At the end of 2006, the Boston Red Sox made an offer that Japan’s Seibu Lions superstar pitcher Daisuke (pronounced “Dice-K”) Matsuzaka couldn’t refuse: $51.1 million for the Red Sox to just negotiate with him. While he was Japan’s biggest sports star he knew that entering the American professional baseball leagues would transform his life and possibly jeopardize his reputation. After all, his predecessor, Japanese pitching superstar Hideo Nomo, faced a roller coaster ride in American baseball.
Matsuzaka first gained world attention when he pitched eight shut-out innings against the Cuban baseball team in the 2004 Olympics. From that point, his pitching style was in the spotlight, particularly his signature “gyro-ball”, a spiral pitch supposedly perfected by Japanese scientists. Like Dice-K, former Los Angeles Dodgers pitching superstar Hideo Nomo had a special signature pitch that confounded other players.
Some Red Sox fans fear that all the hype and money surrounding Matsuzaka could be a boondoggle. Japanese fans fear that Dice-K’s departure from Japanese baseball could signal the end of Japanese baseball, with American teams nabbing their best players. Both of these criticisms were reminiscent of the controversies surrounding the drafting of Japanese pitching superstar Hideo Nomo almost ten years earlier (1995).
In his first year with the Dodgers, Nomo led the league in strikeouts and was starting pitcher in the 1995 All-Star Game. In 1996, he had another good year capped by a no-hitter pitcher at Denver’s Coors Field, then notoriously known as a “hitter’s park.” In 1997 and 1998, his star began to fade as batters began to figure out his once baffling signature pitch. At the end of ’98, he was traded to the New York Mets where his performances continued to fade. From 1999 to 2001, he was traded to a succession of teams, including the Chicago Cubs, the Milwaukee Brewers, the Philadelphia Phillies, the Detroit Tigers, and finally the Boston Red Sox (Dice-K’s current team). He then proceeded to launch a comeback, pitching his second no-hitter at his debut performance with the Red Sox. That year, he went on to lead the league in strikeouts. It was as if this was a repeat performance of his first years with the Dodgers.
In 2002, Nomo went back with the Los Angeles Dodgers. His star once again began to fade after a 2004 shoulder injury. In 2005, he wound up at a series of minor league teams. At this time, Hideo Nomo isn’t on any team’s roster, minor or major league.
“Ichiro Paradox”, S.L. Price, Time, URL: (http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,300682-1,00.html)