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Tag:New York Yankees
Posted on: March 30, 2010 8:50 pm
 

The End All for 2010 MLB Predictions

With the start of the baseball season less than one week away (yes, a week , with Red Sox vs. Yankees on Sunday Night Baseball), it means only thing: it is time to dust off the magic eight-balls, look into the future and predict where the 30 teams will end up at the end of the season.

(I should point out that I won a pool last season in which we made predictions about the 2009 season before its start, and so needless to say, when I use the word "prediction" I am really meaning "cerifiable locks and spoilers" for the 2010 season.

Let's start with the American League East:
1. Boston Red Sox
2. New York Yankees
3. Tampa Bay Rays
4. Baltimore Orioles
5. Toronto Blue Jays

Comments:
Yes, I know the Yankees are defending champs, and they had a great 2009 season. But I am not impressed with the moves that they made to stay atop the best division in baseball. CBSSports.com has the Yankees, Sox, and Rays as the top three teams in baseball heading into Opening Day, and with those other teams, the Yankees needed to do better than Javier Vasquez and Curtis Granderson. Vasquez will disappoint again as he did during his first tour in New York (he's simply an N.L. pitcher) and Granderson has to fill the roles of three outfielders (Johnny Damon, Hideki Matsui, and Melky Cabrera - also with no Xavier Nady returning). As for the rest of the team, well this year simply makes them one year older. The Sox will indeed have enough offense to back the best all around pitching staff in baseball. The Rays remain essentially the same, but will get more from Pat Burrell and B.J. Upton. The Orioles have good, but raw, young talent (this will be Adam Jones' coming out party), enough to leapfrog the Blue Jays out of last place, who will be the designated whipping-boy of the mighty A.L. East.

A.L. Central
1. Minnesota Twins
2. Chicago White Sox
3. Detriot Tigers
4. Cleveland Indians
5. Kansas City Royals

Comments:
Traditionally a mediocre division, the Central is shapping up to be... well, mediocre, again . Last year, the Twins made a late run to win the division last season, and they have improved by adding players such as Orlando Hudson, and have enough to overcome the loss of closer Joe Nathan. (This only means that the Twins will not have to wait to the last day of the season to win the division with only 85 wins.) The White Sox have gotten better, with a very strong rotation headed by Mark Buerhle and Jake Peavy. But their success is not automatic, with Buerhle falling off after his perfect game, and Peavy struggling from injuries recently, and offensively, they will be forced to rely on busts (Alex Rios), aging veterans (Paul Konerko, Andruw Jones) and still developing youngsters (Gordon Beckam, Alexei Ramirez) to fill in around Carlos Quentin. Detriot remains a couple of starters away from the playoffs, while Cleveland and Kansas City will compete for "quickest A.L. team to 100 losses."

A.L. West
1. Seattle Mariners
2. Texas Rangers
3. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
4. Oakland Athletics

Comments:
Possibly the most interesting and exciting division in baseball in 2010. The Mariners stand as one of the most improved teams in all of baseball, adding Cliff Lee, Chone Figgins and Casey Kotchman. The Lee-Felix Hernandez 1-2 punch is one of the best in baseball. The Rangers also figure to be stronger, with ample pitching and an always impressive offense. But, perhaps most importantly for the Mariners and Rangers is what is absent from the Angels, long the dominant team in this division. They lost depth everywhere, but remain the same fundamental team of the small ball philosophy, which can always prove to be difficult to play against in September. They have a decent lineup, but no power outside of Kendry Morales, and Matsui and Joel Piniero were not the solutions to the holes in the lineup and rotation left by Figgins and John Lackey, and their bullpen also remains an issue. As for Oakland, not all is as bad as it seems. They have serious young pitching depth and a their first real base-stealer/leadoff hitter since Rickey Henderson in Rajai Davis. They, like the Orioles, are definitely moving in the right direction, but luckily for the Athletics they play in sunny California in the now suddenly wide-open A.L. West, which could start to attract a free-agent bat or two.

A.L. Wild Card:
New York Yankees

Is there any chance that the Wild Card will come out of any division besides the A.L. East in the forseeable future? I really cannot envision a situation where that would come about. Although the Rangers and White Sox may be worthy of post-season play, there is no way that two teams from the Central or West will win more games than either the Sox, Yankees, or Rays. Whoever wins the East should do so with around 100 wins, where the second place team will likely have at least 95, and that is just too many games for anyone else to keep pace.

ALDS Matchups:
Red Sox vs. Twins              
Mariners vs. Yankees

These teams matchup well with each other, but it comes down to the Red Sox and Yankees having more talent in the bottom half of their roster. The Twins do not have the depth in the rotation to hang with Boston, and the Yankees overpowering style of offense will lead to another ALCS rivalry.

Result: Red Sox, Yankees, both in 4

ALCS Matchup

Red Sox vs. Yankees

The two best teams in the A.L. will feature two of the best rotations in baseball. The Yankees have the advantage on the offensive side, but the Red Sox have the pitching depth. The Yankees would likely have to use CC Sabathia twice in the ALDS, while the Sox can afford to only use their starters once, which means that the Beckett/Lackey/Lester order is preserved for this series. The Sox bullpen is also stronger, as is their bench.

Result: Red Sox in 6

N.L. previews coming soon.
Posted on: December 30, 2009 12:42 pm
 

In a Less Than Desirable Situation, Mets Sign Bay

Jason Bay agreed in principle to a four year, $66 million contract with the New York Mets on Tuesday, officially ending his season-and-a-half stint with the Boston Red Sox.

 While GM Theo Epstein never explicitly stated that the Sox were out of the bidding war with Bay, the writing was on the wall. Epstein signed veteran outfielder Mike Cameron to a two-year deal, and used the money that would have gone to a long-term deal with Bay to sign right-hander John Lackey.

The Bay signing has wide-ranging implications for several clubs, but the actual move should raise some perplexing questions. Of the free agent hitters available at the beginning of this off-season, Bay was second best behind Matt Holliday. Bay wanted to stay in Boston and the Red Sox hoped to keep him. But Bay insisted on the prospect of a fifth year of any type of contract, and the Sox remained resolute against it. When the Mets came calling with a similar four-year deal to what the Sox were offering plus a vested option for a fifth, Bay accepted the deal that he had been looking for.

But once the Sox had signed Cameron and Lackey, they were effectively out of the discussions for Bay. The Sox are less than $10 million away from the luxury tax limit for the 2010 season, and re-signing Bay would have put them over that limit. The St. Louis Cardinals have focused solely on re-signing Holliday, thus removing one potential buyer for Bay. The Angels, Mariners and Yankees also went after other players and dropped out from the Bay sweepstakes as well.

In the end, it appears as though the Mets were bidding against themselves. Due to a rash of injuries last season that sidelined seemingly the better half of their lineup for extended amounts of time, the Mets were in desperate need of a power-hitting outfielder, and it showed in the negotiations with Bay.

One of the biggest snag-ups about Bay was his defense, which often went unnoticed in the strange dimensions of Fenway Park. With no designated hitter in the N.L., Bay will have to play the outfield until he is 35 or 36, a prospect that deterred the Sox, especially for $16 million a year. Bay also displayed an unfortunate inability to connect on off-speed pitches and was prone to very cold slumps.

The Mets’ new CitiField is quickly becoming known as a right-handed hitters nightmare. Just ask David Wright: his home run total dropped from 33 in 2008 (the last year in Shea Stadium) to 10 at the new CitiField. Bay has spent most of his career in the N.L., so there should not be a terrible layover while he tries to become acclimated with new ballparks and pitchers, but the Mets would be foolish to expect a home run total in the high 30s from Bay.

But at least the Mets got their man. For the Red Sox, the search is on for some spark in the middle of the lineup. They remain the number one buyers for third baseman Adrian Beltre, who is an excellent fielder with some offensive upside. But if Beltre is the answer, that means that Cameron and Florida Marlins cast-off Jeremy Hermida will patrol left field for the ’10 campaign. Combined with speedy Jacoby Ellsbury and the mediocre J.D. Drew, the Sox may field an outfield that has a legitimate shot to account for less than 30 home runs.

Other names are possibilities, such as ex-Yankee Xavier Nady, who would be a decent option in the outfield, but injuries limited him to only seven games in 2009. If the Sox were unwilling to go after Bay, they will definitely stay clear of Holliday, which means that any other move would have to come via a trade. And if the Sox were unwilling to unload the farm system to acquire Roy Halladay, then the same can likely be said for the PadresAdrian Gonzalez.
Posted on: December 14, 2009 7:04 pm
Edited on: December 14, 2009 7:06 pm
 

Big Day of Baseball Means Big News for Sox

Phew!

Baseball is recovering from the biggest day of this off-season thus far. The Boston Red Sox were at the middle of a lot of the day’s news, even if they were not involved with the biggest name.
 
The Sox were considered the top bidders in the Roy Halladay sweepstakes and that the GM’s winter meetings came and went with Halladay still donning the baby-blue uniforms came to some insiders as a surprise. When Curtis Granderson went to the New York Yankees in a three-team trade last week, many thought that that removed one a top competitors, as the Yankees gave up two young pitchers and a top prospect to land their new centerfielder.
 
But the Sox did not swing a deal for Halladay as the asking price was ultimately too high. The Philadelphia Phillies made the big splash, acquiring the high priced right-hander in yet another three-team deal that is reportedly sending Cliff Lee to the Seattle Mariners .
 
The Sox were however able to land a very valuable right-hander in John Lackey. Lackey came to Boston to undergo a physical and it was reported hours alter that he had agreed to a five-year contract.
 
The terms of the deal were not disclosed, but it is believed it is similar to the contract given but the Yankees to A.J. Burnett , who received $82.5 million over five years (16.5 per year). Both pitchers have had similar success, but Lackey is younger and has been more consistent over his career.
 
Lackey has put together five straight seasons with at least 10 wins and a sub-4.00 ERA, which is tied with Halladay for the second longest active streak (Johan Santana ). Lackey also has solid post-season experience having played in October ball regularly with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Lackey owns a 3.12 ERA in 78 post-season innings pitched.
 
Lackey would begin the season as the Sox third starter behind Josh Beckett and Jon Lester . Daisuke Matsuzaka becomes the fourth starter, with Clay Buchholz and Tim Wakefield vying for the fifth spot.
 
The impact of Lackey’s signing is big for Boston. For several seasons, we have been able to say that the Sox possess a great deal of depth in the rotation. But when July comes around, injuries and trades combined with players that do not pan out (see Penny, Brad and Smoltz, John), the Sox have realized that solid starting pitching is a scarce commodity.
 
Behind the trio of Beckett-Lester-Lackey, the Sox have one of the elite rotations in baseball. And if Matsuzaka can return to the 2007-08 form when he won 33 games, and Buchholz can pitch the way he ended 2009, then the Sox have the best starting five in baseball.
 
The strength of the rotation and the siging of Lackey also takes some of the burden off of the offense, and indeed, the ability of Theo Epstein to sign a big-time hitter, which leads us to the other big news for Red Sox nation.
 
It was reported that Jason Bay has declined Boston’s most recent offer, believed to be around 4 years/$60 million. The New York Mets offered Bay $65 million over four years earlier this week, but were not considered real players to acquire Bay.
Bay is looking for five years, and it seems like whichever team is willing to invest that money in him will be where he lands.
 
Bay will be 31 years old next season, and a five year deal will mean that he is 36 in the final year of his contract, which is older than both David Ortiz and Mike Lowell , who is practically on the Texas Rangers roster as we speak.
 
The Sox foresee Bay having to move to designated hitter possibly as early as the third year of his next contract, which means that the Sox will be paying upwards of $15 million for yet another aging DH. An extra year means the Sox have to commit a significant amount of money to a very limited player, while home grown players like Lester, Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis all will be up for new long term deals by that time.
 
Bay’s agent has stated that he and his client are moving on from the Sox. Given Bay’s talents and his excellent power numbers last year, there will always be suitors. But the Yankees are likely off of that list after trading for Granderson, and the Mets will return several players from injury with an already swollen payroll.
 
Matt Holliday still remains available and he is likely the next target on Epstein’s list. Holliday would be a slight upgrade from Bay, but is represented by Scott Boras, so any contract will likely reflect it. Epstein has typically shied away from Boras-represented players (that he didn’t draft), but without Bay, there is a gapping hole in the Sox lineup.
 
The Sox also made a $15.5 million offer to Cuban right-hander Aroldis Chapman, considered to be the most prized foreign player. 

Chapman is 21-years-old and recently defected from Cuba. He is known for regularly recording triple digits on the radar gun with his blazing fastball.

Posted on: November 25, 2009 6:54 pm
 

Report: Halladay deal looming for Sox

The holiday season may be coming early for Red Sox Nation.

Or maybe, I should be saying: the Halladay season is coming early. The reports came out Tuesday from the New York Daily News that the Boston Red Sox were in strong pursuit of Toronto Blue Jays ace Roy Halladay. The Daliy News stated that the Sox were "in a full court press" to get a deal done by the start of the winter meetings of baseball's general managers, which is set to begin on December 7th.

ESPNBoston.com's Gordon Edes reported similar news today, but also stated that if trade talks started heating up between the Sox and Blue Jays, then they should expect other suitors to be close on the Sox's heels.

Typically teams pull off deals including players of Halladay's stature during the regular season, as GM's begin to loose sleep on the prospect of loosing their franchise player to free agency without any compensation. Once July rolls around, that's when the phone calls usually start being picked up.

But Halladay's situation is different. First of all, the Blue Jays fired their GM a few months ago. J.P. Ricciardi set the price tag extremely high for one of the game's best picture when last year's deadline came around and stuck to his guns and refused to back down. Naturally, given Halladay's eligibility for free agency following the 2010 season, teams were unwilling to unload the farm system for roughly 45 starts.

New Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos has a different mindset and different options. He could take a few seasons to revamp the team under a new outlook and new management. It should be clear to him, however, that it is extremely unlikly that Halladay will re-sign with the Blue Jays at any point. Any amount of money that Anthopoulos can offer will easily be matched or topped by the Red Sox and New York Yankees with a much better prospect of postseasons appearences.

It is likely that, given the fact that Halladay now has only one season before free agency,
Anthopoulos will be seeking less than what Ricciardi was looking for. If the Red Sox are the favorites in the sweepstakes right now, they should figure on being asked to trade Clay Buchholz and another top tier prospect. This is still a step price, but it is far from what Ricciardi was asking for, which was Buchholz, Daniel Bard, and two top tier prospects, one pitching and the other being an offensive player.

But, the Red Sox also are benefitting from the Yankees having won a World Series and already having two top tier starters. Of course, the Yankees will throw themselves in the mix to drive up the price for the Sox, but they will not be making a legitimate strong move for Halladay. Their minor league depth is not as strong as the Sox, and they would not give up what the Sox are going to without being in a position to re-sign him. That would add another $20 million plus to an already staggering payroll.

The Sox are of course no mean spenders, but their payroll was less than usual last year compared to teams such as the Detriot Tigers and New York Mets, both of whom missed out on the playoffs. Adding Halladay would give the Sox the best rotation in the A.L. East, and perhaps in all of baseball, behind Halladay, Josh Beckett and Jon Lester leading the way.

The Sox should put themselves in a position that the Mets did a few seasons ago with Johan Santana. Get your man but only if the long term contract is all but guaranteed. Knowing Theo Epstein, he will not part with long term projects like Buchholz unless he gets him man exactly how he wants him - no where near free agency.
Posted on: August 5, 2009 12:40 pm
 

Victor Martinez is a Catcher: So Let Him Catch

The moves that the Boston Red Sox made at last Friday’s trading deadline gives them flexibility to choose from an array of line-ups each night. As they are preparing for a four-game showdown with the New York Yankees this weekend, the playoff run is very clearly upon them.

Victor Martinez is listed on the Red Sox roster as a catcher, although he played at only five more games behind the plate than at first for the Cleveland Indians before being traded. Pitchers often have difficulty adjusting to a new battery-mate after a trade, but a catcher has to learn an entire pitching staff’s strengths and weaknesses, a daunting task this late in the season.

That said, it is clear that the Sox’ best offensive line-up has Martinez at catcher, Kevin Youkilis at first base and Mike Lowell at third. In two of his three games with the Sox, however, Martinez has started at first, with Youkilis moving over to third, Jason Varitek doing the catching and Lowell playing left bench.

Varitek is the premier signal-caller in baseball. I say that without reserve, but not in reference to his hitting ability, or defensive signals, and certainly not his throwing arm. But rather that Varitek handles an entire pitching staff better than any other catcher in baseball, and calls a game with similar success.

Defensively, a catcher-first-third combination of Martinez-Youkilis-Lowell is roughly par with an assemblage of Varitek-Martinez-Youkilis. Varitek is no longer a Gold Glove catcher, and Lowell’s mobility and range is significantly reduced due to his off-season hip surgery.

Offensively, there is no debate that Martinez sports better numbers that Varitek. Martinez is an elite hitter at the position of catcher, and has hit in third in the Sox line-up.

The problem is that with Varitek tabbed as the team’s number one catcher, and any team wants their best starting line-up on the field in the playoffs, Varitek gets the starts during a playoff series. But that forces Youkilis over to third, which keeps Lowell out of the line-up.

Sox fans need no reminder that Lowell was the 2007 World Series MVP. But with his stint on the disabled list and constant talk of his off-season hip surgery, it may come as a bit of a surprise that Lowell is fourth on the team in batting average with an even .300. He has 11 home runs and 53 RBIs in 80 games this season.

That is a pretty solid bat to sit, especially for someone who has shown a lot of success in the playoffs (He racked up 15 RBI during the ’07 playoffs). Varitek, meanwhile, is headed toward another season batting average in the .220s.

Manager Terry Francona thus far has done a great job in managing the Sox’ line-up so that he rotates players in and out so that players with nagging injuries, like Varitek and Lowell, get the rest they need. In the playoffs, Lowell’s bat has to be in the line-up in place of Varitek at least half the time.

The implication that has for the Sox now is that Martinez needs to start catching the Sox front line starters, particularly Josh Beckett and Jon Lester. Beckett and Lester would undoubtedly go 1-2 in a playoff series. To avoid having Lowell’s bat on the bench for two games in a row, Martinez needs to be familiar enough to handle them in a playoff series.

Many teams that have productive hitting catchers, like the Indians (before the trade) and the Yankees, often use their regular catchers at another position. That sometimes leaves the team vulnerable because it becomes more difficult to pinch hit or run for that player.

If the Sox open a playoff series with Martinez as their everyday catcher, and Varitek on the bench, it gives them their best shot at winning the series. I do not underestimate Varitek’s value to the pitching staff, but for a very experienced staff like the Red Sox, Beckett and Lester can be relied on to handle their start.

What Beckett and Lester cannot do, and nor can Varitek apparently, is hit their weight. The Sox traded for a productive hitter because they were struggling offensively. Varitek and pitching coach John Farrell can micromanage their starters from the dugout and not loose much from their pitching staff.

Lastly, I do not mean to keep Varitek out of the line-up completely. When Varitek does start, it gives the Sox two excellent pinch hitters in Lowell and Casey Kotchman. But the Sox are disadvantaging their team to have Varitek catch consecutive games at the expense of a much better offensive player like Martinez or Lowell.

Posted on: August 3, 2009 4:24 pm
 

The Statement MLB's Steroid Users Should've Given

Alex Rodriguez sat at a table at the New York Yankees spring training facility in Tampa, Florida eight days after he admitted to three years of steroid use and delivered a statement regarding his usage.

Rodriguez appeared uninterested during the recital of the statement he had prepared. His body language showed that he felt annoyed that he had to be there and such an ordeal was even necessary.

Rodriguez is not the only one. The majority of Manny Ramirez’s comments addressing his positive test earlier this season came from the supposedly grounding statements “I didn’t kill nobody. I didn’t rape nobody.”

It is clear that baseball players, especially the ones whose names appear on the now infamous list of 104 who tested positive in 2003, are surprised at the severity in which the fans and media are addressing the issue.

Players who have tested positive revolve the majority of their comments concerning their use around apologies to their teammates and fans, calling their actions mistakes that they wish that they did not make.

In reality, we know that they are saying those things because the media relations department of each club has told them to be apologetic and denounce their actions. But, since are opinions of these players is already significantly lessened, why not have them speak the truth for once?

Below is a sample statement that players who have tested positive should adhere to. It applies to Rodriguez, Ramirez, David Ortiz, or any other of the 104 names on the “anonymous” list.

“First, I would like to thank the fans, my teammates and the organization for their patience through this time. As you all know, I tested positive for a performance-enhancing drug during the 2003 season.

“It is no longer a surprise that steroids have had an impact on the game of baseball. Earlier this decade, dozens of players were using steroids and other substances that are today banned. Before 2003, there was no penalty for using drugs that would affect your performance on the field.

“I was caught up in the PED movement. Players who I knew were not as good as I was were suddenly outperforming me, all the way to newer and bigger contracts. As I investigated and was given information about this issue, the following became clear to me:

“The growing number of players who have used PEDs were doing so without recourse and no penalties. Because their numbers and production was better, they were rewarded. As a human being, I have an obligation to provide for my family as best as I can, and steroids helped me level the playing field.

“I am not proud of my actions, but I cannot entirely regret them. Let me be clear: steroids are exceptionally dangerous when used long term. The consequences can cost you much more than your playing career. I direct my comments here especially toward the young fans of baseball: Steroids are banned in baseball for a reason. It was wrong then, and remains wrong now.

“That said, try to put yourself in my shoes. No one knows that you are using, and there are no repercussions if you test positive. Again, I am not proud of my actions, but whenever a loophole exists, people will always take advantage of it.

“Since testing has begun, I have not used PEDs of any kind, as shown by my lack of positive tests. Testing in baseball has leveled the playing field, which is all that I was striving for from the beginning.”

All baseball fans are still waiting for an honest approach.

Posted on: July 30, 2009 9:52 pm
 

Papi's Biggest Moment was his Worst

The baseball world was already aware that Manny Ramirez was at least at one point in his career using performance-enhancing drugs thanks to his positive test at the beginning of this season.

The breaking news today came from a New York Times report that announced that fellow longtime Boston Red Sox David Ortiz was, along with Ramirez, on the list of 103 players that had tested positive for a banned substance during the 2003 season.

Surprised?

You shouldn’t be.

First, take into account the mathematical odds. There are 30 major league teams, each with a 25-man roster. That is 750 players. If we throw in even another five players per team that average significant enough time to be on the roster, that would give us roughly 900 players who were in the majors in 2003.

That means that one out of every nine players is on that list of being caught using PEDs, or about three per team. Some teams, no doubt, will have significantly more players on that list because of the environment in each clubhouse and the notable players that have already been identified as users: Baltimore Orioles, Texas Rangers, New York Yankees, San Fransisco Giants, Houston Astros, etc.

Throw the Boston Red Sox into that distinguished mix.

Second, and this is in no way to be interpreted as racially prejudicial or demeaning, there is clearly a seperate PEDs ring in the Dominican Republic. By that I mean that it seems that in the DR, it is much easier for individuals to obtain PEDs of varying nature.

Believe him or not, if anything that Alex Rodriguez said in his press conference addressing his usage was true, it was that he was a young kid who was able to get drugs that he had no idea what they were, except that it would make you stronger.

We have seen a trend that many of the top-level players who are caught using PEDs have a Dominican connection: Sammy Sosa, Miguel Tejada, Ramirez and now Ortiz, just to name a few.

Thirdly, and perhaps most obviously, was that Ortiz was a castaway from the Minnesota Twins – a player deemed too big, too slow and too one dimensional to play in the majors. That expendable piece of the Twins organization went on to hit 41, 47, 54 (franchise record) for the Red Sox during the ’04-06 seasons.

At the time, we did see a large, very strong left-handed hitter that reminded us of Jim Thome every time the ball jumped off of Ortiz’s bat. He was 28 in 2004, the first year he hit 40+ home runs in a season, which is right in the middle of the prime of a hitter’s career.

While we thoroughly enjoyed Ortiz’s best years in Boston, and the two World Series titles that he and Ramirez helped the Sox win, this is by far the biggest moment of Ortiz’s career in Boston.

Bigger than walk-offs against the Angels and Yankees in the 2004 play off series; bigger than the Red Sox single season home run record; bigger than solidifying himself as one of the best clutch hitters and best designated hitters in the history of the game.

David Ortiz replaced Nomar Garciaparra as everyone’s favorite Red Sox player. He was always outgoing, gregarious and accepting of the media. Even through his recent struggles, Ortiz forced a smile on his face. No one outside of New York (and perhaps a few other teams still looking for ball that he has launched over their fences) had a bad thing to say about him.

Until now.

Posted on: June 22, 2009 2:52 pm
 

Matsuzaka has a strain, just not in his shoulder

Daisuke Matsuzaka went on the disabled list Sunday with a mild strain in his pitching shoulder.

He should have gone on the DL with a mild (or major) brain-strain. Or maybe a strain in his $100 million contract. As in - the Red Sox are straining to cope with the fact that they have already forked over about $75 million for Matsuzaka and still owe him another $25 million.

Regardless of how Red Sox fans feel about him, Matsuzaka is one of the most interesting players in baseball. During the off-season prior to the 2007 season, Matsuzaka was very much alike the character portrayed in the "Dos Equis" as his reputation was expanding faster than the universe.

At 26, MVP of the World Baseball Classic, and the national hero of Japan, Matsuzaka really was the most interesting man in the world.

So the Sox ponied up $51 million for the rights to offer Matsuzaka a contract, and after a great deal of Theo Epstein and Co. finagling with uber-agent Scott Boras, not to mention massive amounts of (butt)-kissing to the Japanese media and public, and another $50 million later, the Sox got their man.

Although never obtaining completely smooth sailing, Matsuzaka enjoyed a great deal of success during his first two years in Boston. He finished fourth in Rookie of the Year voting in 2007 while winning 15 games and helping the Sox to their fourth World Series title in four years.

He followed that season up with a sparkling 18-3 record and a minuscule 2.90 ERA in 2008 which placed him fourth in the Cy Young balloting. Matsuzaka racked up more strikeouts (355) and a better winning percentage (.688) than any other starter during his first two seasons in the big leagues.

Everyone knew that a Matsuzaka start was never going to be as smooth or as dominant as a Josh Beckett start, one thing was apparent about Matsuzaka - he simply knew how to win games. Despite leading the league in walks, and only tossing five innings more than what is the minimum requirement to qualify for the ERA title, he lead the league in lowest opponent batting average and always got out of tough jams.

Unfortunately, the luck, or aura of Dice-K being Dice-K, finally wore out. If it were not for the Yankees Chien-Ming Wang, Matsuzaka would be the worst starter in the major leagues this season, with a 1-5 record and a 8.23 ERA.

So how has somebody who has, in his first two seasons, compiled a 33-15 record and a 3.72 ERA all of a sudden become the rest of the A.L.'s whipping boy?

While this article is not about the inevitable failure of import pitching, the answer to that question comes from major league coaches and catchers not being satisfied with having a Japanese pitcher throw Japanese starts in an American ballpark. They want Matsuzaka, who they feel has enough talent to be Beckett or Jon Lester, to start pitching like somebody who has been in the big leagues for 2+ seasons.

For anyone who has watched him pitch, particuarily this season, and compared those performances to the WBC, it is clear that Matsuzaka is scared of major league hitters. He is scared of giving up the big hit, or the home run, and for two seasons, his style was to pitch around hitters. After enduring this for two season, the Sox have made him start attacking hitters.

The only problem is, despite his success, Matsuzaka has no confindence in his pitches and the result is one meatball after another down the heart of the plate.

Matsuzaka does indeed have a strain, but it is north of his shoulder. The Sox are planning on keeping him from pitching in the big leagues for quite sometime, because even without him, they still have a logjam in the rotation. If he does not sort out the problems in his head, he may find himself pitching in a Japanese ballpark again.

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com