A Preemptive Farewell to Dice-K


A Preemptive Farewell to Dice-K

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.

Rich Levine's column runs each Monday, Wednesday and Friday on CSNNE.com. Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrlevine33

Red Sox exec Amiel Sawdaye follows Hazen to Arizona


Red Sox exec Amiel Sawdaye follows Hazen to Arizona

The Red Sox lost another key member of their front office Monday, when vice-president of amateur and international scouting Amiel Sawdaye followed former general manager Mike Hazen to Arizona.

Sawdaye will be the Diamondbacks' assistant GM. As stated by Rotoworld, he had been instrumental in building up the Red Sox' young big league talent and farm system.

The Boston Globe reported today that the Red Sox may not fill the GM vacancy created when Hazen left, instead using "other staffers to take on Hazen’s administrative duties". President of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski handles many of the duties traditionally associated with the general manager's position, leaving the actual GM's job in Boston as "essentially an assistant [position] with a lofty title but little power".

The Red Sox have also lost two other front-office members this offseason: Senior baseball analyst Tom Tippett, who had been with the organization for eight years, and director of sports medicine services Dan Dyrek, who had been with the Sox for five years.

McAdam: World Series win could clear path to Cooperstown for Epstein or Francona

McAdam: World Series win could clear path to Cooperstown for Epstein or Francona

Sometime over the next 10 or so days, either the Chicago Cubs or Cleveland Indians will win the 2016 World Series.

Naturally, that will mean one of baseball's two longest-suffering franchises will end their championship drought. Either the Cubs will win their first title since 1908, or the Indians will win for the first time since 1948.

That alone should make for an epic World Series.

But there's another bit of history at stake, too - one of legacies.

In addition to the great discomfort felt by Red Sox ownership -- which fired the manager of one participating team and was seemingly happy to hold the door open for the exit of an executive now running the other - it will also almost certainly result, eventually, in either Terry Francona or Theo Epstein being enshrined into the Hall of Fame.

Epstein would go down as the architect who helped two star-crossed franchises win titles - the Red Sox in 2004, and the Cubs this fall.

The Red Sox went 86 years between championships; the Cubs would be ending a run of futility that stretched across 108 seasons.

That would provide Epstein with an unmatched resume when it comes to degree of difficulty. It's one thing to win it all; it's another altogether to do so with the Sox and Cubs, two clubs, until Epstein's arrival, linked in ignominy.

Epstein could become only the fourth GM in modern history win a World Series in both leagues. Frank Cashen (Orioles and Mets); John Schuerholz (Royals and Braves) and Pat Gillick (Blue Jays and Phillies).

He would also join a short list of executives who have won three rings, a list that includes contemporaries Brian Cashman and Brian Sabean.

Of course, Epstein can't claim to have constructed the entire Cubs roster, no more than he could have done when the Red Sox won in '04.

In Boston, Epstein inherited key players such as Manny Ramirez, Pedro Martinez, Derek Lowe and Jason Varitek. Similarly, Javier Baez and Willson Contreras pre-date Epstein's arrival on the North Side.

But Epstein is responsible for nearly the remainder of the roster, and hiring manager Joe Maddon, the coaching staff and most of the Baseball Operations staff, including GM Jed Hoyer and scouting director Jason McLeod.

Francona's influence on the Indians is just as obvious.

Hired in late 2012 after spending a year in the ESPN broadcast booth, he inherited a team which had suffered through four straight losing seasons. In the five previous years before Francona's hiring, the Indians averaged just over 72 wins per season.

Since his arrival, the Indians have posted four straight winning seasons, with two playoff appearances, while averaging 88 wins per season.

It hasn't seemed to matter to the Indians that they've been without two of their three best starters (Danny Salazar and Carlos Carrasco) this postseason or arguably, their best offensive player for all but 11 games this season (Michael Brantley).

The Indians don't make excuses for injuries, or bemoan their modest payroll. Under Francona, they just win.

This postseason, he's made up for the absences in the rotation by masterfully utilizing reliever Andrew Miller anywhere from the fifth to the ninth inning.

A third World Series would put Francona in similarly rare company. Only 10 managers have won three or more World Series and just six have done so since World War 2 - Walter Alston, Joe Torre, Tony La Russa, Bruce Bochy Sparky Anderson and Casey Stengel.

The individual accomplishments of Epstein and Francona won't take center stage this week and next -- that attention will, rightly, go to their respective beleaguered franchises.

But the subtext shouldn't be overlooked. Once the partying and the parades come to an end, a path to Cooperstown for either the winning manager or winning president of baseball operations can be cleared.