Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The End

Hello again Matsuzaka Watch fans. This will be the final post at Matsuzaka Watch. I am a bit sad to be hanging up the work I've done here. It's been a lot of fun and has helped to bring new perspective on the Japanese game to a broad audience. It has also given me a new perspective and has produced a good deal of thought provoking ideas that need to be explored further.

Matsuzaka Watch started at my Yankees blog Canyon of Heroes on March 26, 2006 and was dedicated to bringing Yankee fans information about a dynamic pitching force from Japan. Ironically, the first comment attached to the post there comes from someone calling themselves Sawx Rule and reads, "Hey, I think you made a mistake in your picture. Shouldn't you have Matsuzaka in a Red Sox's uniform?" The post featured a poorly "Photoshopped" likeness of Daisuke in a Yankee uniform (see left).

On June 27, 2006 I moved the Canyon of Heroes content over to this blog, hoping to work more seriously on this project for a broader audience. That move was one of the best things I've done as a blogger, as my audience surged and my ability to discuss the Japanese sport with a larger number of readers became reality. My interview with BP's Will Carroll helped to introduce me to the Baseball Prospectus family and a regular column with them took off.

The posting process saw traffic at Matsuzaka Watch go through the roof. I recall people contacting me at 2-3am with e-mails about rumor A or rumor B. Yes, there were actually people who couldn't sleep as the days before the announcement approached. During that period, I played around with a few different banners for the winning bid. Check them out below:

I was prepared for most realistic contingencies here at MW, and when the news hit that the Red Sox had won the negotiating rights for Matsuzaka, I put up the final banner you see in that group. The current banner came soon after he officially signed and we were off to the races. The image of Daisuke in the current banner comes from the Asahi Beer photo shoots he did prior to heading wearing the Red Sox uniform on the field. I'd hoped that Daisuke would be wearing pinstripes, as you well know by now, and mocked up an action photo of him pitching for the Yankees. When the news came down about Boston, I had to change gears and rework my art to reflect the tough reality. See below:

This is a poorly mocked up version of Daisuke as a Yankee, which looks perfectly ridiculous right now. Secret: The uniform I used was from a Carl Pavano photo. That might explain the bad luck the Yanks had in the posting process.

Here's the Red Sox version. This uniform was Pedro's. Don't look too closely at the picture or you'll see the extra jersey I had to create on his right hip, shadows and all.

The season was full of hype, over-hype, excitement, disappointment, promise, and in the end the Red Sox won it all. This story had the complete range of elements to captivate an audience. There was drama (the posting), mythology (the gyroball), rising action (his strong debut and the Ichiro meeting), falling action (the poor close to the season), and a triumphant climax (World Series victory). I have a lot of optimism about Daisuke's 2008. He's the type of pitcher that will make the adjustment, and he proved in Japan that he was able to rise to the level of his competition. It took a number of years with Seibu before the flashes of brilliance translated to full time domination. I expect that you'll see something very special out of this pitcher before his contract is up.

As for me, I will continue my work at Baseball Prospectus. I will be continuing my various "Watch" blogs for other Japanese players, and I will be using Baseball Japan as my home base for everything related to the sport in Japan. In addition, I have a couple of more ambitious projects in the works that might eventually come to fruition and really provide the English-speaking fan with the resources they crave for following amateur and professional baseball across the ocean. Stay tuned at BP and at Baseball Japan for more, and don't be a stranger. My e-mail is still in the right margin at the top, and I will leave this blog here for posterity. Thank you from the bottom of my heart and see you around.

Mike Plugh