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Tag:Daisuke Matsuzaka
Posted on: May 17, 2011 2:18 am
 

Another Mother's Day Miracle

The Boston Red Sox again have won a game against Baltimore that should have been out of reach late in the game. It's not Mother's Day again, but it's the middle of May, so I'm willing to call it another Mother's Day Miracle. This one pales slightly in comparison, but it should definitely be a motivator for the players to continue to improve their play.
The players that were the same: Red Sox: Kevin Youkilis, David Ortiz, J.D. Drew, Jason Varitek; Orioles: Brian Roberts, Nick Markakis. So, the names have mostly changed, with of course a few exceptions. What else is different? And what else is the same?

Both games happened at Fenway Park; I'm sure this helped the Sox as the crowd was definitely going to get behind any rally, and Sox fans are relentless and willing to give their team every opportunity to win a game. They will stick around as long as it takes until there are three outs in the bottom of the ninth. It's a passion that had earned them serious heartache for 86 years until they finally won the World Series in 2004.

Gary Cederstrom and Lance Barksdale were umpires at both games; Cederstrom was at home plate and Barksdale was at second base on May 13, 2007. Cederstrom was on second base and Barksdale was on third base on May 16, 2011.

Other than some of the players being the same, not much else can be said for similarities; even most of the players are at considerably different points in their careers than four years ago. The stars of the Red Sox and Orioles from four years ago are mostly gone, many due to retirement. David Ortiz is doing about as well as he was four years ago, but he is certainly declining as he gets older. Josh Beckett is still a star of the Red Sox pitching staff, but he lost his ace status to Jon Lester (as well as the opening day starter this year). Thankfully, his blister and finger issues have seemed to have gone away. During the game in 2007, he left the game because he had a skin tear on his finger. Kevin Youkilis was batting sixth and playing third and this year he is batting clean-up, but still playing third--though it's after a couple of years playing first. Jason Varitek was behind the plate for both games, but he is a significantly different hitter than he was four years ago. He's still a fantastic catcher and calls a great game, pitchers still love having him behind the plate, but he doesn't hit anywhere near as effectively as he did years ago. He did have a very important impact on both games though. His lines from both years are similar and impressive: (4AB, 1R, 1H, 2RBI) and (5AB, 1R, 2H, 2RBI). It was sweet to see him have a positive impact at the plate because it doesn't happen anywhere near as often as I would like to see it, but I still like the captain. Both of the other Sox players had positive impacts as well in both games.

The Orioles players that were involved in both games are at decidedly different stages in their careers also, but are amazingly enough still hitting in the same batting order that they were four years ago. Why is this amazing? Brian Roberts is still an okay second baseman, but he's hitting barely above the Mendoza line at .221 this year. Why would a team continue to hit a player that is struggling so badly at the top of the order? Even the Red Sox moved Carl Crawford down in the order after a very slow start. Crawford is in the prime of his career and has always been at or near the top of the order, but the Sox moved him down to sixth to allow him to see better pitches and to try to help him out of his funk. Markakis was just starting his career as a regular starter for the Orioles four years ago, and is now a foundation piece of their young team.

The weather was considerably different for this Miracle. Four years ago, the weather was sunny and a bit chilly at 58 degrees. This year it was raining and miserable and even colder at 48 degrees. Part of the temperature difference was the time of day. Four years ago it was a day game starting at 3:10 while tonight's game was a 7:10 start.

In 2007, Jeremy Guthrie had pitched an absolute gem against the Red Sox and he was taken out in the ninth inning. This ended up being a bad decision. Guthrie had allowed only three hits and one run. In less than an inning, that would become all for naught, as the bullpen would allow six runs in the ninth to lose the game. This year's game was also becoming a gem for the Orioles starter, as Chris Tillman had allowed zero runs after five innings. Buck Showalter removed him from the game because of stiffness in his back. Mike Gonzalez would quickly allow the Red Sox to get back in the game by allowing four runs in less than an inning. The Red Sox continued to chip away at the lead until they got the two runs they needed in the bottom of the ninth inning to win. Josh Beckett had to be removed from the game in 2007 because of an injury. This year, Terry Francona may have been better served to remove Daisuke Matsuzaka after his first inning scare where he was hit just above the belt with a line drive. He pitched terribly, giving up seven walks and five runs in less than five innings.

The Baltimore Orioles had a record of 18-20 following the Mother's Day Miracle of 2007. Right now they have a record of 19-21. The team has been mediocre for quite a few years, and their place in the standings has always been near the bottom, with the exceptions of early season when they have started out hot like this year.  The outcome of the game would have drastically different results for the standings for the Boston Red Sox in the American League East. In 2007, the Red Sox would have a 25-11 record to lead the division handily. Following this Mother's Day Miracle, the Red Sox have for the first time this year, gotten over .500. They are tied with Toronto for third in the division.

Games like this can allow a talented team like the Red Sox to flourish. Wins like this bring teammates closer together as they realize that their combined struggles can only be overcome by combining their talents. Adrian Gonzalez has been hitting as well, if not better, than expected this year, while players like Kevin Youkilis and Carl Crawford are finally starting to rebound from early season struggles. Wins like this will hopefully start the rest of the players toward better and continued success.

Posted on: April 13, 2011 3:45 pm
 

Dice is Plural for Die

That's what Matsuzaka seems to be doing out there on the mound when it's his turn in the rotation. The Red Sox are stuck between the proverbial rock and a hard place; they can't waive him--he's owed too much money. My guess is that they'd love to waive him, but it's not really a matter of the money that makes them continue to "roll the dice." If Daisuke fails, it was an embarassing baseball move four years ago when they paid over $50M to the Seibu Lions just to be able to negotiate a contract. It was considered a steal when they signed him to six years and $52M, but added to the $50M posting fee, it was merely a solid contract offer. If Matsuzaka fails, this bid by the Red Sox was a big mistake.
But how many tries does one player get? Matsuzaka hasn't been the player they envisioned since his second season. If only those World Baseball Classics counted toward his Red Sox contract. He was voted the MVP of the inaugural and second Classic. Unfortunately for the Red Sox, he just doesn't seem to pitch with the same fervor as he does when it is world competition. Perhaps the level of competition is overwhelming at the Major League level? This would be a valid point, except Japan has won both World Baseball Classics. Apparently their players are at least on par with US players. Also, let's not forget that US players are on many of their home teams' rosters.
Looking back on Matsuzaka's stats over the years, it would be hard to argue that he has earned his contract with the Red Sox. If he had been paid just the $52M from the contract, it still would have been money poorly spent, compound that with the posting fee, and it becomes a mistake of huge proportions. The real winners here were the Seibu Lions who pocketed $51,111,111 just for allowing Matsuzaka to negotiate with the Red Sox. That's enough money for them to pay their entire payroll for over two years!
In 2010, Matsuzaka had an ERA of below 4.00--following only one game! On August 5, 2010 the Red Sox faced the Cleveland Indians. Matsuzaka pitched quite well; he pitched 8 innings, allowed 5 hits, 1 earned run, walked 2, and struck out 6. His ERA after that game was 3.96; it was the only game that he ended with a cumulative ERA for the season of under 4.00. His next start a few days later, corrected that anomaly. It continued to get worse until his second to last start on September 26, 2010 in which he pitched 8 innings, allowed 2 earned runs, walked 1, and struck out 7. He didn't pitch terrible against Cleveland for his first start of 2011, but it certainly wasn't expected to be leaps and bounds better than his second start of this year.
Daisuke Matsuzaka has a no-trade clause in his contract. This is fairly normal, and I'm glad the Red Sox gave in on that demand. It was a reasonable concession as Matsuzaka was excited to play for the Red Sox. He was taking a chance on the situation, and I can certainly understand his desire to make sure that the Red Sox didn't undermine that by trading him away. I imagine that Matsuzaka would not accept an outright assignment to the minors where he could continue to work out his mechanics, timing, or demonic possession that has been affecting him over the past couple of years. I think it's time for the Red Sox to bring Matsuzaka and his translator into the office and tell him that he has an injury and is going on the 15-day disabled list. This way, he can save face, and the Red Sox can explain that it wasn't a mistake to sign him, but he's been trying to work through an injury. Whatever their decision, they have to do it soon. I realize that they don't have many options for starting pitching to turn to, but Tim Wakefield is still on the roster and there are minor leaguers that can give at least comparable results--Felix Dubront comes to mind.
 
 
 
 
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