Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The Gut

A lot of people have been talking about the extra weight Matsuzaka is carrying around, and many readers of this blog have asked me about it. I'll give you the scoop via a conversation I had with my wife.

We were sitting in front of our tv watching an NHK recap of the Spring Training appearance of Mr. Matsuzaka, and I told her that American people seem shocked at his poor condition reporting to camp. (Not that anyone should be all that shocked when you see the proportions of Curt Schilling in comparison.) The Mrs. quickly pointed out that many Japanese baseball players report to camp out of shape because training camp is a time when everyone returns from their only short vacation of the year, when they let it all hang out, and the purpose of the seriously rigorous training is to get back into shape. This is very true. Major League ballplayers, give or take a few on each team, are generally in much better condition throughout the Winter than their Japanese counterparts. Training is a more year round endeavor, that means for most guys less intense work in Florida or Arizona. The Japanese player will get out of shape and report to what amounts to a boot camp, where every member of the team bonds through painful and strenuous conditioning drills.

My wife went on to say that she thought Matsuzaka was at fault for not understanding the Major League way of practicing at training camp, and that he should have come in better condition, to be ready and also to make a better first impression on the people of Boston and the Red Sox. I agree. I believe every ballplayer should come to camp ready to work on baseball and conditioning should be a very minor part of the training. When you are paid the salaries that these guys make, it's an obligation to take care of yourself better. We haven't really seen this from the big name Japanese players to this point as both Matsui and Ichiro are very committed to working out year round. I seem to remember Kaz Sasaki was a bit lax when he reported every year for the Mariners, and you can see Nomo's later years as evidence of this phenomenon.

For the most part, guys today know this. It's not like the days when Mickey Mantle and company would drink and tan and spend all hours relaxing with their families. Nowadays, athletes in all sports spend time working out. Curt Schilling, especially at his age and in his role as the "ace" of the rotation, should be a better leader in that respect. I hope to see Papelbon, Matsuzaka, and Beckett show up to future camps as the leaders of the Red Sox pitching staff, ready to rock and roll.

I can't believe I'm saying this. As a Yankee fan, I should hope they show up full of chocolate like Uter.

But since I'm a committed Red Sox blogger now, so here's to moderation and self-restraint for pitchers!!! Huzzah.....


At 5:19 PM, Anonymous mouse said...

Wow, that's really interesting stuff. I had no idea that it wasn't customary for ball players to workout during the offseason in Japan. Guess that's something that's going to have to change post haste while Matsuzaka's playing here--I imagine it won't sit well with the Red Sox staff.

I don't really care what he looks like as long as he can pitch well, though. That's always the bottom line.

At 7:46 PM, Blogger Mike Plugh said...

Pitchers work out inasmuch as they throw a lot and do light sidework, but as I understand it, most of the serious conditioning (running, lifting, and so on) is left for camp.

A Japanese pitcher's arm is in shape even when his gut and his breath are subpar.

At 11:57 PM, Blogger Wayne said...

Mike, another great read. Thanks for answering the question.

I hope that Matsuzaka's routine won't cause a conflict within the Sox camp. I know that the Sox staff is concerned about him over exerting himself early in camp (throwing too hard, too often, and too much). It will be interesting to see how he is able to balance his normal "boot camp" routine with the much softer MLB Spring Training.

Digital Sox

At 4:43 AM, Blogger Rob Gaudreau said...

I have read on various sites about Matsuzaka being a bit out of shape but I had no concerns. Even with the US Players conditioning year round, they do get in better shape throughout training camp. I just thank my lucky stars that Matsuzaka isn't David Wells and eats a dozen donuts a day. Huzzah to you Mike for clarifying the "concern"...haha...Uter!


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