Boston Sports Review: Lost in Translation... In a Good Way

If you ask me, the signing of Daisuke Matsuzaka was the single most exciting Red Sox transaction ever that happened to involve a player I had never seen before. I'm sure most of you agree. Of course, this excitement was tempered only slightly by the strange press conference that was held to announce him as a member of the Red Sox. As soon became obvious, interpreter Tak Sato is not a professional interpreter. Instead, he is a Japanese representative of Scott Boras' agency and was chosen simply because Matsuzaka felt most comfortable with him.

This led to some very odd responses from Matsuzaka, including:

On the posting process: "I feel very long even that US negotiation style is almost - used as much time as possible, but I'd like to make it as soon as possible in the meantime."

On whether he was surprised by his contract: "I don't surprise because I've heard this several times already."

On whether there was any discussion of where he would fit into the rotation: "I'm trying to be a rotation pitcher."

Or at least that's what I think he said. (Hey, it was nice to hear he wants to be a rotation pitcher.) The official transcript released by the Red Sox contains the word "inaudible" ten times, so your guess is as good as mine. Not since the days when Pedro Martinez was talking about sitting under mango trees or how he liked rain delays because "rainy days are good to cuddle in," has it been so surreal to hear a player talk to the press.

I don't really mean to make fun of the translator or Matsuzaka. It's clear that Matsuzaka had a lot more to say than we were able to hear. And Sato was obviously put in a bad situation. It reminded me of the old "Saturday Night Live" sketch when Kevin Nealon was stuck as an amateur interpreter at a Reagan-Gorbachev summit -- the Reagan-Gorbachev summit being only slightly more important than this signing, of course.

Besides, I think the translator's performance was great. If anything, Red Sox Nation has suffered from a little too much communication over the last few years. Not knowing English certainly doesn't hurt Matsuzaka either. In this market, the Red Sox would have been wise to specifically target players who can't speak English. The Whiner Line can't get in your head if you don't know what they're saying. (Then again, sometimes, I don't know what they're saying either.)

And it's not like we really missed anything in the press conference. Even with such a special player, these press conferences are rarely interesting. The player says he always wanted to be a Red Sox. The team says how happy they are to have made the signing, and if we're lucky the new player repeats some line fed to him by his agent about how he has always hated the Yankees.

Actually, according to a translation of the translation I later found, Matsuzaka said that a team official suggested that he say something bad about the Yankees at the press conference. However, he said he wasn't going to because he assumed the official was only joking. Young Dice-K, you have much to learn.

It appears that such a press conference will likely never happen again. The Red Sox explained that in the future a professional interpreter will be used. That's unfortunate. Having this guy around would make every tired baseball cliché seem new. Just think of what he could do with "I'm trying to give 110%" and "We just play them one game at a time."

"It is greater than possible by a degree of 10 percentage points the effort that I hope to achieve in this contest."

"The sun will rise tomorrow, and there will be another game, in which I will also participate in."

And just imagine if he had been around for recent quotes in Red Sox history:

"The number of automobiles that carry players is approximately equal to the number of players on the team, that number being 25."

"You and your life partner with the hair that curls should attempt to...."

"Who be the father of me? Could it be the ballplayers of New York?"

Bill Belichick could even borrow him to help announce the weekly injury report. As it is now, the Patriots' injury report couldn't possibly be any less informative, and at least this way it might be entertaining: "It is a question of which there is no answer, the health status of Rodney Harrison. Kevin Faulk likewise."

And finally, maybe we could also get him to be Manny Ramirez's interpreter. If anyone can decipher what Manny's thinking, it's this guy.


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