Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Matsuzaka's legacy: 10 years later

Matsuzaka unveiled with Theo Epstein. 
December 13, 2006 was the day the Boston Red Sox and Daisuke (Dice-K) Matsuzaka reached an agreement to a 6-year, $52 million contract. While posting players happened, it was the first excessive contract and posting fee among players coming from Japan.

The Saitama Seibu Lions would receive a $51.1 million posting fee as the Red Sox earned exclusive negotiating rights with Matsuzaka and the money would forever change the team.

A star out of Yokohama High School, Matsuzaka was drafted by the Lions in 1998. They would win a 3-way lottery for his rights. While he wanted to play for the Yokohama Baystars, the Lions had to convince and recruit him in order to sign with them.

He would win rookie of the year in 1999, an Eiji Sawamura Award in 2001 and a Best IX award three times. Matsuzaka led the league in ERA twice, wins three times as well as be a seven-time Golden Glove award winner.

Matsuzaka was part of the 2004 Japan Series championship team, which would be his only title in NPB. After 2006, he would take his chances to go to the majors.

An expensive acquisition, Matsuzaka would contribute for the 2007 World Series Red Sox team going through ups and downs as a rookie in the Major Leagues. He had a franchise rookie record for strikeouts in a season with 201. In Game 3 of the World Series against the Rockies, he would earn the win and have a two-out, two-RBI single to contribute as a hitter.

His best season in MLB would be 2008, where he went 18-3 with a 2.90 ERA as well as a quality start in the 2008 ALCS against the Tampa Bay Rays. Things began to fall off in 2009 where he would fall to AAA Pawtucket and wouldn't be the same again.

An argument can be made that his change of training regimen with Boston made it tough on him. It was a style different than what he used to do while in Japan.

After briefly spending time in the minor leagues with the Cleveland Indians, he would spend his last two years in North America with the New York Mets. He was part of a rotation in 2013, but mostly spent time in the bullpen for 2014.

Today, Matsuzaka is with the Softbank Hawks after spending majority of the 2015 season injured and in the farm. The Hawks would win the Japan Series in 2015, but Matsuzaka never played with the team's ichi-gun.

He is only a name to garner headlines, as he made his first ichi-gun appearance in Sendai against the Rakuten Eagles in September. In his only outing for one inning, he gave up five runs, two of the earned, two walks and two strikeouts to go with a wild pitch. It was more of a novelty outing with the postseason standings locked up at the time.

Matsuzaka's leaving would hurt the Lions in the short term, as they would be caught with a bribery scandal and be forced to forfeit their first three high school draft picks in 2007. They also finished in the Bottom 3 for the first time in 26 years as part of the fallout.

However, they would go on to win the 2008 Japan Series in what was an interesting comeback with a young Hideaki Wakui and Takayuki Kishi carrying the rotation.

Matsuzaka's impact would help financially in renovated Seibu Dome with permanent changes. It would no longer be called  "Goodwill Dome" and the turf would change. There would also be an addition of bullpen box seats, a high definition scoreboard and interior upgrades including restrooms.

Seibu Dome would undergo two different turf renovations. Today, there is brown turf to make the building look like it has a dirt infield diamond. 
No matter how rough of a career Matsuzaka had in Boston after an early success in the Majors, he will forever be remembered as a someone who helped the Lions both on the field and literally the stadium itself. He did a lot for the team both during and after his time in Tokorozawa and we'll always be grateful for it.


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