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Some serious anti-Daisuke Matsuzaka vitriol. But why do the Red Sox get a free pass?

May 25, 2011, 11:00 AM EDT

Daisuke Matsuzaka

Yahoo!’s Jeff Passan has a column up today covering the life and times of Daisuke Matsuzaka, who may have thrown his last pitch for the Boston Red Sox.  Passan does not exactly sugarcoat things.

He says that, in Matsuzaka, the Red Sox expected an ace, but rather, “got an ACE: Another Chubby Easterner, Hideki Irabu 2.0, a disappointment, a waste of money. A bust.”  He says that, while Dice-K’s arm has been hurt, his middle finger seems to be just fine because he has raised it figuratively at the organization for years.  He goes on to quote sources, presumably with the Red Sox, who call Matsuzaka “stubborn,” “pigheaded” and “lazy”  and who says that the Sox are “tired of his act.” It’s a piece that needs to be read in its entirety to be appreciated.

Passan is certainly not out on an island with this criticism. I personally find nothing less enjoyable to watch in baseball than Dice-K when he’s nibbling, and a ton of Red Sox fans feel that way too.  Still, I think the stuff thrown at him over the years is overdone and disproportionate.

There are a lot of miserable-to-watch pitchers who failed to meet expectations.  How much of what we hear about Matsuzaka is fair and how much of it is the result of blowback from the Red Sox front office, embarrassed and angry at how monstrous a miscalculation they made in the first place?  Isn’t a player’s bad attitude and bad habits the kind of thing that should be evaluated before the check is cut?  In criticizing Matsuzaka for those shortcomings, shouldn’t we criticize Theo Epstein and his talent evaluators as well?

You always hear about how bad Dice-K is. And that’s fair as far as it goes. But you rarely hear the Red Sox criticized for their hundred million dollar blunder.  In this case, I think there’s room for a more evenhanded allocation of vitriol.

  1. Chris Fiorentino - May 25, 2011 at 11:05 AM

    Craig, I think that if Dice-K had totally sucked every minute since they signed him, the Red Sox would be criticized more. But I think that they were probably right about his talent, as he has displayed at (very short but VERY sweet) times throughout his Red Sox career. What they were wrong about is what they have obviously leaked to the media…he is stubborn, and pig-headed and lazy. I think what they are saying is that if he weren’t stubborn, and pig-headed and lazy, he would be much more like the guy who throws 90 pitch one-hit shutouts and less like the guy who walks 5 and throws 110 pitches in 5 innings.

    • mjaugelli - May 25, 2011 at 12:09 PM

      At least Kei Igawa has been able to stay healthy, albeit in AAA

      For some reason I always find myself comparing the careers of those two….

      • pellypell - May 25, 2011 at 2:23 PM

        Next thing you’re going to tell me is “they all look the same to me”

  2. cur68 - May 25, 2011 at 11:12 AM

    This falls into the category of once bitten twice shy.

    Remember last year they pretty much stalked Crawford like a jealous ex-girlfriend before signing him? Probably wanted to make sure he wasn’t a “stubborn,” “pigheaded” and “lazy” ballplayer. They had enough of those on the team already.

    Ahhh, Dice K; you just aint scrappy, dude. Not scrappy at all…

    • professorperry - May 25, 2011 at 12:17 PM

      I was thinking about the Crawford stalking too.

  3. kmgannon - May 25, 2011 at 11:13 AM

    I can see the Sox’s criticisms, but (and this is a very big but)–no one put a gun to their head and forced them to cut a check for $50 million just to negotiate with him, much less the additional millions they guaranteed to him. Yes, he was talented, but if these attitude problems are so obvious now, where was the due diligence back then?

    Boston fans should be thankful their payroll can absorb such a monstrous miscalculation–there are 25 teams in baseball who would be set back 4-6 years from this type of mistake.

  4. mornelithe - May 25, 2011 at 11:23 AM

    The only honorable thing for Matsuzaka to do, is commit Seppuku.

    • b7p19 - May 25, 2011 at 11:49 AM

      It’s called Sudoku. Surprised you didn’t know that…

      • pellypell - May 25, 2011 at 11:56 AM

        True, this is all a numbers game after all.

    • mornelithe - May 25, 2011 at 4:51 PM

      @ B7p19:

      It’s Seppuku, ritualistic suicide, typically over reasons of honor. In this case, being one of the highest paid athletes on the Sox, and performing probably far away the worst. I’m not sure how he sleeps at night, though, I’m sure the bed of money certainly helps in that regard lol.

      • aaronmoreno - May 25, 2011 at 6:00 PM

        Swing and a miss!

      • raysfan1 - May 25, 2011 at 7:06 PM

        When faced with an obvious malapropism on this site, like B7’s, one ought to stop and realize it’s likely a joke.

  5. dsmaxsucks - May 25, 2011 at 11:25 AM

    Nice of Passan to point out he’s an “easterner”. How very exotic. Not a lot of fat Western dudes on the Sox. Oh yeah, what’s Youkilis hitting this year? Weren’t Manny and Ortiz fat when they won the titles? When was the last time Lackey saw a scale?

    • mornelithe - May 25, 2011 at 11:28 AM

      I’m gonna go out on a limb and say that Youkilis is batting better than Matsuzaka.

    • heynerdlinger - May 25, 2011 at 11:34 AM

      Youkilis is currently hitting .275/.408/.529

    • rebarratige - May 25, 2011 at 11:40 AM

      “Oh yeah, what’s Youkilis hitting this year?”

      Um, .275. Top five in the AL in OBP, top ten in slugging, good for a .938 OPS (156 OPS+). You were saying? Something about him being fat?

      • JBerardi - May 25, 2011 at 6:58 PM

        Not to mention that Youk’s entire four year deal is worth ten million less than Matsuzaka’s posting fee alone. Also, Youkilis has been the best player on the team three years running.

        What were we talking about, again?

    • paulie102704 - May 25, 2011 at 12:22 PM

      Wow way to dig deep and look at Youkilis’ average. he is a top 5 hitter in the AL so far this year….your hatred of the Red Sox is unwarranted. Keep bringing the hard hitting analysis though.

  6. deathmonkey41 - May 25, 2011 at 11:29 AM

    The Red Sox don’t get crticized because EPSN is their personal propaganda machine.

    • mornelithe - May 25, 2011 at 11:30 AM

      Nah, that’s NESN, ESPN is definitely more favorabe to NY.

      • pellypell - May 25, 2011 at 11:41 AM

        I can’t imagine why a sports network with the name New England Sports Network would heavily favor the Sox. Especially when the Red Sox are a co-founder and the majority owner (80%) of NESN.

      • deathmonkey41 - May 25, 2011 at 11:44 AM

        EPSN is based out of Bristol. CT. They hype up all the Boston area teams. And then there’s also that really disturbing mancrush that Chris Berman has on Tom Brady.

      • mornelithe - May 25, 2011 at 11:45 AM

        Then your imagination is pretty weak, because I think you just spelled it out right there.

      • pellypell - May 25, 2011 at 11:48 AM

        Wow, right over your head. Next time, I shall add “SARCASM” to the end of my post.

      • mornelithe - May 25, 2011 at 4:53 PM

        Go for it, next time I’ll completely ignore it like i did here. Easy way to make sarcasm ineffectual is to ignore its existence.

    • kellyb9 - May 25, 2011 at 12:31 PM

      Funny… i’ve always thought of ESPN as ESPNY. I think I speak for the rest of this site when I say ESPN gives both these teams way too much airtime.

      • Utley's Hair - May 25, 2011 at 2:35 PM

        That’s just a misconception that anybody but Yanker and BooSux fans have.

      • royalsfaninfargo - May 25, 2011 at 4:11 PM


      • royalsfaninfargo - May 25, 2011 at 4:12 PM

        with kellyb9

  7. pellypell - May 25, 2011 at 11:33 AM

    The Sox paid 100 million for a pitch that doesn’t exist. I remember watching his first few starts and thinking to myself, “was that the gyro ball? was that the gyro ball?” “RELEASE THE GYRO BALL, DAMNIT!!!”

    • patsandsox - May 25, 2011 at 2:04 PM

      No gyro ball but he does have some benwa balls I hear

      • pisano - May 25, 2011 at 8:13 PM

        Dice-k doesn’t have any balls at all.

  8. uyf1950 - May 25, 2011 at 11:48 AM

    Craig, actually that column appeared yesterday on Yahoo.

  9. randomdigits - May 25, 2011 at 11:50 AM

    Folks want to see a bit more of Lackey before they decide if Dice-K was the biggest free agent signing bust in Red Sox history.

    • pellypell - May 25, 2011 at 11:54 AM

      I think we can cut Lackey some slack right now. If my wife were battling for her life(breast cancer), I would have a hell of a time focusing at work. As a matter of fact, I would probably walk away to spend every waking moment by her side.

  10. Joe - May 25, 2011 at 12:30 PM

    There’s plenty of criticism of Theo all over New England radio stations, with regard to Matsuzaka, Drew, Lackey, Lugo, Renteria, (the failure to retain, after 2004) Orlando Cabrera, etc.

    • bobwsc - May 25, 2011 at 1:35 PM

      totally justified. he should be credited with rebuilding their farm system, but his pro scouting is bad. he got lucky with Ortiz and Bill Mueller, then whiffed on the players you mentioned. look at the trickle down of not re-signing Cabrera: they sign Renteria, then pay $7.5 million to get the Braves to take him; then they compound that error by signing Lugo for 4 years / $40 million – of which they ate about $14 million after releasing and ultimately trading him to St. Louis for a bag of balls. then the one and done fill in route up to the Scutaro / Lowrie era (Alex Gonzalez, Nick Green, etc). his shine has worn off.

      • Ace - May 25, 2011 at 2:06 PM

        Why is he lucky when a signing works out well, and incompetent when it doesn’t? I notice you omitted the fact the Red Sox, you know, won the World Series in the midst of all that SS shuffling. And please, can we stop calling the Drew signing a bust? He’s actually been among the very best right fielders in baseball over the last 5 years:

    • baseballstars - May 25, 2011 at 6:28 PM

      Remember when the rash of signings they did last year were supposed to help them win, and it was justified via sabermetrics?

  11. marshmallowsnake - May 25, 2011 at 1:26 PM

    Craig, you need to talk to more Red Sox fans…the majority that I know have been critical of Epstein since day one. He is not the boy wonder that people paint him to be. He has far more misses than hits when it comes to major signings (Lackey, Dice-K, Crawford – although his contract is young, but way overpriced, and so on…).

    In the fans eyes, they are not getting a free pass.

    • Joe - May 25, 2011 at 2:08 PM

      I don’t understand why Red Sox fans always bring up how much a guy is paid. The Sox are second only to the Yankees in their ability to pay salaries – so if they “overpay” to sign a Carl Crawford, so be it. Never once have I heard the suggestion that they didn’t sign a player because they couldn’t afford to do so. They’ve passed on players because they didn’t think they would be worth the cost to resign them (Pedro, Damon, Bay, Lowe), but that’s usually been the right call.

      Crawford is 50 games into a seven-year contract (and 4-4 today), so yeah, it’s probably too early to call his signing a “miss.” It’s also too early to call Adrian Gonzalez a “hit,” but he’s looking as good as Crawford has looked bad. Heck, it’s too early to call Lackey a miss – unlikely to be worth the dollars, but he could turn out to be an asset over the life of the contract.

      There have been some bad years with the bullpen, and SS has been a problem (until now, where there is a fair amount of depth), but I think Theo has definitely had more impactful hits than misses over the year.

    • Ace - May 25, 2011 at 2:13 PM

      As a Sox fan myself, I have no beef with Theo. I find it very hard to complain when the Sox are competitive every season, usually make the playoffs, and have won two World Series championships under his watch. They’re also poised to capture the AL east lead any day now, and are, at this very moment, beating the holy hell out of the team with the best record in baseball. I try to remain mindful that we’re extremely fortunate fans, and should enjoy the ride for as long as it lasts.

      • marshmallowsnake - May 25, 2011 at 2:16 PM

        I agree 100%…I was just trying to point out that not everyone is giving the brass a free pass. I think they know what they are doing, and I am not qualified to be critical, but I still think they have made some bad moves with free agents…but what were the alternatives?

  12. baseballisboring - May 25, 2011 at 3:51 PM

    People seem to forget just how dominant Dice-K was before he came to the Sox. The year before he came here I think he had like a 2.03 ERA in Japan and he was THE guy. I have a hard time believing Theo didn’t do his due diligence on him, but you don’t get criticized as much when you’re pitching well.

    • baseballisboring - May 25, 2011 at 4:15 PM

      Plus he probably never really had to resist his coaches. Whatever ludicrous workout program he did over there was probably made by them…so he got used to it, then started getting stubborn when the Sox tried to change it. Hindsight is always 20/20…it was a serious risk and it didn’t work out. But what if it had? This guy was a legitimate icon before he came here.

  13. Cyn - May 26, 2011 at 8:23 AM

    As a Red Sox fan, because I know the team has money to spend, I try not to get caught up in how much the players are getting paid. Team can afford it, so who cares? Since he’s been with the Red Sox, Daisuke gave the team two good years (’07 was an adjustment and the season he pitched the most innings but he wasn’t a complete bust and in ’08 he was in the running for Cy Young), an injury shortened season in ’09 and the painful season in ’10. I don’t ever remember him being touted as the new “Ace” for the Red Sox, just a good pitcher the Sox really wanted. And there was no one who seriously believed he threw a gyroball, so that’s just ridiculous. As far as calling him ‘another chubby easterner”‘ and comparing him to Hideki Irabu, well, it’s nice that Passan is so comfortable sharing his prejudices with us.

    I’m not a fan of the front office leaking things to the press but in this case given that the guy has left the country without any explanation and has, essentially, run away from his commitments, this time it isn’t really bothering me as much.

    He helped the team win another championship in 2007 and he was a big reason they were never out of it all season in 2008, so I have no hard feelings. But if it’s time to let go, be done with it and let go.

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