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November 15, 2006
Wallace to Houston
While this baseball news item didn't generate nearly the publicity of the Sox' victory in the bidding war for Diasuke Matsuzaka's rights, former Boston pitcher coach Dave Wallace's name popped up.
The veteran baseball man was named the new pitching coach for the Houston Astros.
Wallace had been fired after the 2006 season, let go after he doggedly worked himself back to the field after a serious hip infection and ultimately a hip replacement. Wallace was replaced by John Farrell.
The Astros were concerned that their young pitchers weren't progressing enough the last few years under former pitching coach Jim Hickey.
If they listen to Wallace, their learning curve will be accelerated. Wallace knows a lot about baseball in general, and about pitching in particular.
Obviously, no pitching coach throws the ball. His influence on a staff or on any individual pitcher is tough to evaluate.
But this was a good hire by the Astros. They got a solid baseball man in Dave Wallace.
-- Steven Krasner
Posted by Steven Krasner at 2:14 PM | Permalink
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A Yen for Japanese Pitching Help
As everyone is well aware, the Red Sox won the opportunity to sign star Japanese pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka, shipping $51.1 million to the Seibu Lions for the rights to dicker with the 26-year-old right-hander and his hard-to-please agent Scott Boras for Matsuzaka's services in Boston.
The two sides have 30 days in which to reach an agreement on a deal. If no deal is struck, the Sox get their $51.1 million back and Matsuzaka must return to pitch for Seibu in 2007.
This is a bold and expensive move by Boston, considering Boras likely will be seeking around $12 million per year (he'd probably want a shorter deal, say three years, so Matsuzaka could be a free agent at the age of 29; the Sox would like a longer deal to protect their considerable investment).
But the situation begs several questions.
Questions that begin with dollar signs.
Where did all this money come from that the Red Sox are throwing around for one player, albeit a pitcher with a solid Japanese pedigree, an array of pitches and youth on his side?
Could it be that Boston will have money freed up by shipping away Manny Ramirez and the $40 million he is owed over the final two years of his contract? The Sox also will be out from under Curt Schilling's contract (he's owed roughly $15 million in 2007) after this season.
Are the Sox expecting to get back much of the money sent to Seibu because of the considerable marketing opportunities in Japan Matsuzaka's would present for the franchise? This very easily could be the case, with telecasts of his starts, Red Sox apparel, etc., turning Japan, which has been a Far East revenue stream for the Yankees recently, into an American League East Boston-New York marketing showdown.
Certainly, the addition of Matsuzaka makes the Sox' staff much stronger -- on paper. But can he handle the pressure of pitching in Boston? Will the Japanese media horde that will deluge him start after start affect him? Has he thrown so many innings in Japan that his 26-year-old arm is more like a 30-plus-year-old arm? Will he be able to adjust to pitching in a five-man rotation instead of the six-man rotation he had in Japan?
All good questions, but questions that can't be answered until he suits up for the Sox.
In the meantime, the Sox hold the rights to arguably the best pitcher available this offseason, even better than Barry Zito and Jason Schmidt if scouting reports from Japan are accurate.
Maybe the Sox, desperate to turn the page from the disappointing 2006 season, over-spent to acquire those rights.
There's no guarantee Matsuzaka will pitch for Boston, but the odds are good he will be in a Red Sox uniform in 2007 because while Boras is a tough negotiator, these are contract talks that have to come to fruition.
The Sox need this deal to be struck. Matsuzaka needs this deal to be struck because he doesn't want to go back to play for Seibu.
It will get done. And while the Yankees thought they were all set in the pitching department in the past after signing Hideki Irabu and Jose Contreras, two high-profile and expensive busts in New York, Matsuzaka's addition can only be viewed as a huge step in the right direction for the Sox at this point.
-- Steven Krasner
Posted by Steven Krasner at 1:45 PM | Permalink
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Matsuzaka "relieved" to hear Red Sox won the bidding
NARITA, Japan — Japanese pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka was “relieved” to hear the Boston Red Sox had won the bidding battle to negotiate a $51.1 million offer for him to play in the major leagues.
“I was very surprised when I heard the figure,” the 26-year-old said Wednesday before flying to the United States. “It shows that they really appreciate my ability. I know there will be a lot of pressure, but that’s something I’m used to and something I enjoy.”
The right-hander has a 108-60 career record with a 2.95 ERA and 1,355 strikeouts in 204 games.
Matsuzaka said he looked forward to seeing Boston, though he stressed that he hasn’t signed a contract so “it’s not as though I’m on the team yet. The Red Sox are a team that has a long history, great fans and a great atmosphere.”
Represented by agent Scott Boras, Matsuzaka has 30 days to negotiate a contract with the Red Sox. If he doesn’t agree to a contract, the bid will not be paid.
Matsuzaka impressed major league scouts when he helped Japan win the inaugural World Baseball Classic title last March.
Hidekazu Ota, acting owner of Matsuzaka’s Seibu Lions of Japan’s Pacific League, announced the bid earlier Wednesday.
“I want Daisuke to realize his dreams of playing in the major leagues,” Ota said. “He is a treasure in Japan and we are very pleased that the best possible evaluation has been made for him.”
The Yankees, New York Mets, Chicago Cubs and Texas Rangers were thought to be among the unsuccessful bidders.
Matsuzaka, MVP of the World Baseball Classic, was 17-5 with a 2.13 ERA and 200 strikeouts for the Lions this year. He throws in the high-90s mph, has good off-speed pitches and is known for his deceptive “gyroball.”
He has long been considered one of the brightest prospects in Japanese professional baseball.
In his eight-year career in Japan, Matsuzaka led the Pacific League in wins three times and in strikeouts four times and captured the ERA title twice. He also won the Sawamura Award, Japan’s version of the Cy Young award.
-- ASSOCIATED PRESS
Posted by Art at 10:11 AM | Permalink
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