. Yes, he will be a super rich man, whatever contract he signs, but it's not about how much you can spend in your lifetime. It's about how much you are worth in the market, and how much that will buy your children and grandchildren. I never see the point in those holier-than-thou types who say wealthy athletes should settle for less because they can't spend all the fortune they make in one lifetime. If I had a chance to set up my children, grandchildren, and every subsequent generation beyond, I would.

They may come to terms on a deal, but make no mistake, these are not children playing for the love of the game. That's only part of the equation. Any experienced journalist should remember the cliche, "If everyone else were playing for free, I would too. But they're not." That is one of the fundamental, 10 Commandments, of modern sports. We all play by those rules, and you either pay, or walk away empty handed. It may be ugly, and we have the right to complain about it, but let's not be naive. That's all I ask.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Face Off

It's down to about 2 days now. The Red Sox, Boras, and Matsuzaka will be meeting face to face to hammer out whatever they can at the 11th hour. It seems as though the Red Sox are going to sweeten the pot, but Boras is proclaiming that Matsuzaka should be paid $100 million over 5 or 6 years, regardless of the posting fee. Epstein is standing by his posting fee, plus salary, calculations for his budget.

The meeting that is being arranged between the interested parties may or may not ever materialize. If Boras and Matsuzaka are working together, and are adamant about their numbers, there will be no deal. I can't see Epstein paying Matsuzaka between $15 and $20 million on top of the posting fee.

I think I know what the thinking is here. I believe Boras knows that the Mets, Yankees, probably the Rangers, and just maybe the Cubs would have paid the $18 million a season (or someting close) on top of the posting fees they threw out there. He knows that given the chance again, he could get those teams to pay $100 million over 6 years, plus the posting fee. If Matsuzaka goes back to Japan for the 2007 season, he could earn 4 or 5 million for the year. If the Sox offer is $12-$14 million and the other teams will pay him $18, he loses nothing in the end.

The x-factor is Boras' ability to get Daisuke HUGE money from Nike, or any of the other heavyweight advertisers that he has relationships with. If he dangles insane endorsement money in front of Matsuzaka, he'll play along. If you remember when Shaq was drafted, he held out for the money he wanted by promising to live off the money he was receiving from Pepsi and Reebok.

It's about the money, and the willingness of other clubs to pay the higher salary. If Boras knows that money is out there, from a pure business standpoint, it makes sense to play hardball in this way. It's disappointing, greedy, and a bit unsportsmanlike, but it is a business and we're reminded of that every time a big time athlete takes the money. The last thing you need to know today is that The Japan Times has confirmed that Matsuzaka WILL NOT be a free agent after 2007 due to the half season he missed as a result of injury in 2002. He has to wait until 2008 to be a free agent.

More when it goes down.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Countdown to Armageddon

As I write this, word has been out for a couple of days that talks between Boras and the Red Sox have completely broken down. The Boston Herald reported this, citing an inside source close to the negotiations, and the rest of the media has been running with it. It’s hard to say where the two sides are at this point. All that had been reported in the press about numbers was $7-8 million a season from Boston versus $15 million a season from Boras. Let’s look at it again for a moment, and decide what it means.

If the Red Sox offered $7-8 million, and are not budging, they are to blame should things fail to come together. $7-8 million a season doesn’t buy you anything remotely close to a good pitcher in the current market, when Adam Eaton is getting a multi-year deal worth $8 million per season. I doubt that this is the case, however. I suspect the Sox are willing to pay more than $10 million and have made that move with Boras already.

If Boras has an offer on the table for $12 million or more per season, and he’s not budging, he’s the villain. All parties involved in these negotiations have to realize that the posting money is a hard, cold reality when budgeting a player into a team’s payroll, and the agent should be willing to work with the team to get value within reason. I think Arn Tellem is likely working this way with Kei Igawa and the Yankees.

The possibility exists that Boras is trying to single-handedly break the posting system altogether, and he may be using Matsuzaka to do so. If this is the case, it’s unfair to everyone involved. Yes, the posting system needs to be changed. The problem is, I think there is a plan to radically change it in the follow year, regardless of the Matsuzaka situation. A lot has been made of the reputations in this little game, should this scenario prove true. Matsuzaka’s reputation with the Japanese fans. The Red Sox reputation with Japanese owners and advertisers. Boras’ reputation with everyone.

My take on this is that Boras has the least to lose, so he may be willing to throw himself into the fire and try to blow the whole thing up. If he looks like a bad guy, well, he is. People see him as a bad guy anyway. Nothing to lose, everything to gain.

Matsuzaka will return to Japan, and probably come with his tail between his legs. He doesn’t want to pitch in Japan anymore, and he’s already said his goodbyes. The thing is, if the Red Sox are offering less than $12 million, he can likely recoup that money later. If Seibu pays him $6 million a year next season and opens the posting again, they will get their money and someone will pay Matsuzaka the $15+ million he wants. That’s $21 million over two years, where the Red Sox may only pay him $20. The numbers may differ a bit, but I think the point is valid.

The Red Sox will look bad if they low-balled him when comparing his value to the present market. No one told them to bid $13 million more than the Mets. No one will feel sorry for the Red Sox if they try to get a 26-year-old ace on the cheap after throwing a giant posting fee at Seibu. On the other hand, if the Sox are negotiating in good faith and have a fair offer of more than $12 million on the table, Matsuzaka needs to speak up and say, “Yo, Boras. I’ll take it, okay.” Otherwise, the Red Sox are the victims in this situation.
What do I believe? I believe that the Sox have an offer on the table that is close to fair. I believe that Boras wants $15 million and is not budging. In the end, as I’ve said before, I think the two sides will come together on less years at money somewhere between their current standoff. The Sox will give him up to free agency early, and in exchange Boras will come down slightly off his number.

The clock is ticking………

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

All's Quiet on the Daisuke Front

I haven't posted here in a while. I've been anxiously awaiting any kind of substantative news on the Boras/Epstein negotiations, but it's been very quiet on both sides of the ocean. What we've heard is a lot of speculation, both from optimistic Red Sox fans, and bitter Yankees fans, hoping the whole thing is a bad dream. I was one of those Yankee fans at the beginning, but I really feel comfortable with Matsuzaka in Fenway. It should be an interesting season with him in the AL East.

The only thing I have to offer here at this point, until something happens that's real, rather than imagined, is a bit of perspective on the money we may be looking at. Think about these recent signings and where Matsuzaka sits in context.

1. Roy Oswalt (5 years, $73 million)
2. Chris Carpenter (5 years, $65 million)
3. Vincente Padilla (3 years, $34 million)
4. Gil Meche/Ted Lilly (asking 4 years, $40 million)
5. Adam Eaton (3 years, $24.5 million)

The rumors have been swirling that Boras is seeking 6 years and $12 million per season for Matsuzaka. That would seem to jive with this market. Boras is steadfast in his pitch that Matsuzaka is one of the top pitchers in the world, and should be paid as such. If established aces like Oswalt and Carpenter are getting $13-15 million per year, Matsuzaka should come in just below. Likewise, Vincente Padilla who is essentially an NL pitcher with a career ERA of 4.06, ERA+ of 106, and WHIP at 1.346 is getting $11+ million per. Will Boras allow Vincente Padilla to get more money than Daisuke? Fat chance. It stands to reason as well that he will be paid significantly more than Lilly and Meche, not to mention Adam Eaton. Those guys have no business in the same conversation as Matsuzaka.

What the Red Sox now face is the prospect of paying the posting fee and the contract, plus luxury tax factors, to the tune of 6 years and about $25 million per year. Ouch. I'm of the belief that he's going to earn as much of that money as anyone can be expected to earn, but that's a tough pill to swallow. It makes you wonder if Johan Santana is going to get $30 million a year in 2008, doesn't it. (Don't bother answering that, it's a rhetorical question.)

More when it comes in, Matsuzaka Maniacs.