Do you feel like this doesn’t happen so much with other teams? Me too. (Why the Sox and Scott could be on a fatal collision course.)

December 12th, 2006 → 12:10 am @ // 11 Comments

Well, what did we learn from Scott Boras’s non-newsy news conference and the attendant coverage?

* Boras has threatened to take Daisuke Matsuzaka home to Japan if the Sox don’t budge in their negotiations, effectively ending any chance at a deal even if Thursday’s deadline hasn’t passed. (DK would presumably need to take a physical for any deal to go through.)

* Boras also referred to Daisuke as “Fort Knox” and said he’s worth in excess of $100 million. Shoot, who does he think he is: Carlos Lee?

* Lou Melendez, MLB’s VP of international relations, nixed any of the other scenarios by which Dice could pitch in the majors this year — by Boras buying out the Lions; by divine intervention, by Nippon Professional Baseball spontaneously combusting.

* There seems to be a growing consensus — raised on ESPN.com by Jim Allen, who covers baseball for Japan’s The Daily Yomiuri and echoed by Jack Curry in the Times article above — that it would incredibly difficult for Matsuzaka to return to Japan if he was rejecting, say, a $10 million-a-year deal. “If the sheer embarrassment of the nation’s hero being thrown back like an undersized trout is not enough to spark a showdown between Red Sox Nation and Japan,” Allen writes, “the fact that Japan’s loss of tax revenue would be 2.4 billion yen ($20.65 million), just might do it. Although Boras might think nothing of causing an international incident of these proportions, Matsuzaka is unlikely to be a party to it.”

Yup…it’s gonna be a fun couple of days. If this all feels familiar…well, that’s because it is. Somehow, the buttoned-down, press-shy Red Sox have found themselves smack dab in the middle of more imbroglios than any other team over the last several years. Way back in ’03, there was the Kevin Millar incident, making Millar surely the least consequential person ever to threaten relations between two superpowers. That same offseason brought the minute-by-minute machinations of the A-Rod to Boston, Manny to Texas, Nomar to Chicago, Magglio to Boston, etc., etc., deal. That had to be the most covered non-event in baseball history; a couple of months later, Brian Cashman somehow managed to orchestrate a trade for A-Rod to play for the world’s best known baseball team — you know, the one that plays in the country’s biggest media market — with nary a leak.

There’ve been the semi-annual Manny trade talks. (Manny’s not the only $20-million-plus superstar who was thought to be on the block…but we haven’t heard much about A-Rod, have we?) There was last year’s exceedingly public Theo-Larry blow-up/blow-out. (Cashman, to be sure, hasn’t had an easy time dealing with the Boss…but we haven’t heard much about that, either.) And now there’s Dice-K.

***

In a postscript to the paperback edition of Moneyball, Michael Lewis rails against the club of baseball insiders that set the games orthodoxy. At one point, Lewis writes, “It can never fully escape the larger culture that supports it.” He was talking about…well, never mind what he was talking about, but it strikes me that that’s a problem that’s going on with the Sox. To varying extents, the entire front office believes that it can succeed by both outworking and outsmarting the competition; no one thinks this is true as much as John Henry and Theo Epstein. In many, very creative ways, these guys are working to blow up accepted notions — not only of how to evaluate talent, but of how to do business, of how to construct a team, of how to relate to the entire game. That might work in the abstract, but sometimes I wonder if there’s not enough acceptance of the fact that the Red Sox are part of the larger baseball culture; that’s the world they’re trying to succeed in. Every trade doesn’t need to be the most clever; every negotiation doesn’t need to be won. Some, in fact, just need to be concluded.

In many ways, Scott Boras is an agent built from this same mold. He consistently gets much more money for his clients than anyone other team was willing to bid (see: Rodriguez, Alex…and maybe Drew, J.D.). He doesn’t have a lot of time for the accepted practices of the profession (he’s already making noises about suing to free Matsuzaka from the posting system, although it’s a bit unclear who’d be the subject of such a lawsuit).

In a worst case scenario, all of this means the two sides are on a mutually destructive collision course. Neither side compromises, Boras screws himself over by his failure to understand the intricate nuances of Japanese culture, and the lack of a top-of-the-rotation prize becomes the cherry on the top of a extremely unappetizing sundae for Red Sox Nation.

Of course, this probably will not be the case — as the above paragraph points out, both sides have too much to lose. But regardless of what happens, the distance between the Red Sox’s desire not to have their every move play out in the press and the reality of the amount of times they find themselves the focus of a national feeding frenzy deserves further discussion. (And, right on cue, the Sox announce they’ll have a press conference of their own. Sigh. I’m going to sleep.)


Post Categories: 2006 Hot Stove Season & Daisuke Matsuzaka & Moneyball & Red Sox front office & Red Sox ownership

11 Comments → “Do you feel like this doesn’t happen so much with other teams? Me too. (Why the Sox and Scott could be on a fatal collision course.)”


  1. chris

    8 years ago

    Jim Allen’s piece concerns me. He doesn’t cite a single source for his theory that Matsuzaka has to sign. He’s really just hypothesizing. And yeah, the Yomiuri is a big paper that owns a baseball team… but I bristle a little bit at this whole cultural angle, that all good Japanese boys have to do what’s good for their former employers and what seems modest to the public at large. Matsuzaka is a young guy… maybe, just maybe, he doesn’t give a shit about what good Japanese boys are expected to do.

    Or maybe not. But Allen could at least cite one bloody source other than his ouija board for his rather bold proclamations.

    Reply

  2. jim

    8 years ago

    That’s the thing, Chris. Journalists say the “Japanese people” will respond in such a way. Does that ever happen? More likely, there will be differences of opinion over this. On the one hand, DM could be egotistical for not accepting a ton of money and for not looking out for the best interests of his teams. On the other, he could be seen as being treated unfairly by greedy teams wanting to make money off his back while underpaying him with respect to his peers (the best pitchers in the world). There’s no doubt it can be spun both ways. It just depends on who you’re listening to.

    BTW: Anyone remember the last time Boras really tried to break the rules and stand up for his guy? That would be the JD Drew mess. Remember, Nancy got drafted by Philly but not signed for the 10 million Boras demanded. Philly’s counteroffer was 2 million. Boras took him to the St. Paul Saints for a year. Then he signed with the Cardinals after being drafted again.

    The post is spot on. How can the Sox throw money into the wind to sign Lugo and Drew, then nickle and dime DM? It does smack of A-Rod all over again. If anything, it smacks of bidder’s remorse. It’s not Boras’ fault the Sox bid $10 million more than the next highest team. Nor should that amount get taken out of his contract. It’s time the Sox pony up the cash. 60 million for 4 years should do it.

    Reply

  3. MarshallDog

    8 years ago

    jim, your contract offer might not do it. Boras and Matsuzaka might even call that “nickle and diming”. A lot of people are saying Boras is looking for at least $100 million for six years. What’s more disturbing is Peter Gammons’ piece from yesterday. The title “Show Matsuzaka the Money” is disturbing enough, but when Peter says the player has bought into Boras’ belief that he should be paid like an elite major league pitcher, you have to believe this kid is willing to walk away from anything less than a $100 mil deal.

    The Drew and Lugo deals can not be used to compare to how much the Sox are willing to pay Matsuzaka. They got a lot of money for sure, but at least they are major league players. You can sign those guys with a reasonable expectation of what they are going to give your club. Matsuzaka has never played a major league game, so why should the Sox have to give him more money than any of the best pitchers that have actually shown they can compete at this level? Nick Cafardo points out this morning, if Boras had his way, Matsuzaka should be paid more than Curt Schilling, Josh Beckett (former World Series MVPs), Roy Halliday and Johan Santana (former CY Young award winners)? What has he really proven that makes him more valuable to a pitching staff than any of those people?

    Reply

  4. jim

    8 years ago

    Dog -

    Since when did reason enter into this? The Sox bid $51.11 for two reasons:

    1) They thought they could leverage some of the bidding money into the contract
    2) They thought they could get DM for a decent price.

    They were wrong on both counts. Add to that the FA spending spree, and that’s an expensive acquisition.

    See, Boras has come back and said “Surely, DM is worth more than Gil Meche.”

    If the Sox say, “No he’s not” for the reasons you cite, then there will be no deal.

    I’m not sure which way the length of the contract will go. Longer and it’s more upfront money – more risk for the Sox and less for DM. But if it’s shorter, there’s less risk for the Sox and more for DM – he’s got to really nail or (gasp!) exceed expectations to earn a huge payday. If there’s any negotiation at all, the balance will be a four year deal with some options.

    The bottomline is that this isn’t an easy negotiation and to lowball the guy for less than Meche money to begin with was pretty silly. All Boras had to do was point to the Meche contract, and say “They think you’re worth less than this guy!”.

    As for Lugo and Nancy, my only point is that it’s really hard for the Sox argue pennies when they’re dropping pounds left and right. Look at it this way, for that 20 million dollar difference that might kill the deal, they could have had Alex G at short instead of Lugo.

    Reply

  5. MarshallDog

    8 years ago

    It’s not exactly “leveraging” the money into the contract, but more saying to Matsuzaka and Boras, “Yes, we agree the player is worth more than $100 mil, but we’ve already invested half of that.” If that’s really the case, the Sox most recent offer is probably a Gil Meache-type deal, maybe 6 years, $60 mil. That would put his value at almost $20 mil per season. The hope would be Matsuzaka recognizes how much value the Sox have placed on him, not to mention the fact that they are willing to pay him like a solid major league veteran despite never pitching in the majors.

    Boras doesn’t see the posting fee as part of the investment. His argument is, “If you put my client’s value at $100 mil, then he should be paid that much.” Boras will insist on a four or five year deal, so his client can reach free agency again before turning 32, which has become sort of that magic age for veteran free agents. So five years, $100 mil, plus $51 mil posting fee… that would make Matsuzaka worth more than $30 mil per season! Even without the posting fee, that would be a $20 mil per year contract. Boras said that is the going rate for 26 year old pitchers. How many pitchers of any age have gotten that kind of deal?

    This kind of money is hardly arguing pennies. Even killing the deal over $20 mil would not be unreasonable. I know I’ve posted about this a lot the last couple of days, but this whole situation is so nutty, I can’t help myself… I must discuss it!

    Reply

  6. vintage

    8 years ago

    While Boras may be more experienced in the ways of negotiating than the Sox brass, he may be underestimating the Sox “gamesmanship”.
    It is a brilliant move by the Sox to take the negotiations public (and to LA). Boras’ insistence on complete control could very conceivably mean that Matsuzaka has no real idea what the Sox are offering. He is now virtually certain to hear of the Sox stance either in person, via the internet or from friends.
    It’s fairly obvious that Boras would love to challenge the posting system & hold Dice-K hostage until a HUGE 2008 payday. Hopefully the player will realize that a few more digits on his bank statement (as Buster Olney properly notes) doesn’t outweigh his love for the game & his desire to perform on the biggest stage.

    Reply

  7. dude

    8 years ago

    A couple of things to think about:

    1. Boras is playing hardball. We’ve all seen it time and time again. Now, the Red Sox are openly challenging him in his own backyard of Newport Beach, CA. This should be very interesting, or just anticlimatic.

    2. Matsuzaka is a hell of a pitcher, no doubt. He’s got a crazy amount of pitches and he throws for strikeouts. But, he has pitched a lot of innings for his age. If he were to wait a couple of years, by not taking the offer from the Red Sox, then he has a chance of not reaping those benefits in the first place, namely by being injured in game while he plays in Japan. Who knows if that might happen in Boston were he to sign here?

    3. Japan is a much different country, culturally speaking, than the US. Honor and respect are very important in Japanese society. It was hundreds of years ago and still is today. It’s an almost inbred quality of the Japanese; they are taught it from a very young age. But, who knows if Matsuzaka follows that tradition, or if he’s not and would rather be greedy instead? I don’t know of him well enough to give an honest response; but, I have a feeling that he knows what is the right thing to do and that’s to negotiate with honor and respect. He’s the wildcard in this lot.

    4. Matsuzaka hasn’t played in the big leagues. Don’t get me wrong but the Japan Leagues are a far cry from even the worst team in the MLB. They just don’t stack up against each other; the MLB has a much deeper reserve of the best players in the world of baseball. Matsuzaka is good. But, he’s going to have to play up against a group of players, in the form of the MLB players, that exceeded the best players in the Japanese League by leaps and bounds. He’s an anamoly, of sorts, in Japan; he’s VERY dominating in a league that can’t come close to his level of play.

    —-

    So, those are things that are in my head right now. I think Matsuzaka is going to sign; I think he’s going to be respectful of the game because he enjoys it and wants to play in the Majors. I think the Red Sox are smart in going to LA to play the game there. Enough of the BS from Boras. This is like a rush up the middle by the Boston club. Personally, I think Matsuzaka will see the interest, realize his own potential in Boston, and will be with us for 4 years somewhere between $46 – 52M. If they pay any more than that they’ll have just sunk too much money on a player who is an untested commodity in the Majors. His recent series against the MLB all stars doesn’t cut it for me. That said, I with Matsuzaka good luck.

    Reply

  8. chrisneves

    8 years ago

    jim, the sox also bid for marketing rights in japan. if the sox really wanted a pitcher that good they would have got jason schmidt. they opted for matsuzaka because he is a good pitcher and is highly rated but would give the sox a big fanbase in japan and thus expand marketing rights. in a year or two the redsox could make up that 51 million easy and then just worry about the contract of matsuzaka but thats still getting paid for by marketing in japan. so if we signed him we’d be out 51 million dollars but next year well have that all back.
    I hope that a deal does get done because i would like to know what the fuss about this guy really is even ifhe doesnt throw a gyroball, though id rather had schimdt…

    Reply

  9. obnoxiousmime

    8 years ago

    I asked my one Japanese friend to characterize the feeling about the Matsuzaka negotiations in Japan, and here’s what he emailed to me:

    Matsuzaka-mania is pretty crazy here, naturally. The media here report
    everything favorably, with great enthusiasm. The media are already
    hyping up the match-up between him and the already-exported Japanese stars
    (Ichiro, Matsui, Iguchi, Johjima, all of whom play in the AL).

    The Red Sox are being portrayed positively, FINALLY! Previously,
    because of the presence of Matsui in NY, its rival Red Sox had been portrayed as “The Enemy” (I guess people forgot that Nomo and Ohka pitched for the Sox
    for a season or so). Anyway, it’s not like that anymore.

    I’m almost certain that Matsuzaka will sign with the Sox. Playing in
    Japan for another year, after all this media hype, is unthinkable. The
    Japanese people (even those who don’t know much about baseball) are so excited
    about this whole thing. I mean, most people already think this is a done
    deal. If he stayed in Japan, people would be confused and it’d be like “What the hell was that all about?”, and, probably, a lot of people would be pissed.
    And THAT would be bad for everyone. For Matsuzaka himself, too. It’d be
    embarassing, and harmful to his career.

    Do you remember the Japanese hitter named Nakamura? 4-5 years ago, he
    almost signed with the Mets, but backed out. He ended up staying here, and
    suddenly nobody gave a shit, and he started to suck badly. Several years later, he did end up going to the MLB for one season (the Dodgers, but played mostly in the minors) and no media coverage whatsoever. He used to be a star, but that “incident” more or less destroyed his career.

    So, as for Matsuzaka, he’ll be in the Sox uniform in 2007, I’m sure.
    We’ll know that for sure this week, right? And I think he’s a helluva
    pitcher who’ll do well, though I don’t know the legitimacy of the so-called
    “gyroball.”

    The pressure is tremendous in Japan and that is why I think he will sign.

    Reply

  10. msquared64

    8 years ago

    Didn’t the Millar fiasco happen the offseason before the A-Rod/Manny/Magglio/Nomar stuff? Millar felt it was necessary to spout off on ESPN that having A-Rod was better than having Nomar, Manny, dignity, etc. during that whole thing. He was brought in the year before, no?

    I am probably wrong, as displayed by your blog, you know way more than I do about the Sox…

    Nope, you’re definitely right — Millar was one of the many folks brought in before the ’03 season (Ortiz, Mueller, Toddy Walker); the A-Rod not-trade was after the ’03 season.

    – S

    Reply

  11. grady

    8 years ago

    How many of us would feel that “the right thing to do” would be to consider money we would never see (posting fee) in our salary negotiations? If another company paid your company for the right to hire you, would it be fair of them to use that against you and expect you to accept less than the market rate for people of your experience and ability?

    Obviously we are talking about lots of money here, but it seems a bit unfair to label DM as “greedy” or dishonorable for expecting to get paid a salary commensurate with his abilities. The Sox over bid for the right to negotiate with the expectation that they would somehow get out of some of it; why do we slam DM for not being willing to eat their mistake?

    Would the comments here be the same if it was the Yankees who were negotiating with Boras? Would we all expect DM to “do the right thing,” stop being “greedy,” and “respect the game”?

    Reply

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