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Another Open Letter To Jim Hendry

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Dear Jim:

Hi! Remember me? I wrote you last August about Daisuke Matsuzaka, who pitches for the Seibu Lions in Japan.

I wasn't sure you'd heard about him then, and I wanted to make sure you knew. I figure he's gotten enough publicity now that you've heard of him, even 10,000 miles from where he's once again put up a fantastic season -- at age 26, 17-5 in 186.2 innings, with only 34 walks (did you notice, Jim, that our pitchers gave up way too many walks last year?) and 200 strikeouts, and a 2.13 ERA.

About two weeks ago, Jim, as you likely also know, his Japanese team gave him permission to play in the USA. They had to do this because he's not yet eligible for free agency, and the Japanese major leagues and MLB have developed what they've called a posting system for players who want to leave Japan before they become free agents.

And you know how much you can tell that Matsuzaka wants to come to play in the USA, Jim? It was announced yesterday that he won't pitch in the US player exhibition tour of Japan that's coming up next month. This will disappoint his Japanese fans (and those of us in the US who might have liked to see him pitch), but it prevents him from possible injury in games that don't mean anything. He's claiming that he wants to "focus on his conditioning", but get real.

Incidentally, Jim, that article also says:

Kazumi Saito, who won 18 games for the SoftBank Hawks this season, is among the leading candidates to replace Matsuzaka.

I believe Saito is another player you've been interested in having come pitch for the Cubs. So maybe you should buy a plane ticket for one of your scouts to go over there next month.

I want to remind you of what I wrote in August about Matsuzaka, in case you don't have time to go back and read the previous post:

...this is not only getting a #1 starter who's the same age as Mark Prior, it's getting a rock star, a drawing card, which the Cubs sorely need. Matsuzaka is so popular in Japan that people who were born in 1980 or 1981, near the time that he was born, are called the Matsuzaka Generation. Think Ichiro times two.

Now, let's talk money. It's going to cost a lot of money, Jim, so better sell some extra Tribunes on your way into work the next few weeks. Here's what I figure it'll take:

$30 million for the posting fee. Yes, I know that makes you blanch, but bear with me. Remember, if you can outbid those evil Yankees and Mets for his rights, you get the rights and no one else can sign him, at least not within the 30-day window after the bid winner is announced. So you and your old buddy Scott Boras could sit down and hammer out a back-loaded deal that'd average out, say, at $10 million a year for five years. They'd take that, because at that point, their only alternative is for him to go back and pitch in Japan again in 2007.

So what does that total money come to? $80 million for five years, or $16 million per year. That's probably what Barry Zito is going to get from the Mets, and not too much more than Jason Schmidt is going to get from the Mariners. And Jim -- Matsuzaka is way, way, WAY better than either of those guys. He's going to be right there with Carlos Zambrano as your co-#1 starter. At that price, you might be able to push the envelope on the posting fee and really show King George who's boss, or maybe go a little higher on the per-year contract.

Do it, Jim. Show all of us that you really want to make big, bold, worldwide moves to improve the Cubs. This'd be a great first step to making the Cubs' starting staff what it was in 2003 -- dominant. You know, the staff you've been telling us we've been waiting to have back in action since then.

Enjoy the rest of your day, Jim, and get that cellphone cranking to Japan. Tell ya what -- if you need it, I'll get you an international phonecard so you can call over there as much as you like. Just email me and I'll get it right over to you.

Say hi to Lou for all of us fans, and tell him we love the idea of Alan Trammell coming here to be bench coach.

All the best, and Go Cubs!,
Al Yellon