Saturday, March 3, 2007


Yesterday Japanese pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka made his spring debut for the Boston Red Sox in a 9-1 victory over Boston College. After giving up a double down the left-field line on a first-pitch fastball to Eagles leadoff man Johnny Ayers, he settled down and threw two scoreless innings with three strikeouts. It's hard to say, of course, how much this means, since this was probably like me pitching against a Little League team (if I could throw a fastball, changeup, curveball, slider, cutter, forkball and shuuto, all with pinpoint control, that is). Nevertheless, Dice-K mania will surely grow as the regular season approaches and as he prepares to claim the #3 slot in the Red Sox starting rotation.

I have some advice for Mr. Matsuzaka. We Red Sox fans see big-name pitchers come and go. Some succeed (Pedro Martinez, Curt Schilling), while others flop (Heathcliff Slocumb, Matt Young). Fans in Boston can turn against a player quickly. But we tend to be forgiving of players who -- even if they are overpaid -- do their best, go about their business professionally, and "leave it all on the field," as the expression goes. We know, for instance, that our third baseman, Mike Lowell, is overpaid. But we love his defense, his professionalism, and his occasional clutch double off the Green Monster. We like Tim Wakefield, even though we know he'll never be more than a #4 starter and will never throw a fastball over 78 miles per hour. In short, we know baseball, and we know the difference between professionals and charlatans. So hang in there. In Japanese, Mr. Matsuzaka, that's 松坂さんは頑張ってください. Matsuzaka-san wa ganbatte kudasai. Do your best, Matsuzaka-san. And when things go badly -- as they inevitably will at some point -- try to refrain from destroying toilets in the team clubhouse (Jack Clark), or flipping the bird to the fans in the right-field bleachers (Byung-Hyun Kim).

Of course, there will be tremendous pressure. And when people catch on to what the kanji characters in your name (松坂大輔) actually mean -- something like "great savior on pine tree hill" -- the legend will only grow. So go for it. Keep at it. Ganbatte kudasai.

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