Yahoo!’s Jeff Passan has a column up today covering the life and times of Daisuke Matsuzaka, who may have thrown his last pitch for the Boston Red Sox. Passan does not exactly sugarcoat things.
He says that, in Matsuzaka, the Red Sox expected an ace, but rather, “got an ACE: Another Chubby Easterner, Hideki Irabu 2.0, a disappointment, a waste of money. A bust.” He says that, while Dice-K’s arm has been hurt, his middle finger seems to be just fine because he has raised it figuratively at the organization for years. He goes on to quote sources, presumably with the Red Sox, who call Matsuzaka “stubborn,” “pigheaded” and “lazy” and who says that the Sox are “tired of his act.” It’s a piece that needs to be read in its entirety to be appreciated.
Passan is certainly not out on an island with this criticism. I personally find nothing less enjoyable to watch in baseball than Dice-K when he’s nibbling, and a ton of Red Sox fans feel that way too. Still, I think the stuff thrown at him over the years is overdone and disproportionate.
There are a lot of miserable-to-watch pitchers who failed to meet expectations. How much of what we hear about Matsuzaka is fair and how much of it is the result of blowback from the Red Sox front office, embarrassed and angry at how monstrous a miscalculation they made in the first place? Isn’t a player’s bad attitude and bad habits the kind of thing that should be evaluated before the check is cut? In criticizing Matsuzaka for those shortcomings, shouldn’t we criticize Theo Epstein and his talent evaluators as well?
You always hear about how bad Dice-K is. And that’s fair as far as it goes. But you rarely hear the Red Sox criticized for their hundred million dollar blunder. In this case, I think there’s room for a more evenhanded allocation of vitriol.