They're bidding now, as we speak, for the next Ichiro. Or maybe the next Irabu. You can never tell with Japanese players, although most of them aren't nearly as good over here as they were over there.
Don't listen to the anonymous scouts slobbering in the New York City papers, because nobody knows how good Japanese right-hander Daisuke Matsuzaka will be in the major leagues. All we know is how much he'll cost, because slimy super-agent Scott Boras has planted a $20 million seed in newspapers all over America, suckering reporters who repay a return phone call from Boras into doing his negotiating.
|Next Hideki Matsui or Kaz Matsui? Either way, Daisuke Matsuzaka will be pricey. (Getty Images)|
Now Boras is at it again with Matsuzaka, who is apparently one of the best two or three pitchers in Japan. Whatever that means.
Since Matsuzaka wants to pitch in the majors but has less than 10 years experience for Japan's Seibu Lions, his eventual MLB team must pay Seibu for the right to negotiate with him. If this were medieval times, you'd call it a dowry. Whoever wants Matsuzaka has to pay off his daddy.
Only after doling out the dowry can that MLB team try to sign Matsuzaka, which will cost roughly $50 million for four or five years. How do I know? Because Boras has planted that seed in American newspapers. Boras wouldn't tell the truth if it were direct-deposited onto his tongue, but he's one hell of a gardener.
As for Matsuzaka, he's Austin Powers, an international man of mystery. We know his statistics in Japan -- 17-5, 2.13 ERA in 2006 -- but we don't know what they mean.
Is picking up Matsuzaka worth the risk?
Yes: Look at Ichiro
It's anybody's guess
No: Could easily bomb
Total Votes: 6,750
Consider the case of Hideki Irabu. Before he came to the United States, Irabu was 38-27 with a 2.65 ERA from 1994-96 in Japan. In the majors from 1997-2002 he went 34-35 with a 5.15 ERA. Hounded back to Japan, Irabu was again an ace over there -- 13-8 with a 3.85 ERA in 2003.
In Japan, pitcher Kaz Ishii was an All-Star who went 78-46 with a 3.38 ERA. The Dodgers paid an $11 million dowry, then $12 million in salary, to get a pitcher who was ordinary here: 39-34 with a 4.44 ERA.
In Japan, Kaz Matsui was named the top shortstop of the 20th century. He was a seven-time All-Star. He was an MVP. In 2004 the Mets gave him $20 million for three years. And he was lousy. The Mets moved him to second base, benched him, then traded him. The Rockies sent him to the minor leagues.
Now it's Matsuzaka's turn. Anonymous scouts -- is Boras a scout? -- are telling the media that Matsuzaka, 26, is a No. 1 starter in the majors. We'll see. Matsuzaka is said to throw in the mid-90s with six or seven pitches he can locate for strikes, but that sounds like fantasy. The reality is, he's a small guy (5-foot-11, 187 pounds) who has thrown 1,400 innings over the past eight seasons, with astronomical pitch counts typical in Japan. He's an arm blowout waiting to happen.
The Yankees, Mets and Red Sox are said to be the most interested, with the Cubs and Rangers perhaps in the mix. Then again, the Yankees could be bidding against themselves. Who knows? Boras once convinced Los Angeles there were phantom teams pursuing Kevin Brown, so the Dodgers forked over $105 million for a clubhouse-cancerous 34-year-old with almost 2,000 innings on his arm.
The bidding for Matsuzaka goes through Wednesday, after which Seibu will have four days to decide whether it will accept the winning bid, which of course Seibu will do. Then the winning MLB team gets 30 days to sign Matsuzaka. If he doesn't sign, he goes back to Seibu, which must return the dowry.
Whoever gets Matsuzaka will expect a player better than Yankees RBI machine Hideki Matsui, better than former Dodgers contortionist pitcher Hideo Nomo, and perhaps one as good as Ichiro, the patron saint of Japanese expatriate ballplayers. Ichiro cost the Mariners $13 million in dowry and was worth every penny. He has batted .331 in six seasons, with more than 200 hits every year. Ichiro is a superstar.
Matsuzaka is a mystery, just like the blind bidding process that began last week and continues as we speak. One or more MLB teams are bidding now, unsure of who and what they're bidding against.
Odds are, whoever wins Matsuzaka has already lost. They're playing poker with Scott Boras, who's not only the slickest guy at the table, but the guy dealing the cards.