This is getting dicey
Remember the golden days of Daisuke Matsuzaka?
At the beginning, it was a perfect marriage. We had
Matsuzaka’s mere presence prompted the Red Sox to open the 2008 season in the Tokyo Dome, a startling inconvenience that would have been unthinkable had the Sox not featured Japan’s top baseball export. His starts were events - much like those of Pedro Martínez, circa 1998-2000.
All of which makes yesterday’s events particularly annoying and deflating. Through his words and actions, Matsuzaka infuriated manager Terry Francona, pitching coach John Farrell, Boston’s owners, and a legion of Sox fans. One year after the Manny Ramirez debacle, Dice-K did his best to get his butt shipped out of town.
Matsuzaka, he of the 1-5 record and the 8.23 ERA, ripped the Red Sox organization. Rehabbing in Florida, speaking to a Japanese website during his shoulder rehab, he basically blamed his 2009 troubles on the Sox’ training regimen.
“If I’m forced to continue to train in this environment, I may no longer be able to pitch like I did in Japan,’’ he told the website. “The only reason why I managed to win games during the first and second years was because I used the savings of the shoulder I built up in Japan. Since I came to the major leagues, I couldn’t train in my own way, so now I’ve lost all those savings.’’
At Fenway, the fallout was swift and unusually blunt.
“To hear him say that is disappointing,’’ said Francona, who would rather quit chewing tobacco than criticize a player. “At times, he’s been his own pitching coach. For $102 million, if [Red Sox owner John Henry] came down and asked ‘What’s going on?’ and we said, ‘We’re letting [Daisuke] do it his own way,’ he probably wouldn’t like that very much. I’ve talked to Dice and Masa [translator Masa Hoshino]. I’ve had enough. I think they’ve had enough of me.’’
Tim Wakefield, the senior member of the Sox clubhouse and a pitcher who knows a thing or two about Boston’s training and rehab regimens, rolled his eyes and said, “My philosophy is, I’m an employee and I do what I’m told.’’
Farrell, ever the John Wayne presence in the coaches corner, said, “We have a responsibility for the size of the investment. It’s unfortunate that he feels that way. It’s disappointing. This is where two baseball worlds somewhat collide. But there has to be some accountability and responsibility on the part of the player. So the disappointment comes from [him] basically airing his dirty laundry.’’
Red Sox CEO Larry Lucchino said, “We’re not going to have any comment. We look forward to Daisuke returning to the mound at Fenway.’’
No need to have anything lost in translation on this one. The Sox are steamed. Matsuzaka talked out of turn, infuriated his bosses and his teammates, and unwittingly took the focus away from Hall of Famer Jim Rice on the night the slugger’s number was retired.
This has happened before at Fenway. Back in the early 1980s, Sox ownership partner Buddy LeRoux staged his infamous takeover (the LeRoux coup) on the night the ballclub honored fallen slugger Tony Conigliaro. Like Tony C back in the day, Rice deserved better.
It is reasonable to wonder if Matsuzaka will pitch again for the Sox this season. Or ever. The Sox thought they had an understanding with the stubborn righty, but now all bets are off.
It’s a strange situation. The pitcher wants to throw more between outings. He wants to throw 135 pitches when he starts. He says he had left over strength in his shoulder from his days in Japan, but now the strength is gone because of the Sox’ training rules.
The Sox are frustrated. They have done everything they can to accommodate Matsuzaka. They are angry that he puts the World Baseball Classic ahead of the World Series. They think he was out of shape when he reported this year. And fans think the righty is making lame excuses by blaming his ineffectiveness on the club’s training regimen. Nobody wants to hear it.
Teammates won’t say much, but they applaud Farrell and Francona’s gameplan. The message is clear. Dice-K is all alone on this one.
Since Day 1, Matsuzaka has been a hired gun in the Boston clubhouse. He never seems to be part of the team - even on days he pitches.
Now this hundred-million dollar arranged marriage is on the rocks and this might be a case of irreconcilable differences.
Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.