What I Learned From Daisuke Matsuzaka

For those of you who don’t follow baseball, Daisuke Matsuzaka is a Japanese-born pitcher who is so talented that the Boston Red Sox paid his Japanese team $51.1 million just for the rights to simply begin negotiating a contract with Mr. Matsuzaka. A few of you might be slack-jawed by this, but it is generally believed that he may be the best living pitcher of his generation.

As a long-time baseball fanatic (trust me, The Simple Dollar will reflect this from time to time, especially as baseball season approaches), I’ve been following Matsuzaka for years as he has developed into the dominant pitcher in Japan; I was even hopeful for a time that my beloved Chicago Cubs might be interested in signing him. Over this period, I’ve come to learn several lessons from Daisuke Matsuzaka that can directly be applied to my personal financial situation.

Don’t be afraid to make strong requests when negotiating. As soon as it became clear that a move to an American team was eminent, Matsuzaka hired Scott Boras to represent him. As Matsuzaka is unfamiliar with the business of American baseball, he went with the agent that has the best reputation as a tough negotiator, because tough negotiation often gets you the best deal.

I apply a similar philosophy to my own finances. If I want something, I ask for it rather than sitting around hoping it will happen. Time and time again, this attitude has put money right into my pocket, from a lower rental rate to higher credit limits to what amounts to interest-free cash advances. It never hurts to set your sights high when negotiating or requesting services.

Be diligent in developing and applying new tools. Part of the “legend” of Matsuzaka is the so-called gyroball, the first distinctly new pitch introduced in professional baseball in a very long time. Matsuzaka is the only widely known pitcher who may have successfully used the pitch in a game (some video indicates that he has), but he’s highly coy about it in interviews. Regardless, it is a tool that he has in his repertoire that sets him apart from the rest of the crowd.

What tools do I have that sets me apart financially from the rest of Generation Y? I’ve come to see budgets and credit cards as tools, whereas others often see them as unimportant or simply damaging. I’ve also developed my own extensive Excel tools for managing my money and my shopping priorities, which enables me to keep track of where every dollar is going and every item I buy at the store. Recognizing and developing the usage of these tools has enabled me to improve my financial game.

Always have something valuable to fall back on. Matsuzaka is only making this leap into the cut-throat world of American baseball because he has something to fall back on: he’s a hero to pretty much every young Japanese pitcher. Even if he comes over here and immediately tears up his rotator cuff, he can go back to Japan and be a highly sought after pitching coach.

For me, this means planning for situations where my primary source of income disappears. I hope that The Simple Dollar will reach that point in the future, but I also constantly keep in touch with professional contacts just in case things change in my life. I also have a significant emergency fund in a savings account, quietly building a solid amount of interest and just waiting for that rainy day. These are things that I can fall back on if my situation falters.

Matsuzaka’s situation might initially appear to be another example of greed in big-time sports, but a second look will reveal a lot of lessons that you can apply to life and to the pocketbook.

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