So perhaps there was no other way for this to turn out but as a "joyous day in New England," as Red Sox owner John Henry termed it.
But for anyone who believes it was a foregone conclusion, this celebratory press conference the Sox held yesterday for Japanese star pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka -- and let history remember that the first pitch he tossed from the mound at Fenway Park nearly toppled the man on the receiving end, Henry himself -- maybe they would not feel as certain if they had been with CEO Larry Lucchino and general manager Theo Epstein the morning before.
New details have emerged about the Matsuzaka negotiations, which culminated yesterday with a media throng from two nations (numbering around 300) and one notable spectator (Mayor Thomas M. Menino) witnessing the announcement that Matsuzaka had signed with the Sox. Matsuzaka, who received the final results of his physical late in the morning, put his signature on a six-year, $52 million contract yesterday afternoon that included additional benefits that addressed his concerns about him and his family making as smooth a transition as possible into a new culture.
"There were certainly a lot of ups and downs as far as the negotiations," Epstein said at the press conference, during which Matsuzaka, whose visage was already up on the Fenway Park video scoreboard yesterday, held up a Red Sox jersey bearing his No. 18, a number often given to an ace pitcher in Japan, but in Boston had previously been worn by fan favorite Johnny Damon. "But I think all the parties had a common goal -- just for Daisuke to join the Red Sox and start his major league career."
That common purpose was not so apparent early Wednesday morning, when Epstein and Lucchino had headed to John Wayne Airport in Santa Ana, Calif., joined by chairman Tom Werner, believing they were returning to Boston without Matsuzaka on board Henry's plane, according to a source with direct knowledge of the negotiations.
Epstein had gone back and forth with agent Scott Boras until just before dawn Wednesday without reaching an agreement. Epstein, whose opening offer to Boras had been for six years and $36 million, had been sent with Lucchino to southern California to present an improved offer of $48 million for six years, which had been summarily rejected by Boras, who had talked in terms of a six-year deal in the $90 million range. That was Monday night.
On Tuesday, Epstein and Lucchino made their final offer of $52 million for six years. Boras countered with an offer of around $66 million for six years, or a four-year deal.
The Sox held firm and told Boras if Matsuzaka was not on the plane by 9, there would be no deal. At 7:30 a.m., having already checked out of their hotel, Epstein called Boras and repeated his terms; Boras said no.
A few minutes later, Epstein's phone rang. It was Boras. He told Epstein he and Matsuzaka were on their way to the airport.
Only then did the Sox believe that a quest that actually had begun several years ago, when Matsuzaka first showed up on their radar, but became tangible a month ago when they made the highest posting bid for his services -- $51.1 million to his Japanese team, the Seibu Lions -- would culminate in a deal.
Lucchino said yesterday the pivotal moment in the negotiations came when Henry decided to send the negotiators unannounced to California to close the deal. There were issues that still needed to be resolved on the flight back to Hanscom Field in Bedford, but Matsuzaka, according to another source, fell asleep almost immediately after having breakfast. "He was exhausted," the source said.
While Matsuzaka slept, the Sox and Boras negotiated a package of benefits -- Lucchino balked at calling them perks -- that included a physical therapist, massage therapist, interpreter, personal assistant, a total of 80 to 90 flights over the course of the contract, special transportation and living accommodations for Matsuzaka and his wife. All, Lucchino said, were designed to assuage his desire to make as smooth a transition as possible.
Such benefits are not unknown in major league contracts. Another former Boras client, pitcher Kevin Brown, had a clause in his seven-year, $105 million deal with the Dodgers in which the team agreed to pay for a dozen trips a year between Los Angeles and his home in Macon, Ga. Troy Glaus, now with Toronto, had a clause in his contract with Arizona that provided for $250,000 a year to cover equestrian training costs for his wife, an accomplished rider.
"They were very important to the kid," said Craig Shipley, who oversees the Sox international scouting operation, personally scouted Matsuzaka twice last summer, and all along avoided comment about Matsuzaka as part of Epstein's successful strategy for the Sox to conceal their interest in the 26-year-old righthander.
"There were concerns. Obviously there is a transition, given who he is, the attention he gets both here and in Japan, he wanted to make sure that on the field and off the field, everything is taken care of. There needs to be an infrastructure set up for this kid that is going to allow him to do the best he can on the field."
The last bits of haggling continued at Massachusetts General Hospital, even as Matsuzaka underwent his physical Wednesday night, before an agreement was reached. That led to the scene yesterday around 3:30 p.m., in which Matsuzaka, in an SUV driven by Sox clubhouse man Tom McLaughlin, arrived at Fenway Park for a tour of the facilities conducted by Epstein and the Sox owners.
That's when he went out on the field, toed the rubber, and tossed a ball to Henry, who lost his balance as the ball sailed over the plate. Had Matsuzaka thrown the unsuspecting Henry the "gyroball," the mythical pitch he is said to throw?
"You know," Henry said when asked about it at the press conference televised live here and in Japan, "we didn't go over the signs. I put down four fingers, expecting a changeup, but he crossed me up."
Henry has put up over $103 million of the Red Sox' money -- $51.1 million in posting fee, $52 million in salary -- convinced of Matsuzaka's talent. Epstein, Lucchino, and Boras all referred to him yesterday as a "national treasure," with no sense of irony that Matsuzaka will now have enough money to bankroll a treasury.
"If I kept playing in Japan, it would have been kind of hard to get that kind of money," said Matsuzaka, who was paid $2.75 million last season by Seibu. "I feel pressure, but it's a little. A little."
Happy? Yes, Matsuzaka said. "Very happy and excited."
But ask him if pitching for the Sox is a fulfillment of a dream, and you will receive a sharper answer, even if it was mangled by the Boras associate translating yesterday.
"I hate the word 'dream,' " he said, "because a dream is a dream. It's not what happens.
"So I look at it as a goal. I believe I can be in the major leagues."
It wouldn't be Boston, of course, unless someone asked him about the Yankees. The kid came prepared.
"Everybody told me I should say I'm going to beat the Yankees," he said. "I thought it was a joke, so I didn't say that."
Gordon Edes can be reached at email@example.com.