Bob Ryan's got some inconvenient truths for the Red Sox:
- May we agree on one thing?
Daisuke Matsuzaka was not worth $103 million.
There's a lot of financial craziness out there in modern professional sport, but we have not yet reached the point where a third or fourth (and in this case, fifth) starter is worth a total investment of $103 million for six years.
There's really not going to be any kind of debate about this, is there?
The goal now is to restore him to, well, what, exactly?
He's not what he was supposed to be; this much we know. He was billed as a superpitcher, a guy who threw in the mid-to-high 90s and who augmented this uberheater with as many as five auxiliary pitches, all, as they say, in the "plus" category. (We won't go anywhere near that gyroball nonsense.)
We've never seen that guy.
What we've seen at his best is a guy who throws in the low 90s and who has decent auxiliary stuff. We have seen that, in common with pitchers in his basic category, he needs to hit spots to be effective. He has got to locate that fastball on the corners. If he can do that, everything else has a chance to work.
I think we may certainly agree that Matsuzaka was not worth $103 million. Not to this point, anyway.
As a rookie in 2007, he led the Red Sox with 204 innings but ranked 28th in the American League with a 4.40 ERA. The Red Sox finished only two games ahead of the Yankees in the East, but eight games ahead of the Yankees' nearest wild card competition. I think it's manifest that the Red Sox would almost certainly have reached the postseason without Matsuzaka, and that's even if they had not used the money they spend on him, somewhere else.
Would they have won the World Series without him? Well, he struggled in his one Division Series start, he went 1-1 against the Indians in the LCS, and he was fairly effective in his one World Series start. The Red Sox swept the Division Series and the World Series, so Dice-K's got just that thin reed of his Game 7 start against the Indians ... except the Red Sox won that game 11-2. So he hardly made a real difference in that one either.
In 2008, Matsuzaka somehow, miraculously went 18-3 despite leading the league with 94 walks. In October, he pitched well in two of his three postseason starts but of course the Red Sox lost to the Rays in the LCS by the thinnest of margins.
This year ... Well, you know about this year.
In retrospect, investing $103 million in a pitcher who'd never pitched against most of the best hitters in the world seems at least a little bit risky, right? Particularly a pitcher who had, by all accounts, thrown an immense number of pitches before reaching physical maturity? Oh, and do you remember when Matsuzaka was held up as a shining example of why young pitchers should not be babied?
Dice-K's contract runs through 2012, and there are a lot of things could happen between now and November 2012. But $103 million is an awful lot of money, and if there's one thing I've noticed over the last decade or so, it's that a healthy majority of massive investments wind up looking foolish within a few years.
Maybe that's just the cost of doing business. It's hard to win if you don't spend a great deal of money, and if you spend a great deal of money you're inevitably going to spend some of it (as events transpire) foolishly. But it's still striking, isn't it, how much money the Red Sox, with all their analytical tools, have blown over the last few years?