12.17.06

Boston’s Australian Connection

Posted in Baseball at 2:13 pm by

What did it take for the Red Sox to land a “national treasure” like Daisuke Matsuzaka? Y’know, aside from $102 million. According to the Globe’s Gordon Edes, Boston’s efforts were helped in no small part by a trio whose names are somewhat less recognized than Henry, Epstein and Lucchino.

Australian born Craig Shipley and Jon Deeble (above), who dedicated huge chunks of the last three years to this quest. The home videos they sent back to Yawkey Way from Japan also provided the comic relief, like the one in which they’re trying to buy subway fare and don’t have a single yen between them. And a former Yankee intern of Japanese descent, Masai Takahashi, who played a critical role in helping the Sox land their man. It was Takahashi, the trainer for the Portland Sea Dogs, the Sox farm team, who joined Deeble and Shipley in Japan in September, when they were intensifying their efforts to learn all they could about Matsuzaka and translated Japanese media reports and other sources for information on what other teams might bid. And it was Takahashi who last week helped Epstein translate the contract offers he was making into Japanese, so Matsuzaka could review them, too.

Deeble, coach of the Australian national team, first saw Matsuzaka in 1998, the same year he threw 250 pitches in a 17-inning game in the national high school tournament, an event Boras describes as equivalent to the Final Four in US college basketball but exponentially bigger. The first game he saw
Matsuzaka pitch was a complete-game shutout; needless to say his scouting report was as positive as it would be six years later, when Matsuzaka would strike out 14 against Australia in the Athens Olympics, including former big leaguer Dave Nilsson.

And it was Deeble, who with Shipley had to repair relations with ball clubs in Japan shattered by the dubious business practices of the previous Red Sox regime. When Shipley and Deeble first started scouting Matsuzaka in earnest three years ago, the Seibu Lions refused to provide the customary courtesy tickets because they were with the Sox. “We had to win back trust,” Shipley said, “and Deebs was a big part of that.”

I wonder if Deeble and Shipley had to do anything to repair relations shattered by the practices of the current Red Sox regime?

Baseball Prospectus’ Will Carroll joins Tony Massarotti in sounding the alarm about the condition of J.D. Drew’s right shoulder. “Somewhere, Bill Simmons just had someone kick him in the groin,” writes Carroll, which is certainly a wonderful thing to imagine, but perhaps it’s more a matter of Ned Colletti sticking pins in a Nancy Drew doll.

Believe it or not, the Devil Rays actually have a good chance of selling out a 3 game series in May against Texas. I’ve yet to read any editorials on behalf of Tropicana Field’s season ticket holders complaining about the loss of 3 home games, but perhaps that’s because I’ve not searched for any.

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