TOKYO -- I am here to tell you that this whole jet lag thing is overrated. I know Mike Mussina is still trying to recover from his 2004 trip to Japan with the Yankees, but most Red Sox players should be OK by the time they play the Hanshin Tigers at the Tokyo Dome Saturday afternoon.
That's not the conventional wisdom, of course. We're trained to think that jet lag is worse than childbirth and water boarding. Seasoned travelers, physicians, and the Major League Players Association would have you believe that a 12-hour flight from Chicago to Tokyo is equal to NFL two-a-days or 15 rounds with Floyd Mayweather. For those truly in need of an excuse, a long plane ride across the international dateline gives you plenty of ammo.
The Red Sox official handbook for this trip includes more than a full-page under the heading "Fighting Jet Lag."
"Jetlag is a very real factor that all international travelers must deal with," started the memo, which went on to suggest drinking plenty of water and avoiding coffee and alcohol. Sox team internist Dr. Larry Ronan also suggested the players avoiding sleeping on the plane in order to get their body clocks on Japan time.
"That went out the window for me in the middle of the flight when I saw Dr. Ronan snoring with the mask over his eyes and a glass of wine in front of him," said manager Terry Francona. "I feel like (expletive) today, but I feel like (expletive) every day so I'm fine. We're fine."
The Sox players appeared to be at full strength at the Dome Friday. Nobody called in sick. Nobody complained of fatigue, intestinal parasites or bubonic plague.
"I actually don't feel that bad," Mike Lowell said as he tried to talk his way past security at the Tokyo Dome before the workout. "I didn't sleep much on the plane, got to my room after 2 a.m., popped an Ambien and I feel pretty good today."
Good plan, Mike. I was on that same plane and did the same thing. I actually considered taking an Ambien at the beginning of the long flight, but I was afraid I might start sleepwalking or attempt to cast a vote in Congress, so I stayed off the hard drugs 'til I was safe in my hotel room.
Daisuke Matsuzaka, the reason the Red Sox are here, stumbled briefly when addressing the fawning local media Friday. "I slept well last night," Dice-K said through his interpreter.
"I'm a little bit jet-lagged," Matsuzaka added, then said, "Sorry, I wasn't supposed to say that."
Seeing Dice-K in his native land is a little like being around Larry Bird when the 1980s Celtics would play in Indianapolis. Think Elvis coming back to Graceland. Matsuzaka is a true rock star in his homeland and he knows he shouldn't be the one to remind everyone about the dreaded jetlag.
Francona is adamant that his ball club will not use this trip as a crutch if the Sox struggle out of the gate
"You'll never hear an excuse," pledged the manager. "We try to have an atmosphere where our players want to play the game correctly . . . Nothing is perfect. A long flight and a trip like this takes us out of our routine, but where ever they send us, we'll go."
"It's not that complicated," said Sox GM Theo Epstein, who probably was overruled when Sox management pushed to make this trip. "We need to be men about it and not use it as an excuse. I hope we have a good start in April and don't have any reason to use it as an excuse."
Oakland southpaw starter Dana Eveland has already started grumbling about the trip, but A's ace reliever Huston Street said, "No excuses on my end. The key for me is getting on the same schedule as the place I'm playing in. Playing on a West coast team, we have a lot of six hour trips so I think it becomes a little easier for us."
"It's going to be interesting," said J.D. Drew. "I don't think jetlag is overrated, not when you make this kind of a trip and then to back to spring training on the West Coast. It's a long time to be away from your family. We're going to play the hand we've been dealt, but it's a little weird to have games that count, then games that don't count."
The games here don't count until Tuesday. So there's plenty of time for rest between now and the opener.
Dan Shaughnessy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.