Tuesday, May 15, 2007
Wow. That was something to see.
Now, don't get me wrong, I was prepared for the Matsuzaka Madness. They do have TVs out there in Michigan, after all. And computers. And newspapers. And anyone with access to one or more of these things is probably aware of Matsuzaka Madness to some degree, regardless of where they are.
But I was still, as I made my way into Fenway for my first Sox game of the year, a bit taken aback by the length, breadth, and depth of the insanity. I suppose that's not what's so surprising; it's how something this massive has taken hold in so short a period of time. Dude just got here! Yet there are signs and billboards in Japanese welcoming you to Fenway, the scorecard I bought outside the park came with a "Welcome to Boston Daisuke Matsuzaka-san" headband, there were kids everywhere with "Dice-K" tshirts and people with Dice-K signs and jerseys with Japanese on the back (which is interesting, because I think the Japan League uniforms, for whatever deranged reason, use English). All this for a guy who's barely been in the country two months. We don't mess around with our baseball crazy in Boston.
The one thing I was looking for that I did NOT see was someone with a Matsuzaka Seibu Lions jersey. I did see some guy in an Expos Pedro jersey, which was impressive, but nobody seems to have dipped into the Dice-K past just yet.
Insanity or not, I then got to see the kid pitch.
Early on it looked like the Tigers might have a chance. The swings they were taking weren't bad, and although Nate was struggling to hold onto batters, he seemed to be more or less up to the task. The thing is, while Nate tired and had to be removed in favor of Tim "I just got here I don't even know if I have the right uniform on ahhhh where are my shoes ahhhhhh" Byrdak and Bobby "O" Seay "can you see how bad my pitching is", Matsuzaka actually.... seemed to get.... stronger.
I noticed it in the 6th inning, when the Tigers started taking cuts so hard they were spun around at the plate. Yeah, Sheffield was one of them, and that's how Sheffield swings, but it was happening to other, less jerkasaur-bat Tigers too. I'm talkin' huge swings, the kind of swing a guy takes when he's SO SURE he has a bead on the ball... only they didn't, and the bafflement upon their faces was extreme. It's like he started REALLY moving the ball around later in the game. "Oh hi, yeah, those first 5 innings were just warmups! NOW YOU SUFFER."
Matsuzaka is not a particularly imposing figure out there on the mound. He's not some giant elongated freak like Randy Johnson and he's not some enormous mountain of a man like Roger Clemens or CC Sabathia. He doesn't seem like he's going to leap off the mound and eat your liver at any moment like Carlos Zambrano. He doesn't even have the same feel as a small guy with a huge mound presence, like a Pedro or a Tim Hudson. He reminds me most (in mound presence, not necessarily pitching style) of Johan Santana.
You see him (Santana or Matsuzaka) on the mound and you think, "Huh. Not as big as I expected. Kinda sweet-looking. Kinda quiet-looking." Then they start pitching and you think, "Well, that's not too overpowering. Maybe this won't be so bad." Then they continue pitching and eventually you realize, "Wow, we're getting our kidneys carved right the heck up." It's a little scary and a lot disconcerting.
Anyways. I obviously took a great many more photos than just the one heading up this post, but I'm still processing them. I'll link you when I'm done.
For the Tigers side of my brain and its view on this one, you can check out my Roar of the Tigers post about it.
For the foreign angle, you can see Iain's post about it, since he's in town and is getting to see all these insanely good games. Obviously the Red Sox love him. For MOAR MOAR MOAR, you can see Jere's post, since we ran into him pre-game and he has a photo of us obsessing over Tigers BP in his post (or, OK, in his shot I'm obsessing over the Tigers while Beth and Iain taunt me about Brandon Inge).
Oh, and Ian of Bless You Boys has an "interview" with me up 'cause he likes getting other blogger opinions. I opine about the Red Sox and swear a lot. It's ace.
Labels: Daisuke Matsuzaka, in attendance, Red Sox, Tigers