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Tumbling Dice

Posted by Gordon Edes, Globe Staff  December 11, 2006 01:44 AM

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With Thursday's deadline for signing Daisuke Matsuzaka looming, the Red Sox are in a position of wondering, as one well-placed source said yesterday, whether agent Scott Boras is "running out the clock'' on negotiations.

Talks over the weekend moved at a glacial pace, with the Sox, as of Sunday night, still awaiting the semblance of a counter-offer from Boras to the comprehensive offer they made at least 10 days ago. Boras had pledged late last week that the Sox would hear directly from Matsuzaka, who flew in from Tokyo on Saturday, but there was no public indication that has yet to happen. Indeed, frustrated Sox officials were privately wondering whether the player was aware that Boras so far had not made a counter-offer.

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But regardless of whether Boras has put a deal on the table that the pitcher would accept, he has both publicly and privately let it be known to the Sox that he expects the 26-year-old Matsuzaka to be compensated like an elite free agent. The Red Sox, meanwhile, have argued that the reason they were willing to post $51.1 million to Matsuzaka's Japanese team, the Seibu Lions, for the right to negotiate with the pitcher is because they would own controlling rights over him for six years.

"The level of Matsuzaka's performance has been defined by major league managers, major league general managers and by the very (posting) value as being extraordinary,'' Boras said last week in Orlando. "No one is suggesting this person will be anything but a top of the rotation pitcher, who will have a dramatic impact on a franchise, if not immediately, certainly in the course of the contract.

"What's gone on here in the winter meetings for pitchers and players in general in this market, it's very clear our game is very successful revenue-wise and players are receiving new salary levels, which is customary. As revenues increase, salaries increase. D-Mat will share and should share in the same market as all other players in major league uniforms share.

"The one thing that is true and does separate D-Mat from most all players is that he brings with him an entire (country) of 127 million people to a franchise, an identity to a franchise. When you do that you're bringing a value that is above the service value that a player brings. That's certainly something we can approach outside the contract through a partnership...to talk about how we share in that licensing value, brings a brand of a team and a player and an image to a country of 127 million people.

"The fact that the Sox bid $51 million for Matsuzaka should not impact on how he is compensated," Boras said. "If all major league teams bid one dollar, this issue would not be an issue,'' he said. "The fact of the matter is, what major league teams choose to bid to acquire the rights to a player does not in any way impact on the two rights values -- one, the service rights, and the licensing rights he brings to a franchise. There is a viewpoint that this is an acquisition price. What it really is is a competitive exclusion price. Often when you choose to exclude all other franchises from the rights to a player, that is no different than privatizing a particular trade mart license, purchasing land, all those other things that you gain ownership for a reason. but it doesn't affect really what equitably is the second step, and that is, (the rights value).''

Boras has placed himself in the position of championing the rights of the Japanese player, which has helped to mitigate the perception that Matsuzaka is being greedy, according to Japanese reporters covering the negotiations. "Clearly,'' Boras said, "it was never contemplated that the posting sytem would deliver a value that would be almost the equivalent of 60-70 percent of a franchise value in Japan.''

So, the last word belongs to the Rolling Stones.

"Baby, I can't stay, you got to roll me And call me the tumblin' dice.
Always in a hurry, I never stop to worry,
Don't you see the time flashin' by.
Honey, got no money,
I'm all sixes and sevens and nines.''

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