July 30, 2009

The bloom seems to be coming off the rose in Boston. Dan Shaughnessy said in The Globe: “Remember the golden days of Daisuke Matsuzaka?
At the beginning, it was a perfect marriage. We had Dice-K mania, gyroballs, and the globalization of Red Sox Nation. The Red Sox spent $103 million to
acquire Japan’s Walter Johnson. In his first season with the Sox, Matsuzaka won the third game of a World Series sweep. A year later, he went 18-3.
Matsuzaka’s mere presence prompted the Red Sox to open the 2008 season in the Tokyo Dome, a startling inconvenience that would have been unthinkable had the Sox not featured Japan’s top baseball export. His starts were events – much like those of Pedro Martínez, circa 1998-2000.
All of which makes yesterday’s events particularly annoying and deflating. Through his words and actions, Matsuzaka infuriated manager Terry Francona, pitching Coach John Farrell, Boston’s owners, and a legion of Sox fans. One year after the Manny Ramirez debacle, Dice-K did his best to get his butt shipped out of town.
Matsuzaka, he of the 1-5 record and the 8.23 ERA, ripped the Red Sox organization. Rehabbing in Florida, speaking to a Japanese website during his shoulder rehab, he basically blamed his 2009 troubles on the Sox’ training regimen.
“If I’m forced to continue to train in this environment, I may no longer be able to pitch like I did in Japan,’’ he told the website. “The only reason why I managedto win games during the first and second years 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.’’
At Fenway, the fallout was swift and unusually blunt.
“To hear him say that is disappointing,’’ said Francona, who would rather quit chewing tobacco than criticize a player. “At times, he’s been his own pitching
coach. For $102 million, if [Red Sox owner John Henry] came down and asked ‘What’s going on?’ and we said, ‘We’re letting [Daisuke] do it his own way,’ he probably wouldn’t like that very much. I’ve talked to Dice and Masa [translator Masa Hoshino]. I’ve had enough. I think they’ve had enough of me.’’
Tim Wakefield, the senior member of the Sox clubhouse and a pitcher who knows a thing or two about Boston’s training and rehab regimens, rolled his eyes and said, “My philosophy is, I’m an employee and I do what I’m told.’’
Farrell, ever the John Wayne presence in the coaches corner, said, “We have a responsibility for the size of the investment. It’s unfortunate that he feels that way.
It’s disappointing. This is where two baseball worlds somewhat collide. But there has to be some accountability and responsibility on the part of the player. So the disappointment comes from [him] basically airing his dirty laundry.’’
Red Sox CEO Larry Lucchino said, “We’re not going to have any comment. We look forward to Daisuke returning to the mound at Fenway.’’
No need to have anything lost in translation on this one. The Sox are steamed. Matsuzaka talked out of turn, infuriated his bosses and his teammates, and unwittingly took the focus away from Hall of Famer Jim Rice on the night the slugger’s number was retired.
This has happened before at Fenway. Back in the early 1980s, Sox ownership partner Buddy LeRoux staged his infamous takeover (the LeRoux coup) on the night the ballclub honored fallen slugger Tony Conigliaro. Like Tony C back in the day, Rice deserved better.
It is reasonable to wonder if Matsuzaka will pitch again for the Sox this season. Or ever. The Sox thought they had an understanding with the stubborn righty, but now all bets are off.”


Frank Deford talked about the growth of  “Title IX” funding in today’s college athletics and the problems he can foresee.                                                                                   
“The Ladies Professional Golf Association is like the NAACP — both are a bit retro in their language. Nobody says “colored people” anymore, and, at least in sports, “ladies” is passe. Apart from golf, the females playing professionally today are not L’s, but W’s — women: the WTA, the WNBA, and so forth. After the old joke: that is no lady, that’s my athlete.
Unfortunately, across the board, in sports, these raw economic times have hit harder on women. We must remember that w omen’s sports, like women’s colleges, operate at a disadvantage when it comes to attracting the big money that is so often controlled by men. But also this: whether it’s cultural or genetic or both, women do not seem as inclined as men to pay to watch their own gender play games.
Nothing illustrated this better than the Women’s United Soccer Association, which opened in 2001 in the afterglow of the U.S. team’s World Cup victory, but folded ingloriously only two years later after a loss of $100 million. The fact that men’s soccer had never been successful here gave women their first real chance to have a popular American professional team sport where they could be preeminent, so the failure was as symbolic as it was financial.
Meanwhile, the WNBA limps along, forced to play as something of a basketball afterthought in the summer. The WNBA’s Houston franchise is so far the only to fold in any major sport since the great recession began. Then, earlier this month the LPGA forced out its commissioner, as ladies’ golf kept bleeding sponsors.
And, of course, sexism still raises its ugly head . . . or, some would say: its pretty head. There was the recent brouhaha when a Wimbledon official admitted, and even rather blithely, that often the choice of which female players were scheduled on the show courts had more to do with looks than talent. Everybody was aghast at such overt chauvinism, only the harsh reality is that until women start stepping up and buying tickets for women’s games, then — like it or not — sex may simply be good box office. Ten years later, what do most people remember about the 1999 World Cup — that Brandi Chastain scored the winning goal?
No, that Brandi Chastain took her shirt off.
American school sports are also having to cut back, although the men in charge inevitably make efforts to preserve football at all costs. Aha, but Title IX requires proportionate athletic representation, and football is so manpower-intensive that this invariably threatens the existence of other male sports. And here’s the greater irony: as American girls outdo boys in the classroom, more girls go to college. If boys like watching sports that much more than studying, fine. That’s all they’ll be doing — watching because college teams will, increasingly, by law, be women’s teams.
I’m not being facetious when I say that college athletic programs are heading toward a time when the men’s side may be football and basketball alone, while women will have a wide array of sports to choose from.”


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