There is reason to believe that Terry Francona’s replacement could have a much better relationship with Dice-K than Tito ever had.
Bobby Valentine has extensive experience managing in Japan. And not just experience, but success. He led the Chiba Lotte Marines to the Japan Series and Asia Series championships in 2005 and endeared himself to fans. When Valentine was unceremoniously let go after the 2009 season, a petition to extend his contract was presented to Chiba Lotte with 112,000 signatures.
Right off the bat, Bobby V has said he will take the handcuffs off Dice-K. The reason Matsuzaka was such a hot prospect in 2006 was because of how many different pitches he could throw. In Boston he hasn’t been allowed to show off that full arsenal—which clearly made him uncomfortable and could explain his clashes with the team.
Yet the biggest reason Valentine could coax a comeback season out of Dice-K is also the simplest: His ability to speak Japanese. Fewer things will be lost in translation, and it could go a long way to making Matsuzaka more comfortable in the dugout and on the mound.