EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Sports

December 17, 2006

The road to Dice Man

Editor's note: The following was compiled from information given by various sources around Major League Baseball familiar with the Daisuke Matsuzaka negotiations.



BOSTON - The Red Sox never flinched, and because of it Boston has its man - Daisuke Matsuzaka.



The behind-the-scenes story of securing the services of Japan's biggest baseball-playing export of all-time is fraught with hopes, fears, and perhaps the most expensive bluff in baseball history. At the end of the day, it was Scott Boras who folded his cards, letting the Red Sox walk away with a pitcher an entire offseason plan had been built around.



When the showdown includes the cornerstone for a pitching staff, the possibility of an international incident, and more than $100 million, you can be certain there was more than a little anxiety.



The Red Sox were infatuated with Matsuzaka and the Seibu Lions were going to allow the 26-year-old to be posted shortly after the completion of the team's season. That meant major league teams could submit blind bids for the right to negotiate with Matsuzaka for one month.



Boston had been on the trail of the hurler well before most, using the connections and talents of Far East Scouting Director Jon Deeble and Professional and International Scouting Director Craig Shipley to scout Matsuzaka more than any team. By the end of the chase, Deeble had seen the Seibu star more than 60 times and Shipley had seen him almost as often.




The Red Sox had done their due diligence, and were clearly committed to making Matsuzaka their offseason priority, but there was creeping uncertainty. Media reports were estimating that the high posts for Matsuzaka were going to come in between $15-25 million, but Boston had an inkling that those were most likely on the low side.



There were questions on the validity of the process. Word had filtered through baseball that the Yankees had sent an executive to Seibu more than a few times even before the posting process began. MLB rivals wondered if an astronomically high bid might be made with the agreement that the Lions would return a portion of it.



Didn't want repeat of Contreras



The fear was that even the most intelligent bid might not get the job done. One thing was certain: The Red Sox did not want to lose. This wasn't Jose Contreras. In 2002, the Yankees beat the Sox for the services of the Cuban sensation.



Matsuzaka, by all accounts, was much more of a sure thing, not possessing the profile built on the blind faith, which was the case with Contreras.



In the current market, No. 3 starters are getting mega-millions usually reserved for No. 1 starters. Boston knew this was an opportunity that wouldn't be coming around again, especially this offseason when all potential pitching free agents would be long gone by the time the month-long negotiating process was complete.



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