By Rich Levine
Our long international nightmare is over.
After four-plus agonizing seasons, Daisuke Matsuzakas thrown his final pitch for the Sox.
Fittingly enough, it was a ball four walk to Baltimores Matt Wieters on May 16. It was Dice-Ks 105th pitch of the night. It was also the fifth inning.
Matsuzaka finishes his underwhelming career in Boston with a 49-30 record, a 4.25 ERA, 568 Ks, 301 walks, hours upon hours wasted fiddling on the mound, a boatload of unfulfilled expectations and even more questions as to how it all went so wrong. Hes survived by a Nation of relieved fans. Hell be missed by no one. Now everyone please remove their hats, and join me in a moment of heartfelt celebration.
The Dice-K era is over!
OK, wait. Im jumping the gun just a little. Right now, all we know is that Dice-Ks headed for Tommy John surgery sometime in the very near future, and will miss the next 12-18 months. So in reality, theres a small window for him to rejoin the rotation before his contract expires in 2012.
But come on you really think hell be back? First of all, a comebacks predicated on a speedy recovery, which would be the first speedy thing Dice-Ks done since joining the team. (Unless you count the time he gave up five runs in the first in Oakland, but even that one inning took two and a half hours.) Second, even if hes healthy, with the way he and the Sox do business, itll be a shock if the two sides are even speaking by next summer. Can you imagine Theos reaction when Dice-K calls from post-op demanding to throw a side-session?
This is a divorce thats been brewing since the honeymoon, and the waters only getting murkier. Theres no way theyll see eye-to-eye over the next year, and at that point, whats the point in trying? Why not just cut your losses, save yourself some headaches and move on?
So, while the off-field soap opera might have a few more episodes left, you have to believe that the on-field horror movies finally been canceled.
Brothers and Sisters, Rejoice!
But lets also take a quick second to reflect on Matsuzakas shockingly disappointing career, with this question: Was it all his fault?
Thats a definite no. Dice-K was at least somewhat a victim of unrealistic expectations. When the Sox began their pursuit, he was barely even human. He was a mythical creature from the Far East, with a cool name, a rubber arm, a magical pitch, and the potential to take over Major League Baseball. He was Japans answer to Bill Bratsky.
Dice-K was so great that the Sox were willing to pay 50M just to talk to him. In 2011, that 50M could be used to pay the combined salaries of Clay Buchholz, Daniel Bard, Jon Lester, Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis. Thats how much they thought of him, so thats how much we expected. That probably wasnt fair.
And for as stubborn as Dice-Ks been, it also wasnt fair for the Sox to expect that hed be so willing to customize his approach to the game.
Think of it this way: What if the same year Dice-K came to Boston, the Japanese Golf Tour signed an exclusive megadeal with Tiger Woods. This was back when both Dice-K and Woods were still the best player in their respective countries.
Anyway, so Tiger gets over to Japan and they tell him: Tiger, you train too hard. At the rate youre going now, your body wont hold up, and we have way too much money invested in you for that to happen. So, were going to scale back the workouts. You know, that whole obsessive-compulsive routine that youve operated under your entire life? The one thats resulted in you becoming the athletic freak of nature that you are today? Yeah, were going to change that. Youre in our world now.
You think Tiger would have listened to them?
Or what if he did, and then struggled to regain his dominant form. Whos he going to blame: himself or the tour?
Is he going to build up some resentment? Maybe even act out?
Of course. And thats what Dice-K did.
I dont condone it, but I understand it.
From the very beginning, Ive understood where both sides were coming from in this drawn out drama. I get why the Sox pushed him to change, and I get why Dice-K resisted. And when the bottom fell out after the Winter Classic in 2009, I get why the relationship never recovered, and why this experiment was ultimately doomed. You had two very different groups of people set in two very different ways of life. Neither was very willing to compromise, and that never ends well.
And I'm sure this won't.
But, hey, what can you do?
Im just happy to never watch him pitch again.