At the time, Matsuzaka was by far baseballâ€™s biggest story. The Red Sox had paid $50 million for the right to negotiate with him and $100 million more to sign him.
Management, fans and sport writers were convinced Matsuzaka was worth every dime. According to reports, Matsuzaka had not only the usual repertoire of pitches but he had two kinds of sliders, a fork ball and the never-before-seen â€?gyro-ballâ€? that was, admirers claimed, certain to baffle every hitter he faced.
Matsuzaka madness included a CD titled â€?Music From the Moundâ€? that included as the first cut, â€?Gyro Ball, Dice-K.â€?
Now that October is here, it is clear that Matsuzaka fell way short of expectations. Last night at Fenway Park, Matsuzaka was bombed out of the second playoff game against the Los Angeles Angels after 4 2/3 innings during which he gave up seven hits and three runs.
Matsuzakaâ€™s regular season record of 15-12 with a 4.40 ERA was average, at best. Down the September stretch, Matsuzaka pitched so poorly that the Red Sox considered dropping him from the play-off starting rotation.
The Boston Globe, in love with Masuzaka in the spring, wrote that his effort last night was â€?a $100 bust.â€?
Most interesting is that according Bobby Valentine, a former MLB manager currently managing in Japan, Matsuzaka has gone from hero to bum in his home country. Valentine had been an early Matsuzaka booster.
In an interview with ESPN, Valentine said that the Japanese expectations for Matsuzaka were so unrealistically high that whenever the young pitcher took to the mound, his countrymen were disappointed every time he failed to pitch a shut out.
The Red Sox say Matsuzaka is in a transitional year with better things sure to come. What else are they going to say?
But the reality is that Matsuzaka, with his indifferent performance, is in the eyes of New Englandâ€™s rabid fans, just another player. And to many in Japan, heâ€™s an embarrassment.
Thatâ€™s too bad because Matsuzaka seems like a decent young man. And, after all, he didnâ€™t generate all the hype.
But maybe Matsuzaka would have been better off personally if not financially had he stayed in Japan.