Let this be a lesson in the real American Dream for all Japanese ballplayers, courtesy of Gordon Gekko: Greed is good.
In a winter during which Major League Baseball contracts have spiraled to the depths of lunacy, we have yet to finish the next chapter, which could turn out to be either the most sound or disastrous investment of them all. And that's the thing. Once (or if) Daisuke Matsuzaka's contract is wrapped up, to the tune of $150 million, or whatever, the Red Sox STILL don't really know what they've got.
There are plenty of parties to blame in this whole mess: Uber-agent Scott Boras for his continued insistence to break barriers in lieu of doing what's best for his singular client. The Red Sox, for tossing a combined $106 million at J.D. Drew and Julio Lugo but deciding to nickel and dime the guy they posted a $51 million bid for. It's like winning the high bid on eBay by a landslide, but refusing to pay the shipping charges.
Stuck in the middle of this charade is one Matsuzaka, who has already said his sayonara to Japanese baseball fans, and is now apparently hiding in some sort of bunker in Los Angeles, where Boras won't allow him exit in the fear that he might slip up and start salivating at Boston's offer.
The reality is both sides have a fair argument. Why should the Red Sox pay Matsuzaka as a premier free agent, particularly considering they've already ponied up $51 million for the exclusive right to negotiate with him? This is the problem Boras has with the entire posting process in the first place, the inability to get teams into a bidding war for his client. Instead, he's forced to argue that based on what schlubs like Gil Meche and Jason Marquis are pulling in during this ungodly hot stove season, that the best pitcher on the market should be paid accordingly. And besides, why should the posting fee affect what's due the pitcher when he won't see a dime of that money?
At the very least we can be thankful that there exists this midnight deadline, lest we be forced to live through another inane Alex Rodriguez chase. Come late Thursday night, this will all be over, either with Matsuzaka in the fold or not. And that will be it. In reality, we should know even sooner, as Boston will inherently feel the need to have Matsuzaka take a physical, which should keep all Malibu walk-in clinics on alert the next few days.
If it all goes terribly wrong, Matsuzaka goes back to Japan, unable to fulfill his dream of playing in America (for now anyway). The Red Sox are forced to toss way too much cash at the likes of Roger Clemens or Barry Zito for a desperation quick fix. The Seibu Lions will go bankrupt. And Boras can boast about why he did what he did in an objective to battle the posting system. I don't think the fact that he'll be seen as a snake in Japan will really have any bearing on him.
The fact that Boras never responded to the Red Sox with a counterproposal to their initial offer has to make one think that the man has something up his sleeve, and perhaps might not even intend to get a deal done. Boars may be deceitful, but there's a question at this point if what he's doing is ethical, even in his dishonest profession. What this entire process will come down to is this: Is Boras doing what's best for all remaining Japanese ballplayers to come, or is he doing what's best for the man that hired him? It's one thing to have a crusade, but when it's at the expense of one who's paying you to do a specific job, that's something entirely different.
There are two serious schools of thought here that could define what Boras is up to. Either he refused a counteroffer in the knowledge that the Red Sox would pack suitcases, arrive on his doorstep and up their offer in desperation, or he never intends to have Matsuzaka sign in the first place, will go to court to get the posting process changed, and will sell him off to the highest bidder come 2007.
Of all the players in this who stand to lose, Matsuzaka stands to suffer the most, a situation that the 27-year-old probably didn't anticipate when he signed up with the Boras group. If the Red Sox and his agent don't strike a deal, he has to go back to Japan, and according to the rules as they are currently set, will have to go through the process again next year. He'd be out a big payday, out the American lifestyle he seeks, and will lose face with his fandom in Japan.
"Nobody in Japan is expecting him to come back because the negotiations broke down," Yasuko Yanagita, a reporter for the Hochi Shimbun, told Jack Curry of the New York Times. "I don't think this is only for the Japanese culture. But in Japan, someone asking for 'money, money, money' does not leave a good impression."
The big question here, for at least the next few hours, is how long Matsuzaka wishes to remain the pawn in Boras's game. Does he allow the agent to take it all the way for the betterment of his colleagues, or does he just want to play ball and get the biggest payday ever awarded to one who has never played in the majors. There's something to be said for trailblazing, but we're pretty sure Matsuzaka didn't sign up for this ride, not when he's out and about over Thanksgiving weekend saying goodbye to his fans.
It's come down to a blinking match now, between the Red Sox and Boras. The Sox did their part and will up the offer. Boras will probably do his part, which is absolutely nothing.
It's going to take an upheaval by the pitcher himself to end this nonsense (think Vader tossing the Emperor over the railing in the trilogy's climax). In the end, Boras can save face by arguing he got the Red Sox to give his client more money without even lifting a finger. "Look, how they groveled," he can boast. And it's all true, of course, even if it might not have been his ultimate goal.
The Red Sox will make an offer in a few hours, and then will either have Matsuzaka on a flight to Boston for a physical, or they won't. Clemens will become the main focus if it's the latter, the Sox not likely to want to turn around and deal with Boras for Zito's services after this potential mess.
It's up to Matsuzaka now. That's why the Sox have "respected" him with their "historical" offer, and it's why Boras has the pitcher under lock and key somewhere. And if he does anything other than accept Boston's contract proposal, there is going to be a lot explaining to be done back home.