The Red Sox provided a transcript of the press conference announcing the signing of Daisuke Matsuzaka that took place on Thursday afternoon at Fenway Park.
THEO EPSTEIN: It’s a very important day for the Red Sox as we welcome Daisuke Matsuzaka. This is like a signing of the national treasure, if you follow Daisuke, began in 1998 throughout his entire professional career and all his accomplishments. We understand his importance in Japan. We know what he represents.
To the fans in Japan, we pledge to do everything that we can to support Daisuke, to assist him and his family and to ensure that he will be a success. Not that he needs much help. And so on behalf of John, Tom and Larry, I’d like to welcome to Boston and announce the newest member of the Boston Red Sox, Daisuke Matsuzaka.
Q. I’d like to get your impression of Fenway Park, after pitching off the mound, your initial impression off the park that you’re going to be pitching in.
DAISUKE MATSUZAKA: When the season starts, I’m looking forward to the game.
Q. Welcome and I wonder if you could tell us at what point in these negotiations that you realized that you would be coming to the Red Sox, and did you have your doubts that this day would come to pass?
DAISUKE MATSUZAKA: My nickname is Japan is Monster.
Q. What do you feel inaudible?
DAISUKE MATSUZAKA: I’m very happy and excited to be a member of the Boston Red Sox.
Q. Have there been any talk about where you’ll fit into the rotation and with your new teammates, has there been any contact with your new teammates?
DAISUKE MATSUZAKA: Inaudible maybe Giants and Tigers.
Q. Have you thought about pitching to Ichiro and Hideki Matsui?
DAISUKE MATSUZAKA: Inaudible.
Q. What was the turning point that made negotiations?
DAISUKE MATSUZAKA: (Inaudible?)
Q. What do you think of all these journalists being here that are specifically going to cover you? For the last month, there has been a lot of media and a lot of talk, what do you think about it?
DAISUKE MATSUZAKA: I feel very long, even the U.S. negotiation style but I think make it as easy as possible in the meantime.
Q. What do you view as the biggest challenge coming over to play baseball in the United States? How difficult do you envision that transition being?
DAISUKE MATSUZAKA: The same as starting professional baseball in Japan, you don’t know what’s going to happen, so I’m just going to try to do the best as possible.
Q. You said it was your goal to play Major League Baseball. What is your goal in your first year with the Red Sox? And also, is there any player that you are looking forward to meet that’s on the Red Sox, any particular player you’ve always followed?
DAISUKE MATSUZAKA: As a member of the Boston Red Sox, to contribute to the World Champions, I’d like to meet Curt Schilling.
Q. For both Theo and Scott, was there ever a point where you thought it was not going to get done, and what do you think the pivotal point was to making this deal happen?
THEO EPSTEIN: There was certainly a lot of up and downs as far as the negotiations, but I think all the parties had a common goal; just for Daisuke to join the Red Sox and start his Major League career.
It was a lot of hard work and cooperation we were able to make it happen in the end. I think as Daisuke referred to earlier, perhaps the turning point was when he became comfortable with the fact that we were going to take care of his family through the transition process and I think we built momentum after that.
SCOTT BORAS: I think any negotiation that has a time limit on it and all the parties know it, it kind of seems as they you make decisions based upon, you know the time frame for doing that.
But the main theme of Daisuke’s direction to us was he is a respected player of the greatest order in Japan and he wanted to make sure that his placement in baseball, that he’s able to fulfill the challenge of being a Major League player, but he only wanted to do it the way that he was assured of the best opportunity to advance himself in Major League Baseball. And in doing that, he had to have the comforts of his family and the transition to a city and a place where he truly understood the elements and aspects of what he does to be successful in Japan possible able to be carried out here.
In time, I think we collectively, everyone understood that and achieved that objective and once Daisuke knew that and his wife knew that.
Q. If this deal with the Red Sox did not happen, would it have been personally very difficult to go back and pitch in Japan next year?
DAISUKE MATSUZAKA: First of all, I didn’t want to take that position to go back to Japan.
Q. What were you able to learn about the Red Sox be it their history or current makeup; what do you know about the franchise?
DAISUKE MATSUZAKA: (Inaudible.)
Q. I wanted to get from both of your perspectives what the last 30 days have been like for you guys, and in particular yesterday, from list off to touchdown here, and also, John Henry, did the plane make it back to Florida to get you, or did you have to go commercial?
DAISUKE MATSUZAKA: Very many interesting things have happened in my life, waiting inaudible.
I want to say, waiting and after have the baby, and next year waiting to have baby is the most exciting thing.
Q. Theo, now with Daisuke, do you envision your starting rotation as one of the best in the League, and also one of the best in the League for years to come?
THEO EPSTEIN: We certainly hope it’s one of the best in the league. We try TO stay away from making too many predictions or putting too much stock in how things look on paper, because baseball can humble you quickly when you do that.
So we’ll just say that we’re excited about our rotation for this career and our future with so many good young pitchers in our organization and certainly hope for the best. We know there’s a lot of hard work ahead. I think one of the things that made Daisuke so attractive besides his obvious talent and character and makeup is the fact that he is 26, and for the next six years, we hope to get the prime of his career. It’s not a short term transaction; it’s not a quick fix or a Band Aid for next year’s pitching staff. We want Daisuke to be with the Red Sox for the rest of his career and do many great things.
Q. For Daisuke and Theo, can you talk about the challenges you face, not only in changing to a new league and adapting to a new league but a new culture as well?
DAISUKE MATSUZAKA: (Inaudible.)
Q. John, what pitch did Daisuke throw you when you almost got knocked over on the mound?
JOHN HENRY: I put down four fingers inaudible.
Q. What do you think about the Major League contract?
DAISUKE MATSUZAKA: The second year inaudible.
Q. Given the glowing reviews you are all giving him and the expectations, are you concerned he’ll be able TO handle things when they might go bad even for a game or two, or do you think he has the makeup it handle that?
THEO EPSTEIN: I think we certainly feel that he has the makeup and the history to be able to deal with all of the pressures of playing and winning in Boston.
You have to remember that when he was a high school senior, he had amazing performance in the national high school tournament to win the championship for Yokahama, and from that point on was a national hero, a national treasure and has been dealing with media attention not too dissimilar from this for a long time.
And the World Baseball Classic he was very successfully involved with, I might add. We certainly feel with that history and the makeup of a warrior and a competitor that he’s ideally suited to handle the most difficult challenge.
Q. What do you think about a five year, $62 million contract, do you have any pressure?
DAISUKE MATSUZAKA: The number I cannot get I feel a little pressure. To be the youngest also makes me more excited.
Q. Theo what distinguishes Daisuke from the pitchers in the Major Leagues today?
THEO EPSTEIN: We wanted to make sure to avoid too many lofty comparisons and speaking superlatives too much. So I think because of that, and also because it is true, Daisuke, his trail is unique as a pitcher. He certainly has the velocity on his fastball, and when he wants he can reach back for more. He also has a sufficient slider, tough changeup, split finger, curveball, cutter. That’s quite an arsenal, and the ability, all and command, with those secondary pitches, he’s also an artist and craftsman on the mound, and as I mentioned earlier, has the character and makeup of a bulldog and competitor.
When you put all these things together, you’re really looking at a unique combination, someone who even on video, my experience scouting Daisuke, extremely fun to watch.
Q. From an owner’s perspective, I wonder if you can describe the process by which you identified Matsuzaka as a target worth going after, and what were the factors that persuaded you that he was worth the investment? Scott you’ve been involved in many big time negotiations, how does this process compare in magnitude?
JOHN HENRY: Well, the organization spent a number of years watching, waiting, actually I think Theo can answer this question much better than I could.
THEO EPSTEIN: I think the baseball world has been aware of Daisuke since 1998. Jon Deeble in particular, our Pacific Rim coordinator who has been scouting Matsuzaka since 2000 in Japan at the Olympics. For several years now, as John mentioned, he’s been a real target and we’ve been trying to keep a low profile. I don’t think we were mentioned very prominently among the suitors, and that was by design. We were kind of rooting against him at the World Baseball Classic that he didn’t pitch too well because we didn’t want his profile to rise anymore.
Craig Shipley and his staff really scouted him heavily this year in anticipation of a post. And we knew going into the posting process, we were going to be very aggressive trying to come up with a total number and contract that made sense and the ultimate decision was how much did we have to attribute to the post in order to assure that we could get him and the challenge of working out a contract.
SCOTT BORAS: Certainly internationally, I’ve been around Daisuke’s world in Japan, and he’s known as their national treasure and he’s revered. He has earned respect because of his performance, and also who he is as a person. Daisuke was won WBC, world championship, and the high school championship. I know for me, internationally, Theo and I were negotiating and I went back to my office at 4:30 in the morning. And we’d had some high profile athletes in our day that we represented, but never I walked back into my office parking lot at 4:30 and there were 70 reporters waiting for me for a press conference and update on Daisuke. So I assure you that in my time, he’s certainly someone who is if not the most, certainly one of the most attractions as a ballplayer.
Q. Of the player transactions that have occurred during your tenure, how would you categorize this one?
JOHN HENRY: First of all I would classify it as unique and challenging, and I would say that potential to impact the franchise positively for several years. As Theo said earlier this is a longer term perspective that we have adopted.
LARRY LUCCHINO: We have a few closing comments we with like to make, they are really addressed to the new Japanese members of Red Sox Nation, two or three things. First, I’d like to repeat what our general manager said at the beginning, and that is that we recognize the player that we have obtained and we will treat him with the respect and courtesy that he has earned.
Secondly, we recognize that as he’s within described, he is a national treasure. We had a national treasure here, as well. It’s called Fenway Park, and we invite, warmly, the members of the Japanese baseball world to come to visit Fenway Park, to visit Boston, to visit the great New England region. We look forward to their participation in Red Sox nation. Thirdly I would say to our friends in Japan and throughout the entire Japanese baseball world, this is a long term commitment. This is in a short, one stop, one shot venture. Our plan, our hope is to be active in Japan and expand our presence. We are proud to have Hideki Okajima joining the team this year, and we think these two young men are beginnings of a long term relationship with Japan and the Japanese baseball world and we proudly look forward to that.
So to all, I will take the words I have tried to memorize with the Japanese baseball fans: (Speaking in Japanese).
JOHN HENRY: When Leslie Epstein’s 28 year old son became general manager of the Red Sox, he gave him two words of advice: Be bold. The day that we took over this organization, people in this organization to a man, to a woman, on all levels, rebuilding Fenway Park under Larry’s leadership in this organization, we’ve been bold and this was I believe a bold move. People wondered why we were willing to spend so much money. We were shocked by the bid and we did our homework and I believe we did what was necessary, and at this point I would really like to thank the people to my left, all of you, who went to California, all of those who were already in California, and everyone. This is a joyous day in New England, one we have waited for and my hat is off to all of you, thank you.
LARRY LUCCHINO: And I would say one more thing. In light of this last point, it is a long term relationship, and it is a good time to say that we, the Boston Red Sox, very much look forward to playing in Japan as some point in the future to celebrate and to bring home Matsuzakasan to Japan for a game some day.