x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Importing quality comes with a big risk for baseball clubs

Matsuzaka's move to Boston has proved that no matter the degree of research, there is still a significant different between pitching in Japan and in Major League Baseball.

In the autumn of 2006, the Boston Red Sox outbid all other suitors and won a "posting fee'' war by giving the Seibu Lions US$51 million (Dh187m) for the right to merely negotiate for Daisuke Matsuzaka, the Japanese pitcher.

They then doubled their investment and signed Matsuzaka to a six-year, $52m deal, bringing their bill to $103m.

Last week, Matsuzaka was found to have a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow, an injury which will require tendon transplant surgery and may have thrown his last pitch for the Red Sox. His six-year deal will expire after the 2012 season and recovery from his procedure will take a minimum of a year.

At the time, the Red Sox pursuit of Matsuzaka was seen as innovative. Matsuzaka was still relatively young (26) and had been a standout in his native country.

But almost from the beginning, there were problems. Matsuzaka never seemed to adjust from pitching in Japan and pitching in North America. While he wanted to throw more between starts, the Red Sox cautioned him to not overdo it.

After winning 33 games in his first two seasons, Matsuzaka suffered from injuries and inconsistent performance. Then, came the elbow injury.

All of which should serve a cautionary tale for other clubs: no matter the degree of research, there is still a significant different between pitching in Japan and in Major League Baseball.

Especially, when the price tag reached nine figures.