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Home » July 2009 Game CommentsJuly 2009 » Clash


Game 98: July 27, 2009
L: Trevor Cahill (6-9)
41-57, 2 game losing streak
WinRed Sox8
W: Josh Beckett (12-4)
58-40, 1 game winning streak
Highlights: The Red Sox failed to score in the second, sixth, and eighth innings. Slackers. They got the early lead and kept it so they wouldn’t have to play the bottom of the ninth.

The drama between the Red Sox organization and Daisuke Matsuzaka seems more like one of Jim Rice’s soap operas than a meaningful meeting on of the minds. Through their proxy John Farrell the Red Sox contend that their training program is the right way to make all pitchers effective and Farrell stated that Matsuzaka slacked in the offseason. “In hindsight, there might not have been the work that he needed to put in on his own time during the offseason to build the foundation that every pitcher requires to withstand the workloads that a major league starting pitcher is going to go through here in the States,” said Farrell on WEEI.

The Japanese article chronicling Matsuzaka’s interactions with the club throws into sharp relief the vast divide between the pitcher’s approach to baseball and the Red Sox’s plan for him. Matsuzaka seems to believe that there is an essential physiological difference between Japanese and American pitchers.

I’m not terribly surprised by Matsuzaka’s opinions. Japan, like America, has people that believe strongly in its exceptionalism, but many Japanese believe that their differences are driven by inherent qualities in their race. Called nihonjinron, the disciples of this theory use many disciplines to explain the uniqueness of the country and its people. Scholarship (for want of a better word) in this vein does not start off with a question and then attempts to tease out an answer but rather begins with a set of answers in hand and seeks to explain everything about Japan’s history with those shibboleths.

Supporters to the theory of nihonjinron believe that Japan is one of kind because it is an isolated nation of islands, has a language and grammar unrelated to any other language, and is supposedly racially homogeneous. These particular facets are presented as the reasons for events in Japan’s history, from the fact that Japan was never colonized and then modernized with dizzying speed to its recovery from nuclear attacks to become an economic superpower. Some extreme theories go so far as to propose that the Japanese have been isolated so long that they evolved from a different line of primates than other people. So perhaps that is why Matsuzaka thinks that his shoulder should be treated differently from others in the Red Sox system.

How would both sides go about proving their respective points? The Red Sox would have to sift through data and find those pitchers of comparable age, size, and repertoire who have pitched as much as Matsuzaka and chart their career paths and injury history. The pitcher’s camp would need to provide evidence that the intensive throwing sessions enhance rather than diminish pitchers’ arms. Nolan Ryan and Leo Mazzone both incorporate some aspects of Matsuzaka’s approach. As much as I respect Farrell, he seems too hidebound to the Red Sox program to constructively negotiate with Matsuzaka to plan his future training.

It’s a shame to see such infighting. Battles should happen on the field, although Oakland didn’t put up much of a fight. Only Kurt Suzuki (a graduate of H.P. Baldwin High School, like me) and Eric Patterson drove in runs for the Anemics.

If Matsuzaka wants someone to emulate, Josh Beckett should be at the top of the list. It’s hard to argue with 7 innings pitched, 8 hits, 3 earned runs, 1 walk, and 10 strikeouts.

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