Today we wish a very Happy Birthday to former Red Sox pitcher, and international sensation, Daisuke Matsuzaka!
Very few players in the history of the Red Sox, or baseball, or any sport ever, have arrived with the sort of fanfare and expectations that Daisuke joined the Red Sox with. Dice-K was a superstar in Japan, but that was putting it lightly. If you were born in Japan in the same academic year as Daisuke was, you’re considered to be in the “Matsuzaka Generation”. It’s like the Red Sox signing “X”. His spring training starts were covered better than some World Series games. He actually had to announce which type of pitch he would throw as his first pitch. That’s coverage!
So, it’s not surprising that he was considered to have had an underwhelming career in Boston. Sure, he won 15 games in his rookie season, and helped bring the Sox to the 2007 World Series Championship. Sure, he went 18-3 the following year with a 2.90 ERA. (Seriously, did you remember he did that?) He was supposed to come over and use his gyro-ball to strike out every batter he faced. Because he didn’t, he was doomed.
People were also frustrated by him. He was a nibbler. He put a lot of guys on base. He walked the bases loaded more times than people want to remember. I don’t know why. It’s possible he couldn’t control the MLB bass as well as the one in Japan. Maybe he could nibble in Japan more because the Legend got all the strike calls. Or, maybe it was all calculated. He always threw a TON of pitches in Japan. Maybe he was used to pitching carefully to the dangerous guys and then just striking out the less dangerous ones. Maybe he was using the same strategy that Bill Belichick might use. Sure, I’ll walk the bases loaded, because I know I can strike out the next three. But, in MLB, the pitch counts caught up to him. When he was going five innings a start to keep the counts down, he wasn’t very helpful to the Sox.
But, I for one enjoyed his time with the Sox. I got to see him pitch live five times, and feel lucky to have done so.
Plus, the guy drove in a run during a World Series the Sox won. How can you not love that?
Happy 36th Daisuke Matsuzaka!