The following is a transcript of Daisuke Matsuzaka's December 14th press conference at which he was officially introduced as a member of the Boston Red Sox. The key difference between this and other transcripts you might be able to find elsewhere is that this has been fully retranslated. The original press conference was conducted by an interpreter, Tak Sato, who struggled to properly translate either the Japanese questions (from the Japanese media) or Matsuzaka's replies. It has been reported that this was largely due to the fact that Mr. Sato is not an interpreter by profession (he was chosen because Matsuzaka felt most comfortable with him) but instead a Japanese representative of Scott Boras' agency. As someone who has had the experience of living and working in Japan for 3 and a half years retranslating this was time-consuming but not difficult. Where I had questions I consulted with a native speaker of Japanese.
A couple of impressions about Mr. Matsuzaka's answers:
He is very well spoken, though as you might expect in this situation (w/ Boras there etc.) he was also very cautious about not embarrassing anyone. Despite the requisite display of humility, he also comes off as very confident.
THEO EPSTEIN: It's a very important day for the Red Sox as we welcome Daisuke Matsuzaka. This is like a signing of the national treasure, if you follow Daisuke, began in 1998 throughout his entire professional career and all his accomplishments. We understand his importance in
QUESTION: I'd like to get your impression of
DAISUKE MATSUZAKA: Let’s see..Well, I have of course seen it many times before on TV…and well, even now when it is in the process of being renovated, I was impressed by the beauty and long history of the park and of course I am very much looking forward to playing here once the season starts.
QUESTION: Welcome and I wonder if you could tell us at what point in these negotiations that you realized that you would be coming to the Red Sox, and did you have your doubts that this day would come to pass?
DAISUKE MATSUZAKA: Well, as you might expect, for me, the most important consideration has always been my family and when I felt they were going to be taken care of I made my decision.
QUESTION:(from Japanese media) Now your nickname in
DAISUKE MATSUZAKA: umm..(smiles).. well, anyway, I have now joined the Red Sox, and so of course I am very happy and very excited to be a member of the Boston Red Sox.
QUESTION: Have there been any talk about where you'll fit into the rotation and with your new teammates, has there been any contact with your new teammates?
DAISUKE MATSUZAKA: Really I haven’t begun to think about this. I of course know that there are high expectations for me. But for now I feel I should just say that I plan on working hard so that I deserve a spot on the starting rotation.
QUESTION: Welcome to
DAISUKE MATSUZAKA : Well, on principle, I have to say that I really don’t like the word “dream”. To me it implies something you can imagine but never grasp. I have always believed in my ability to pitch and have always felt I could achieve success against any level of competition. It is this belief and this goal which is the reason I am here today.
QUESTION: Daisuke, can you tell us what you know about the rivalry between the Red Sox and Yankees and how much you are looking forward to being a part of it?
DAISUKE MATSUZAKA: Lets see..(smiles) … I know each team is very aware of each other and I have been told that a game between the Sox and Yanks is not at all a normal game. I think in
QUESTION: Daisuke, have you thought about pitching to Ichiro and Matsui again, and are you looking forward to that?
DAISUKE MATSUZAKA: I am very much looking forward to it.
QUESTION: Was there ever a point that you felt you were going to have to return to Japan for another year, and if so what was the turning point that made negotiations go this way?
DAISUKE MATSUZAKA: Well, let see.. if I hadn’t been to be able to secure a work environment where I am able to concentrate on baseball., and what I mean by this is that in order to do that I have to be able to feel that my family is comfortable, and living comfortably in their new home, If I didn’t feel that this was insured there was a chance a would have returned to Japan. (then after translation Daisuke interrupts and says) or I suppose I might also have left my family in
QUESTION: (Japanese interviewer’s translation of her own question) What do you think of all these journalists being here to specifically cover you (actual Japanese: “looking at all these journalists here today do you feel you are going to be able to make a lot of new fans? What do you think about that?)
DAISUKE MATSUZAKA: I of course understand fact that there is quite a bit of attention being placed on my signing… but of course I also realize that whether or not this means I will make lots of new fans depends entirely on me (i.e. my performance)
QUESTION: The negotiations that led to this contract certainly took a lot of time and seemed very trying. How was that for you and what do you think about that now?
DAISUKE MATSUZAKA: It felt extremely long. I’m not really sure but it seems like that over here (America) waiting to the last moment might be the normal process for contract negotiations but y’know I am not really the type of personality who likes waiting so I guess it would have been nice if it could gone quicker.. a bit quicker.. I guess it would have been nice to have wrapped things up quickly.
QUESTION: What do you view as the biggest challenge coming over to play baseball in the
DAISUKE MATSUZAKA: It seems a bit similar to when I first made the jump to the pros in
QUESTION: You said it was your goal to play Major League Baseball. What is your goal in your first year with the Red Sox? And also, is there any player that you are looking forward to meet that's on the Red Sox, any particular player you've always followed?
DAISUKE MATSUZAKA: Well , as a start, I wish to be a productive player for the Red Sox, and then if that is possible will work my hardest to be a contributing part of a World Series Champion team. (then after his translator reminds him of the second part of the question he says) Curt Schilling
QUESTION: For both Theo and Scott, was there ever a point where you thought it was not going to get done, and what do you think the pivotal point was to making this deal happen?
THEO EPSTEIN: There was certainly a lot of up and downs as far as the negotiations, but I think all the parties had a common goal; just for Daisuke to join the Red Sox and start his Major League career.It was a lot of hard work and cooperation we were able to make it happen in the end. I think as Daisuke referred to earlier, perhaps the turning point was when he became comfortable with the fact that we were going to take care of his family through the transition process and I think we built momentum after that.
But the main theme of Daisuke's direction to us was he is a respected player of the greatest order in Japan and he wanted to make sure that his placement in baseball, that he's able to fulfill the challenge of being a Major League player, but he only wanted to do it the way that he was assured of the best opportunity to advance himself in Major League Baseball. And in doing that, he had to have the comforts of his family and the transition to a city and a place where he truly understood the elements and aspects of what he does to be successful in Japan possible able to be carried out here.In time, I think we collectively, everyone understood that and achieved that objective and once Daisuke knew that and his wife knew that.
QUESTION: If this deal with the Red Sox did not happen, would it have been personally very difficult to go back and pitch in
DAISUKE MATSUZAKA: If it was at all possible I really didn’t want to have to make the decision to go back to
QUESTION: What were you able to learn about the Red Sox be it their history or current makeup; what do you know about the franchise?
DAISUKE MATSUZAKA: That there are really quite a lot of good players on the Red Sox and that it is really quite a good team.
QUESTION: I wanted to get from both of your perspectives what the last 30 days have been like for you guys, and in particular yesterday, from list off to touchdown here, and also, John Henry, did the plane make it back to
DAISUKE MATSUZAKA: Lets just say it felt very long.
THEO EPSTEIN: They were long for us too. The thirty day window had some tension to it.. this was very important to the Red Sox..and in our minds it was not a certainty until the very end. Meanwhile we had lots of other transactions for the ball club and the last few days in particular were very exhilarating and a lot of hard work and a lot of cooperation and I think Scott and the Red Sox are both proud that we were able to see this through and are able to let Daisuke take this next step in his career.
QUESTION: Up until now you have had many big moment in your life. From the your success at Koshien to your time in Seibu to the birth of your baby and your wedding day. Where would you place this experience among those?
DAISUKE MATSUZAKA: The experiences in my life that have been most meaningful… and I suppose it is the type of thing I am supposed to say but it is actually true..is my marriage to my wife and the birth of my child. But next to that this right here, is the most exciting experience of my life (big smile).
QUESTION: Theo, now with Daisuke, do you envision your starting rotation as one of the best in the League, and also one of the best in the League for years to come?
THEO EPSTEIN: We certainly hope it's one of the best in the league. We try to stay away from making too many predictions or putting too much stock in how things look on paper, because baseball can humble you quickly when you do that. So we'll just say that we're excited about our rotation for this career and our future with so many good young pitchers in our organization and certainly hope for the best. We know there's a lot of hard work ahead. I think one of the things that made Daisuke so attractive besides his obvious talent and character and makeup is the fact that he is 26, and for the next six years, we hope to get the prime of his career. It's not a short term transaction, it's not a quick fix or a Band Aid for next year's pitching staff. We want Daisuke to be with the Red Sox for the rest of his career and do many great things.
QUESTION: For Daisuke, can you talk about the challenges you face, not only in changing to a new league and adapting to a new league but a new culture as well?
DAISUKE MATSUZAKA: Well, lets see. Of course the adjustment to a new culture will be a challenge but I expect that I will be able to make this adjustment fairly quickly.
QUESTION: Larry or Theo can you get into the decision you made to get on that plane to go see Scott on Monday?
LARRY LUCHINO: We always believe that face to face discussions are better than telephonic discussions. Over the weekend we discussed the strategy for the last few days and John Henry and Tom Werner made clear their feelings on this matter and it jibed with Theo and my feelings on the issue and that is that If we were in the same place at the same time we could accelerate this process . And John was also determined that if it would be successful it would be appropriate for us to provide for us to provide comfortable transportation for Matsuzaka-san and Scott Boras to assure that the physical could be done in a timely manner.
Unsolicited , Boras jumps in and says:
SCOTT BORAS: ...inaudible…for we had met face to face 3 or 4 times at the winter meetings, Theo and I do a lot of late night work together. Again they had said that they had wanted to come and we were obviously a bit stationary. Daisuke had just come over from
QUESTION: This question is for John and Daisuke. John, what pitch did Daisuke throw you when you almost got knocked over on the mound. Was it the infamous gyroball?
JOHN HENRY: You know we didn’t go over signals. I put down four fingers and so I was expecting the change up but,..um..he crossed me up.
QUESTION: This question is for either Theo or Craig. Can you speak about Daisuke's strengths as a pitcher?
CRAIG SHIPLEY: How long do you want me to go on for (laughing)? Well, obviously his mound presence is very impressive. But when you get past that the physical stuff, I mean he has y’know 5 pitches that he can use, he has 6 pitches he can use at times, but on any given night each one of those pitches is above average. He is a great competitor. When the game is on the line he turns it up. And I think over the last few years he has really started to harness that stuff and become the pitcher everyone thought he could be a few years ago. And as Theo says, he is really just coming into his prime.
THEO EPSTEIN: I think it is a rare combination of stuff with command with make-up with a very strong sense of pitching intelligence that makes it such a unique and compelling package…is what attracted us to him as a pitcher who could compete at the highest levels.
QUESTION: This is for either John or Tom. Does today have the feeling of a new era for the Boston Red Sox, sort of a jumping off point?
TOM WERNER: Well we feel this is an exciting day for the Red Sox because it is so important to have a rotation that you can count on not just next month or this season but for a long time and its important for Boston too, because I feel like this is a great day for Red Sox fans but also for fans of major league baseball and I think that we have certainly had had some exciting days at Fenway Park in the last few years but I think that the excitement at Fenway Park in 2007 will be ratcheted up another notch. I think Daisuke will provide for a great amount of stories for years to come for us.
QUESTION: What did you tell your wife about this and what was her response?
DAISUKE MATSUZAKA: Well, the last time I called her was just after my physical just to say that it would probably be OK. Now of course this is before the actual signing but she was very happy.
QUESTION: (translated from Japanese) Now you have talked about your family’s security as being the important thing for you in the negotiations, but what about your feelings regarding the American style of negotiations. Did this surprise you?
DAISUKE MATSUZAKA: Actually before it started I had heard quite a bit about American style contract negotiations so really there was nothing in particular that surprised me.
QUESTION: (translated from Japanese) Daisuke, is there some player or players that you particularly look forward to facing in the Major Leagues? Also, how do you feel about being surrounded by English all the time? Is this tiring?
DAISUKE MATSUZAKA: Well before I got to he Pros in
QUESTION: Given the glowing reviews you are all giving him and the expectations, are you concerned he'll be able to handle things when they might go bad even for a game or two, or do you think he has the makeup it handle that?
THEO EPSTEIN: I think we certainly feel that he has the makeup and the history to be able to deal with all of the pressures of playing and winning in
You have to remember that when he was a high school senior, he had amazing performance in the national high school tournament to win the championship for Yokahama, and from that point on was a national hero, a national treasure and has been dealing with media attention not too dissimilar from this for a long time.
And the World Baseball Classic he was very successfully involved with, I might add. We certainly feel with that history and the makeup of a warrior and a competitor that he's ideally suited to handle the most difficult challenge.
QUESTION: (From Japanese) What do you think about the five year, $52 million contract, does this make you feel a lot of pressure?
DAISUKE MATSUZAKA: Well, first I feel like this money is of course more than I ever would have been able to get if I had stayed with the Lions. That said, there is obviously some amount responsibility and pressure that comes with it.
QUESTION: (from Japanese) It would likely make the fans of
DAISUKE MATSUZAKA: I was actually told before that this time might come and that saying something like that would be good, but y’know I thought it was a joke and so I didn’t think of actually saying this. (cultural note: For Matsuzaka to brashly proclaim that he will beat the Yankees would probably seem a bit arrogant and disrespectful something that as confident as he is doesn’t seem to jibe with either his culture or his personality. In Japan there is nothing worse than being all talk no action, and nothing better that being all action no talk, his sidestepping of this question shows a sensitivity to this)
QUESTION: Theo, what distinguishes Daisuke from the pitchers in the Major Leagues today?
THEO EPSTEIN: We wanted to make sure to avoid too many lofty comparisons and speaking superlatives too much. So I think because of that, and also because it is true, Daisuke, his trail is unique as a pitcher. He certainly has the velocity on his fastball, and when he wants he can reach back for more. He also has a sufficient slider, tough changeup, split finger, curveball, cutter. That's quite an arsenal, and the ability, all and command, with those secondary pitches, he's also an artist and craftsman on the mound, and as I mentioned earlier, has the character and makeup of a bulldog and competitor.
When you put all these things together, you're really looking at a unique combination, someone who even on video, my experience scouting Daisuke, extremely fun to watch.
QUESTION: My next question is for John. From an owner's perspective, I wonder if you can describe the process by which you identified Matsuzaka as a target worth going after, and what e were the factors that persuaded you that he was worth the investment? Scott, you've been involved in many big time negotiations, how does this process compare in magnitude?
JOHN HENRY: Well, the organization spent a number of years watching, waiting, actually I think Theo can answer this question much better than I could.
THEO EPSTEIN: I think the baseball world has been aware of Daisuke since 1998. Jon Deeble in particular, our Pacific Rim coordinator who has been scouting Matsuzaka since 2000 in
Craig Shipley and his staff really scouted him heavily this year in anticipation of a post. And we knew going into the posting process, we were going to be very aggressive trying to come up with a total number and contract that made sense and the ultimate decision was how much did we have to attribute to the post in order to assure that we could get him and the challenge of working out a contract.
QUESTION: Of the players transactions that have occurred during your tenure, how would you categorize this one?
LARRY LUCHINO: First of all I would classify it as unique and challenging, and I would say that potential to impact the franchise positively for several years. As Theo said earlier this is a longer term perspective that we have adopted.
LARRY LUCCHINO: We have a few closing comments we with like to make, they are really addressed to the new Japanese members of Red Sox Nation, two or three things. First, I'd like to repeat what our general manager said at the beginning, and that is that we recognize the player that we have obtained and we will treat him with the respect and courtesy that he has earned. Secondly, we recognize that as he's within described, he is a national treasure. We had a national treasure here, as well. It's called
Thirdly, I would say to our friends in
So to all, I will take the words I have tried to memorize with the Japanese baseball fans: “Yokoso Boston e” (welcome to
JOHN HENRY: When Leslie Epstein's 28 year old son became general manager of the Red Sox, he gave him two words of advice: Be bold. The day that we took over this organization, people in this organization to a man, to a woman, on all levels, rebuilding
LARRY LUCCHINO: And I would say one more thing. In light of this last point, it is a long term relationship, and it is a good time to say that we, the Boston Red Sox, very much look forward to playing in Japan as some point in the future to celebrate and to bring home Matsuzaka-san to Japan for a game some day.