It wouldn't be Red Sox Nation without a crisis du jour and now that everyone has come to peace with the end of Big Papi's career (albeit somewhat begrudgingly), there's a new hand-wringing subject for Boston's woe-are-we community.
Goes by the name of Dice-K.
OK, so the worrying over Daisuke Matsuzaka's(notes) subpar performance has been going on for quite some time now, but we've now reached the point where not even pictures of his cute kids can distract Red Sox fans from the numbers that Matsuzaka is putting up in 2009. The Red Sox are currently 1-5 in games that Matsuzaka has started and his ERA stands at a weighty 7.33. He hasn't shown any control or efficiency, posting more 3s and 2s in his counts than a sweatshop making Magic Johnson throwbacks and him pitching a complete six innings has become the impossible dream of the Fenway faithful.
Matsuzaka actually struck out eight and walked none during Sunday's loss to the Rangers — Terry Francona called the effort "a little backward" from the '09 norm — but he also surrendered 10 hits and five earned runs to the Nelson Cruz(notes)-led squad, which seemed to have no problem making solid contact on the 71 strikes thrown during the pitcher's season-high 5 2/3 innings.
As Sean McAdam of the Boston Herald notes, inflated pitch counts and belabored outings were a lot easier to accept when Matsuzaka was winning 33 games and racking up a 3.72 ERA over his first two seasons in America. But now that he's bringing volatility to a Red Sox rotation that was supposed to be one of the firmest in baseball, the hard questions are coming with a lot more easy and frequency.
Is he still tired from his A+ effort in the WBC? Should John Smoltz(notes) take his spot in the rotation? If Matsuzaka's struggles continue, will trade bait Brad Penny(notes) no longer be expendable when the trade deadline approaches.
Some in the Red Sox media circle have listened to Dice-K's postgame comments and deduced that he's dancing around a larger issue or problem that he's hesitant to reveal. Time will tell if that's the case, but for now Matsuzaka is going to replace David Ortiz(notes) as the main source for head shaking around the water coolers and coffee counters of New England.