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Dice-K a gamble the Red Sox ultimately lost

Michael Rushton, MLB Contributing Editor

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - When a dreamy-eyed visitor to one of the many casinos stationed around the country approaches a craps table, said participant is dreaming of winning it big and taking the casino by storm.

It only takes a few numbers on the dice to quickly dash and destroy those hopes and desires. For the Boston Red Sox, that number was $51.1 million and one has to wonder if the club would have rather lost out on that chunk of money rather than transform it into one of the highest-paid busts the world of baseball has seen in some time.

With right-hander Daisuke Matsuzaka apparently set to undergo Tommy John surgery, the procedure will not only end his 2011 season due to a 12-to-15 month rehab timetable, but likely his up-and-down tenure with the Red Sox organization.

Lets not forget first just how hard it was to even get Matsuzaka in a Boston uniform. It first cost them a $51.1 million bid just to get the rights to negotiate with the Japanese hero. With super agent Scott Boras pulling the strings, the window to sign Matsuzaka nearly closed before the sides agreed to a six-year, $52 million deal in December of 2006.


Daisuke Matsuzaka now represents $103 million down the drain.
"This is like a signing of the national treasure, if you follow Daisuke, it began in 1998 and has gone throughout his entire professional career and all his accomplishments," Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein said at the time of the signing. "We understand his importance in Japan. We know what he represents."

What Dice-K now represents is $103 million down the drain.

Sure, the start to Matsuzaka's career in the major leagues initially seemed to justify all the hoops and cash it took to bring the Tokyo-born pitcher stateside. He posted 15 victories as rookie in 2007 and won Game 3 of the World Series as the Red Sox swept the Colorado Rockies for their second championship in four years.

The following season saw the righty win 18 games with a career-best 2.90 earned run average and finish fourth in the AL Cy Young Award voting, but it also featured the first glimpse of what was to come. Matsuzaka spent time on the disabled list with a right rotator cuff strain, the first of many injuries that would afflict him over the next three seasons.

Right shoulder, arm, neck and back ailments have all limited the now 30-year- old Matsuzaka to just 16 wins and 44 starts since the 2009 season. He was 3-3 with a 5.30 ERA in eight games, including seven starts, this year, but hasn't pitched since May 16 because of a torn ligament in his right elbow.

He might not pitch with the Red Sox ever again.

While the club had hoped for rest and rehab instead of surgery, that apparently isn't the path that Matsuzaka wants to take. Now lost for the rest of the season and at least the early part of next year, Matsuzaka won't be in such a big rush to return to action and possibly suffer a setback before he enters free agency following the 2012 season.

That shouldn't bother the Red Sox either as they count down the days until they can wash their hands of the $100-million bust, a far cry from how they felt when they rolled sevens chasing after Dice-K years ago.

While it is true that Matsuzaka helped bring a title to Beantown at the onset of his career, it is also a fact we live in a world that only wants to know what you have done lately. Ask the Red Sox that question about their former ace and the response is likely to be, "not much"

And we still never got to see a gyroball.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Michael Rushton at mrushton@sportsnetwork.com.

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