The topic that seems to have been elevated above all baseball topics is, yes, Matsuzaka. Like Ichiro. Like Jeter. Like... well, you get the "single name" picture, Matsuzaka-watching has become an international obsession for baseball fans (both stateside and abroad), the media, and that guy in the checkout line at the grocery store. It's really not all about Matsuzaka, mind you. It's the money—the $51.11 million. It's Scott Boras. It's the Red Sox brass. It is, as one very knowledgeable member of the Boston sports media mentioned to me, "The possibility of Matsuzaka becoming the Japanese posting process' version of Curt Flood."
So, here we are in the late evening of Monday night with the clock ticking and the world wondering what's going to happen. Ask Boras and he says, if "the parties' positions remain the same, Daisuke will return to Japan." Here's GM Theo Epstein, accompanied by principal owner John W. Henry and CEO Larry Lucchino flying out to California to meet directly with Matsuzaka to try to get him to ink the deal. Here's Boras holding a press conference at his Newport Beach offices, saying, "In Japan, he's known as the national treasure," Boras told some three dozen media representatives -- nearly all representing Japanese outlets, "Here, he will be known as Fort Knox." He added: "The posting fee represents the problem," Boras said. "It's historic, it's new, it's something that's never been done. How do you reflect value in a posting fee in an appropriate contract for a player?
"In the American system, no player is asked to reduce their salaries for luxury tax purposes."
In turn, the Red Sox are going to offer Matsuzaka on Tuesday what will be the largest contract ever offered a Japanese player who has never played in MLB. Will it be enough for Boras? "I think it's also fair to say we're on Scott Boras's doorstep because he hasn't negotiated with us so far. We're taking the fight directly to him to try to have a negotiation here," said John Henry.
What we have here is serious big money poker.
So, with this as the backdrop, the deal would have to be consummated—not by Thursday—but really by tomorrow. The reason? Matsuzaka would need to take a physical on Wednesday to get the deal completed by Thursday.
On XM Hot Stove with Chuck Wilson, I talked about this deal today and how it's going to mark a transitional point in how the posting process will function when the current US-Japanese Player Contract expires. Somewhere Selig is watching, as is the rest of the baseball world. And the thing is... if the deal does fall through with the Red Sox, this is all far from over.
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Maury Brown is the founder of The Biz of Baseball and an author for Baseball Prospectus. He can be contacted here.