White Hat Sports Headlines

Monday, March 24, 2008

Alarming Baseball

Besides the Earthquake that hit the Bay Area during the 1989 World Series, the only time that an alarm or a buzzer has been involved in Baseball is when the Red Sox are on the west coast and my dad wants to sleep for a few hours before he watches the game.

This was true before tomorrow morning’s Season Opener between the Red Sox and Athletics. I have my alarm all set up and ready to go for 6:07AM EST (which is the day before or the day after in Japan, I don’t really know) so I can watch the spectacle that is Daisuke Matsuzaka pitching in his homeland for the first time since leaving for America. While criticism of Matsuzaka was sporadic and easy for the Boston media, it was believed it would take a year for the finest Japanese importation since Toyota, to get comfortable in his new digs. This season it is believed that he should not only be more comfortable in the American League East, but he should also be more productive. His ERA last season (4.40) was about a point more than people expected going into the season, but his wins were just about on track. Take this quote from Jayson Stark of ESPN.com and you kind of see how the first 5 months of Dicek’s season went:

Matsuzaka's record is 13-9. In games where he gets "normal" support or better, however, he's 11-3. If he'd gotten four runs of support in his CUS games (while he was out there) instead of one or none, he'd be 17-4.

Daisuke has proved while he has been in Boston that he’s all about winning and helping the team do that, perhaps his lack of wins put him in a bad place for the last part of the season. As we remember after his loss in the ALCS against Cleveland he was seen in the Boston club house after the game shocked and humbled. This trip could be just the thing to bring him back to where he needs to be going into this season.

Matsuzaka is to Japanese sports fans as Michael Jordan is to American sports fans, it’s that simple. Even in America he is raising his mythological Legend to new heights. He won the Japanese Baseball tournament in one of the most heroic performances in memory at age 17, dominated the pro ranks and then was named the MVP of the Inaugural World Baseball Classic. In his first season in the Major Leagues, even though he lost out on the Rookie of the Year award, he did win game 7 of the ALCS and game 3 of the World Series and got a World Series Championship ring in his first season.

Now he returns to his country, and yes I mean HIS COUNTRY, as the prodigal son gloriously returning home. It reminds me of the movie Mystery, Alaska, when Hank Azaria comes home to Mystery and says he’s bringing the New York Rangers to play the local team. It has that type of feel to it, except in this case Matsuzaka is going to be pitching, the people love him and he doesn’t skate like a ……well rent the movie. Because of the expectations of him this season, the fact that it’s a regular season game and kind of a novelty. I will be setting the alarm to wake up for this one; hopefully neither Daisuke nor I hit the snooze button.

~Sterling Pingree

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