Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Daisuke: Japanese for "Expensive Hope"

Mr. Matsuzaka? Welcome to hell, brother. For the next three or more years, every move you make, every bloop single you allow, every time you shake off Captain ‘Tek, every time allow a two-run single, Boston will be watching with crossed arms and cross statements. The town that chose you knows about failed free agents and misallocated capital. They’ve lived through the Carl Everett era, the Clemens debacle, the Fisk mismanagement, etc, etc, etc. Red Sox fans have seen what happens when promise doesn’t translate from dollars to sense. I’m hoping this won’t be the case, but be prepared for that argument, Mr. Matsuzaka. Be prepared for a million other arguments as well.

A primer, if you will: it’s not so much the clubhouse or the expectations of the front office. They’ve invested (and will be investing) quite a bit into your pitching, to be sure. It’s not so much the media—they’re happy to have new fodder, sure, but they’re just talking heads that would be angry about anything. No, it’s the fans—the hulking mass of humanity that expect their number 9 hitter to have the same average as their cleanup hitter. It’s that rabid fan base that operates roughly thirty billion sports blogs and message boards who have already extensively analyzed your pitches, calculated your efficiency and debated the merits of your pitch counts.

The money the Red Sox are willing to spend seems exorbitant for an unproven commodity. At twenty-five/twenty-six you will have to pitch in sport’s most overblown rivalry, pitch in the hardest league in baseball, and be expected to live up to the truckload of money left at your proverbial doorstep. Thankfully, we have a plan for you, Mr. Matsuzaka. This 3 step plan will ensure your sanity. It will bring you the success that other failed free agents and big risk names never had in Boston.

Step One: Completely ignore what everyone is saying.

Use the “I don’t speak any English” routine. Say you left your translator in your other pants. Run if you have to. Just don’t listen. Don’t read the papers. Stay away from the internet. Stay indoors if possible. Destroy your television. Pull a Manny/Pedro and don’t allow the press to speak to you. Francona will cover you. If he can be Manny’s Mouthpiece for three years, he can certainly do that for you as well.

Certain people adapt to the Boston atmosphere. We think that most of them are level-headed enough to take criticism, are bat shit crazy or they are completely brain dead. In either event, commentary (on every single part of their lives) washes over them. Some recent examples included Trot Nixon—level headed, Johnny Damon—brain dead, and Pedro Martinez—bat shit crazy. Even in these cases, though the press eats out of their hands when they did speak, only one of them really wanted to stay in Boston and he is currently being replaced by either Wily Mo Pena (a train wreck of a fielder) or JD Drew (a train wreck of a human). The criticisms will come. They will come early and often in your MLB career. With the right amount of causal indifference and stubbornness—the perfect mixture of brain-dead, level-headed bat shit crazy—you can ignore it all. It’s called survival.

Step Two: Always have dirt on your uniform and/or a disgusting ball cap.

Boston fans like this sort of thing. I call it the Mike Timlin corollary. You see, hustle is the only thing Sox fans say they want. You want to wow the fans right away? Walk out looking like you haven’t taken a shower in about a year. They LOVE that shit.

Step Three: Win every single game you pitch for the next three or four years, win some World Series, three Cy Young awards and be the first to win thirty games in a season since Denny McLain in 1968.

This best case scenario is what I hope you’ll do. This way, I’ll feel justified in my favorite sports team spending an entire payroll for the rights to talk to you in a businesslike manner. You see, Mr. Matsuzaka, the typical Boston fan is proud of three things: 2004, the fact that they continually stay below the Yanks in payroll, and that they are smarter than the average fan. While the latter is completely ridiculous, if you falsify the second statement, the argument for evil completely changes. The Yanks are the free-spending juggernaut while the Sox are the underdog with “smart money” (though second in MLB payroll is, admittedly, hardly room for complaint). Reversing this gives us no reason to lose, and if there are two things the Red Sox have been adept at in their years, it’s losing and complaining about the Yanks’ formidable payroll. Now that the Front Office is willing to drop $100 million on one player, you’ll have some pretty lofty expectations behind you.

The only way to meet those expectations is to absolutely shatter them. Win all the time. Never lose. Be the first Red Sox pitcher to win MVP since Clemens. Be the first Cy Young Winner since Pedro. Get the gold glove Alex Gonzales and Mike Lowell deserved. Be the first since Nomar to be Rookie of the Year (stupid Verlander). Be the pitcher that $100 million makes you.

Otherwise, you’ve left a fan base with too much interest and too much anger with too much to talk about. As a Red Sox fan, I hope you live up to the hype/money. If you do, then I will be happy to have witnessed this debacle. If not—it’s like I said before: welcome to hell, Daisuke.

1 comment:

joey said...

Steps 1 & 2 are also useful advice to anyone hoping to become a day laborer.