Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Matsuzaka to the Bullpen? No Way, Dice-K

Both the Providence Journal and the Boston Herald have opinion pieces today calling for the Sox to demote Dice-K to the bullpen to make way in the rotation for John Smoltz. The Herald is a little heavier on the rhetoric - perhaps someone can explain to me how, in an environment where newspapers are failing left and right and the markets are flooded with available journalists, a guy who compares the results of Terry Francona's rotation decisions with what's going on in Iran still has a job - but the sentiment is the same: Matsuzaka is having, to put it kindly, an off year, and because he can't go to the minors or on the trading block, he should go into the bullpen and become the baseball equivalent of the guy who cleans up after strip club patrons. Both writers concede that Dice-K is an unknown quantity as a reliever, but sporting the symptoms of a severe case of the "what have you done for me lately" fever that Sox writers and fans are all too apt to experience, feel the club is better served by having Matsuzaka exiled.

While I agree that Dice-K is having a craptastic first half and shouldn't be taking the ball every fifth day, I think moving him to the bullpen to serve as an example for any pitcher who even thinks of screwing up shows an astonishing lack of forethought. Anyone who's a fan of this move does realize that we're stuck with Matsuzaka for another three years, right? If we throw him into the 'pen and he never gets a chance to recover the magic touch that made him a strong addition to the rotation in the last two years, those three years are a complete waste.

So, rather than bullpenning him, how about putting him on the DL? Pitchers - even pitchers with as many innings on their arms as Dice-K has - don't completely fall apart at age 28 unless they're hurt...and conveniently enough, Matsuzaka has already been on the DL this year. If he never fully recovered, it might very well be at the root of his pitching problems.