Heading west may be best for Japanese players
If history is any indication, adjusting to the big leagues may be a bit more difficult for Daisuke Matsuzaka while playing on the East Coast.
Granted, only five Japanese players have gone straight from the Japanese Central or Pacific League to a team east of the Appalachians. I would argue that Tsuyoshi Shinjo, who joined the Mets in 2001, shouldn't be considered a potential impact player because he really wasn't a star in Japan. That leaves four: pitchers Hideki Irabu (Yankees) and Masato Yoshii (Mets), outfielder Hideki Matsui (Yankees) and second baseman Kazuo Matsui (Mets).
Two of those players were unmitigated disasters. Irabu was jeered by Yankees owner George Steinbrenner and picked up a decidedly unflattering nickname: Head-achy I-rob-you. He was never particularly healthy, and he never pitched particularly well. Kaz Matsui joined the Mets in 2004, with an impeccable track record. In Japan, he was a power-hitting shortstop, averaging 29 homers per season over his last four seasons. When the Mets got him, he was still only 28, theoretically in the prime of his career. In the three seasons since then, Matsui has hit 13 home runs. Rarely has $20 million been spent so ill.
The Matsuzaka File
26 (Sept. 13, 1980)
No. 1 pick by Seibu Lions ('98)
1999 Pacific League Rookie of the Year
2001 Sawamura Award (top pitcher in Japan)
2006 World Baseball Classic MVP
All with Seibu Lions
• Kurkjian: Posting process needs to be fixed
• Allen: D-Mat signing double-edged sword for Japan
• Neyer: Japanese players ... go west
• Law: Matsuzaka strengthens Sox rotation
• Olney: Boston brilliant with D-Mat deal
• Gammons: Red Sox get D-Mat their way
• Poll: Is he worth the hype?
• Karabell: Matsuzaka's fantasy value
• Gammons: Show Matsuzaka the money
• Allen: Matsuzaka keeps Japan waiting
• Neyer: Red Sox's new math doesn't add up
• Crasnick: Sign Matsuzaka or Zito?
• McAdam: Red Sox can't cry anymore
• Allen: A stunner in Japan
• Red Sox bid $51.1 million
• Crasnick: Respecting "Mr. Matsuzaka"
• Gammons: Boston's investment plan
• Vote: Is Matsuzaka worth it?
• Law: Top 40 free agents
• Kurkjian: How much pressure he'll face
• Bobby Valentine's Matsuzaka experience
• Daisuke strikes a deal
• Breaking down Matsuzaka deal
• Is Daisuke finally the one?
• Matsuzaka headed for Boston
• Interview with Scott Boras
• Is Matsuzaka worth $51.1M?
• Peter Gammons: Red Sox got a bargain
• Terry Francona: No language issues
• Buster Olney: Boston's great offseason
• Tim Kurkjian: Yanks still own AL East
• Keith Law: A big-game pitcher
• SI.com's Jon Heyman
• Dan Patrick and Keith Olbermann