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Just Dice-K being Dice-K?

Posted by Tony Massarotti, Globe Staff  July 28, 2009 06:55 PM

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As it turns out, they have divas in Japan, too.

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They have multimillion-dollar athletes who take all of the credit and none of the blame, and they have overpaid excuse-makers just as proficient at passing the buck. Apparently, at least in Daisuke Matsuzaka's house, they just don't have mirrors.

"I think we all share, in a word, that it's disappointing," Red Sox pitching coach John Farrell said a short time ago in the Boston clubhouse -- veins all but bulging from his neck -- in response to critical comments made by Daisuke Matsuzaka. Added Farrell when asked if he was frustrated, "The disappointment comes in airing his dirty laundry."

Disappointed? No, no, no. The Red Sox are not disappointed. They are downright angry. At instants during an impromptu gathering in the middle of the clubhouse prior to tonight's game with the Oakland Athletics, Farrell looked as if his head were about to explode. The truth is that the Red Sox were tired of Matsuzaka's high-maintenance act a long time ago, but they kept their mouths shut and put up with it because Matsuzaka won games.

Now that Matsuzaka is the possessor of a 1-5 record and 8.23 ERA, the gloves are coming off, though it should be stressed that Matsuzaka threw the first punch here. As the saying goes, you truly find out about a person's character during the bad times more than you do the good times. Matsuzaka returned from Florida on Friday to check in with Sox doctors and officials, a meeting after which Francona sat before assembled media and expressed optimism that the lines of communication were more open than ever with his struggling pitcher.

Within days, based on an interpretation that first appeared on WEEI.com, Matsuzaka told the Japanese media the following: "If I'm forced to continue to train in this environment, I may no longer be able to pitch like I did in Japan. The only reason why I managed to win games during the first and second years [in the United States] was because I used the savings of the shoulder I built up in Japan. Since I came to the Major Leagues, I couldn't train in my own way, so now I've lost all those savings."

Is he kidding with this? Really? Last season, while going 18-3 with a 2.90 ERA, Matsuzaka became the first major league starter in history to win 18 or more games with as few as 167-2/3 innings pitched. He ranked fifth in the majors in run support. Matsuzaka threw the shocking average of precisely 17.3 pitches per inning in 29 starts and, on average, pitched roughly 5 2/3 innings per outing, which means he got support from than just the Red Sox offense. He got support from the Boston bullpen, too.

But ask him and Matsuzaka will tell you the only reason why I managed to win games during the first and second years [in the United States] was because I used the savings of the shoulder I built up in Japan.

What Matsuzaka did not say, of course, was that he showed up in camp this year looking like the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man. (What's the Japanese word for doughboy, anyway?) Asked about Matsuzaka's strength when the pitcher returned from the World Baseball Classic, Farrell said at the time that Matsuzaka graded out well when the club tested the pitcher's shoulder. In retrospect, what Farrell did not say was that Matsuzaka looked like he spent the winter eating bon bons, which the Red Sox believe contributed to the pitcher's problems.

"It's not just the shoulder," Farrell said tonight when asked about the importance of proper conditioning. "When the overall body is not in the condition necessary to support that, there has to be some responsibility taken [on the part of the pitcher.]"

Like we said, Matsuzaka apparently doesn't have many mirrors in his home.

Obviously, there is a great deal to consider here. When the Red Sox first acquired Matsuzaka for a total investment of $103.11 million, they reminded us of the cultural and baseball issues that inevitably would take place. They have bent over backwards to accommodate their pitcher. In the middle of this crisis, it is important to remember that Matsuzaka has no real allies or outlet in the American media and that this story is likely to be one-sided. American reporters have nothing to lose by criticizing Matsuzaka and taking the side of the Red Sox, regardless of whether the Sox have handled things in proper fashion.

In this case, by all accounts, the Red Sox have done everything to make Matsuzaka's experience in Boston a good one. Obviously, it is in the club's interest to do so. In retrospect, we can now state with certainty that the Red Sox are now far more frustrated with Matsuzaka than they ever were with the WBC, and they clearly feel now as if they cannot trust a pitcher in whom they invested a historic amount of money.

Said Red Sox manager Terry Francona, "For $102 million, if he were to go out there and do it his own way with his own coaches, if Mr. [John] Henry came down and said 'What's going on with Daisuke?' and if we said, 'We're just letting him do it his way,' that wouldn't be a good answer."

Said Farrell, "We'd like to think we're doing our best to put him in the best situation, and yet this is where the two worlds -- the two baseball worlds collide."

So, is this blowup now over?

"There have been a lot of conversations, a lot of discussions," said Farrell, who said the Red Sox spoke directly with Matsuzaka yesterday but declined to offer the details. "Whether he believes it -- I think that comes out in his article."

So there you have it.

Matsuzaka doesn't believe in the Red Sox and the Red Sox don't seem to believe in him.

Maybe it's just Dice-K being Dice-K.

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Updated: Mar 1, 07:24 AM

About Mazz

Tony Massarotti is a Globe sportswriter and has been writing about sports in Boston for the last 19 years. A lifelong Bostonian, Massarotti graduated from Waltham High School and Tufts University. He was voted the Massachusetts Sportswriter of the Year by his peers in 2000 and 2008 and has been a finalist for the award on several other occasions. This blog won a 2008 EPpy award for "Best Sports Blog".

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