The Dice Man

Guess all Daisuke Matsuzaka has to do now is prepare his Hall of Fame speech. Clearly, he’s the greatest pitcher of all time.

OK, that’s a bit much, not that you would know it by the reaction over his first start with the Boston Red Sox. To see the coverage on TV and in the press clippings, you’d think that baseball had just encountered the Messiah. The sheer grandiosity with which Matsuzaka’s first start was treated makes it seem as if no other pitcher has ever burst onto the scene with such nasty stuff.

Now, get me wrong. Matsuzaka is a special talent. I saw him in the World Baseball Classic, and like my reporing peers who also got a glimpse, figured Matsuzaka would be a sensational addition to the majors in 2007. I wouldn’t be shocked if he wins 20 right out of the gate. And whether his impact influences the way American pitchers are treated (and taught) will be a great sub-plot to watch for years.

But c’mon people, it’s only one game. And last I checked, the team he mesmerized on Thursday closely resembled the same one that has lost at least 100 games three years running. In short, this was a game Matsuzaka should have dominated. So let’s not dub him Cy Young just yet.

Better to wait how he treats the New York Yankees and Toronto Blue Jays and Texas Rangers. Now, there are three lineups that can rake. And better to wait until a lineup can face him in weather not better suited for cuddling in front of a fire. And even better to see how what he does come July and August and September when a full season of pitching on four days rest starts to make itself felt (in Japan, starters pitch every six days and Monday’s are always an off-day).

One other thing. Hideo Nomo was annointed the next great thing after he debuted for the Dodgers against the Giants in 1995, and that didn’t exactly come to pass.

Now don’t get me wrong, Matsuzaka has more tools than Nomo ever did. He throw harder, with more consistency and with more pitch-selection than Nomo ever did. But take his opening effort for what it was worth. It was impressive. It does not make him a legend.