On the eve of free agency, Godzilla makes his mark

How the Abreu contract affects the Yanks
Open Thread: Scenes from a parade

Pedro gets pwned

For seven seasons, Hideki Matsui has just always been there. He arrived in New York in 2003 at the age of 29 and was set to be a solution to the Yanks’ inability to find a steady left fielder, and now with a World Series MVP unders his belt, Matsui has been every bit as good a hitter as advertised.

In ten seasons in Japan, Matsui was a beast. He made his NPB debut at age 19 and amassed a career line of .304/.413/.582 with 245 home runs in 1268 games. In the states, he has played in 916 games and has hit .292/.370/.482 with 140 home runs. As age sapped him of the strength in his knees, his power has declined a bit, but by the end of a healthy 2009, Matsui had reemerged as one of the go-to clutch hitters in the Yankees’ lineup.

This week, Matsui has been the man about town. He appeared on David Letterman last night, carrying in the World Series trophy, and Japanese restaurant import Go! Go! Curry on West 38th St. has been celebrating their fellow countryman this week as well.

My two favorite stories about Matsui this week came from The Times. Jack Curry talked about Hideki’s World Series legacy. Matsui came to the Bronx to win a World Series, reached the Classic in his first year in pinstripes and did not make it back until potentially his last season with the Yanks. Curry notes the symmetry:

For Matsui, the game bookended his performance against Martinez in his first season in the 2003 American League Championship Series. Matsui belted a run-scoring double off Martinez as the Yankees rallied to beat the Red Sox, 6-5, on Aaron Boone’s homer.

After Martinez walked Alex Rodriguez on four pitches to begin the second, his pace slowed against Matsui. After Matsui fouled off a 3-2 changeup, Martinez tossed a fastball. It was an 89-mile-per-hour pitch, which is about as robust a fastball as Martinez can muster these days, and Matsui drilled into the second deck in right field for a two-run homer.

Matsui said he loved New York and hoped that he gets to stay. In Matsui’s first season, he proved that he was comfortable on baseball’s biggest stage. In what might have been Matsui’s final game with the Yankees, he showed that he can still perform professionally and exceptionally.

And then there is Hiroko Tabuchi’s report from Japan where the country has been celebrating Godzilla all week. Newspapers throughout the island nation proclaimed it the year of Matsui, and Japanese baseball fans understand the impact of Hideki’s heroics.

“For this baseball-loving nation,” wrote Tabuchi, “Matsui’s performance at the World Series on Wednesday — hitting a home run, tying a World Series record with six runs batted in and being named the most valuable player — sent a clear message. It put a Japanese player and the Japanese game on the American baseball map more firmly than any compatriot’s performance did.”

Today, Patrick Newman reported that Matsui will not be returning to Japan as had been previously rumored. Instead, the left-handed slugger will look to stay in the states, and if the Yankees want him for another year, I will welcome Number 55 back with open arms.

(image via tsjc)

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How the Abreu contract affects the Yanks
Open Thread: Scenes from a parade
  • Doug

    “and if the Yankees want him for another year, I will welcome Number 55 back with open arms.”

    but at what cost, ben? only 1 year guaranteed, i assume

    • http://www.secondavenuesagas.com Benjamin Kabak

      One year, that’s it. The dollars are rather immaterial. Nothing too outrageous, but maybe something in the $8-$10MM range. He delivered $11 million worth of value this year.

  • Michael Kay

    I didn’t see if he did an interview on YES today, although if he did I’m sure it consisted of Chris Shearn asking him how it feels to be in New York City when he’s from Japan.

  • Doug

    hey ben, any chance with a full offseason stength and training regimen, matsui can play some outfield next season?

    he was, after all, shagging some flies in case he was needed in phily. he just wasn’t physically ready.

    if the answer is yes, then (obviously) i’d be more inclined to bring him back

    • whozat

      hey ben, any chance with a full offseason stength and training regimen, matsui can play some outfield next season?

      It’s not like he’s fat and out of shape. His knees are like those of a man 30 years his senior. He played the OF for a couple days in NL parks back in 2008 and had to have his knees drained. He didn’t play the field at all this season, and still had to have them drained a couple times. This is not a guy who can play even LF in any case except an emergency, and he’ll need time off afterward.

  • Free Mike Vick

    your hearts says, “he’s been a great yankee…he is clutch…he had a great postseason..and a great WS game…bring him back”

    your brain says, “damn son…those knees are f***ed to pieces…he can’t play the field..he can’t run. His knees are not going to get better….better safe then sorry. its been a great run. Goodbye godzilla.”

    • http://sports-odds.com/images/stories/yankees-arod-teixeira.jpg JobaWockeeZ

      And my brain also tells me, “but his production will be hard to replace and will cost a lot of resources should we choose Bay or Holliday. Maybe 1 year wouldn’t kill us for 8-11 million.

      • Free Mike Vick

        i say bring back damon… for the most part he does everything Matsui does. plus he can play the field and he can run the bases. and right now…he is less of a risk then Matsui is. Those knees of matsui’s are a mess.

  • GG

    You have to sign this guy over Damon….Keep him out of the field, and he most likely will stay relatively healthy and productive, you can say that with as much certainty as you can for Damon staying healthy….Damon is a better bet because he can still play the field a little???? Please….Damon is terrible out there. Getting younger is good for LF, we need a young outfield. Even if your 40 and hit like Godzilla, you still should be able to find a big league job as a DH….1 year for Godzilla, and see what you can find to shove in the 2 hole..cough… matt holliday… cough

  • Tom Zig

    Awesome addition to the picture.

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

      I give because I love.

  • TheLastClown

    Pedro.

    /Lidge’d

  • Jobamania

    too early for hot stove discussion?

    Tigers released outfielder Marcus Thames.

    I’d love for the yanks to pick him up as a bench player. IMMENSE power and he can mash lefties

  • http://twitter.com/hopjake Jake H

    I wouldn’t mind Godzilla back for a 1 year deal.

  • TheLastClown

    Matsuis
    Vast
    Pornocollection

    • r.w.g.

      This.

  • crawdaddie

    I’m all for getting younger and more athlectic, but does that make the Yankees better in 2010? It depends on the player, I just don’t know what’s available for outfielders out there except free agents like Holliday and Bay. I prefer not to spend north of 60M over either of those two guys so Damon and Matsui on short-term deals is more appealing to me if it doesn’t impact what the Yankees might be able to do in 2011 with Austin Jackson or even a free agent like Crawford.

  • Argenys

    Does anyone have the number of people that were present at the parade today?

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

      By my count, at least a trillion. Maybe two. It was crazy.

  • Jobamania

    francesa calls red sox the team of the decade

    Red Sox: 2 World Series titles, 2 league titles, 1 division title, 920 wins, .568 winning percentage

    Yankees: 2 World Series titles, 4 league titles, 8 division titles, 965 wins, .597 winning percentage.

    http://www.boston.com/sports/b.....e_tea.html

    • Mike Z aka “The Instant Classic”

      Francesa is on the Red Sox tit like a breast feeding newborn is to their mother. He will go out of his way to waste an hour on how great the Sux are but will dismiss anything that is good about the Yankees.

    • http://sports-odds.com/images/stories/yankees-arod-teixeira.jpg JobaWockeeZ

      Apparently 2000 doesn’t count as part of the decade…
      It’s 2001 and up according to insane Red Sox fans.

  • dalelama

    The most ridiculous reason I hear for letting Matsui go is so Posada can DH. If I were Cashman I would try to move Jorge before letting Damon or Matsui go. Jorge doesn’t hit as well as Damon or Matsui, can’t throw anyone out, kills us on the base paths, can’t call a game, can’t block the ball in the dirt, and just irritates the hell out of me with a bonehead plays almost every game. Is Carl Crawford available or can Chone Figgins play the outfield. Both would really help us add speed and get younger. Assuming no one will take Posada’s bloated contract I would drop Damon keep Matsui and try to get Crawford or Figgins. Or keep all three and just add Lackey if money is the issue.

    • Marcus

      I’m hoping this is alexgonzalez’s new attempt at performance art. Get rid of Jorge in order to keep Damon and Matsui? Who’s your proposed starting catcher? Cervelli? Full time, re-signed Molina?

      You woefully under appreciate Jorge. If you’re being serious.

    • monkeypants

      “Jorge doesn’t hit as well as Damon or Matsui”

      By doesn’t hit as well, I take it you mean “hit better than both last year, far better than Johnny for his career, and the same as Matsui for his career.”

      Seriously, you would get rid of one of the best offensive catchers in the league, in order to keep two other guys who can’t play defense?

      The mind boggles.

      • dalelama

        Jorge cant play defense nor run the bases and makes all the stupid mistakes and he isnt as clutch as Matsui…he just drives me crazy with his bone headed play. I just would hate to lose two gamers so Jorge can DH now and then.

    • Wilcymoore27

      I agree with you that it is ridiculous to let Matsui go so that Posada can DH … but we part company on almost everything else.

      Posada has never been a great defensive catcher. But he is as good now as he ever was, and the guy now owns four World Series rings (98, 99, 00, and 09). Offensively, he continues to be one of the best hitting catchers in the majors. Posada stays. So should Matsui.

      • dalelama

        I know what your saying but Jorge is the dumbest ball player who has ever played….I swear he costs a run every game…like when he ran back to third in the run down where he and Cano got tagged out instead of just giving himself…or when he lolly gagged into 2nd at the end of the game the other night and got tagged out…I swear he does something every game a little leaguer knows to avoid…check it out next year

  • sualumni

    im not saying this because im japanese, but its really important to have the guy who can do the job in pressure situation, i think mats have been clutch not only this year but through out his carerr in nyy. being untouchable during regular season and choke up postseason is nightmare for me, especially because i used be the 90’s super-sonics fan, you know what i mean.

  • Wilcymoore27

    Here’s my take on the two main reasons to let Matsui go:

    Argument #1. The Yanks need to get younger and more athletic.

    Answer: Um, the Yanks want to win, right? You win by being better than your competition. That’s not necessarily the same thing as being “younger and more athletic.” If the Yankees had a young, up-and-coming star who was ready to take Matsui’s place, then, sure, it might make sense to replace him. But neither Austin Jackson nor Jesus Montero is going to replace Matsui in 2010, and neither is anyone else in the Yankees’ farm system ready to do it.

    As for replacing Matsui through free agency, Matt Holiday and Jason Bay are going to want long-term, expensive deals. And do the Yanks really want to court the backlash that will develop if they sign the highest priced free agent(s) each and every off-season?? As for Chone Figgins … please! I hate it when the Yanks face Figgins, he’s a pest. But I want my outfielders or DH’s to have at least a modicum of power. Power hitters produce more runs than speedsters. That’s just a fact. Figgins is a significant drop-off from Matsui as a run producer and clutch hitter.

    Argument #2. Matsui clogs up the DH position, and the Yankees would like Posada to DH more often and would like to rotate other players (like A-Rod) through DH.

    Answer: Replacing Matsui with Posada as DH really means replacing Mastui’s bat with Cervelli’s in 2010. That is a major reduction in offensive potential, any way you look at it. As for getting other guys a turn at DH, well, maybe you sit Matsui from time to time. The Yankees seemed to manage the situation just fine this year.

    Now that David Ortiz seems to have dropped to earth, Matsui is the best DH in the American League. Any time he is not DH’ing the Yanks have a weakness somewhere else in their lineup.

    Bottom Line: I think the Yankees should bring Matsui back, although I would prefer to make it just a one-year contract. Let’s remember the guy is the same age as Jeter (born the same month in 1974), and one year older than Alex Rodriguez. He’s not exactly “old.” What he is is a thoroughly professional hitter, who hits with power, hits lefties, and hits in tough situations. He is also, with Ichiro, one of the two top Japanese hitters in the major leagues, and he is still very good for the Yankees’ brand in Japan.

    But the principal reason to bring Matsui back is simply that the Yankees have no real replacement for his bat. He remains an upper echelon hitter. If Matsui leaves, the Yankees are instantly a weaker offensive team. That is not how you stay ahead of your competition.

    • dalelama

      Is Carl Crawford available ??? He is a five tooler. Why not pick him up, drop Damon, and keep Matsui… Yogi played the outfield at the end maybe Posada could do the same occasionally to save some wear and tear.

      • Wilcymoore27

        I don’t think Jorge has the instincts or range to be an outfielder. See what you said about him as a baserunner … it’s true. Jorge is a lousy baserunner, and I shudder to think of him as an outfielder.

  • McCaff

    you went all “Nomaas” on us with the picture

  • chriso

    Posada is similar to Matsui, numbers-wise, at the plate, and will catch 100-120 games per year. He’s never been a great defensive catcher, but his +bat makes him a + overall. In 2010 and 2011, he’s going to need to be DH for a bunch of games. Jeter and A-Rod will also need occasional days off from playing the field. Matsui can’t play the OF anymore. Damon can’t play the OF anymore. What this means is that there really wouldn’t be too many at-bats for Damon OR Matsui in 2010, 2011 and that the question really should be “Which one of Damon or Matsui would be better to sign as a part-time DH and pinch hitter?
    The answer should be obvious: Matsui.

    I love Damon, but he doesn’t fit with a smart plan. A-Jax is going to be up with the big league club, platooning in LF/CF, at least. Guys like Marlon Byrd and David DeJesus are going to be available for sale or trade. Matt Holliday won’t be worth the money he gets, but he’s on the market. The 2009 Yankees were great, but the team needs to get younger. Damon is not a part-time DH/pinch hitter and he doesn’t fit with the OF plans for the future. Matsui, on the other hand, is a great fit.

    • toad

      I think this makes sense. For DH the age issue isn’t too important. The only way a 35-yr old DH declines significantly is if he gets hurt. (Yes, I looked at the numbers). That’s probably more likely if he plays OF, so it may be that Matsui/Damon are more valuable as pure DH’s than as OF/DH. So, barring injury, there’s no reason to think Matsui won’t produce at about the same level in 2010 as in 2009.

      You can let Posada DH sometimes to give him a rest, but why not just let Matsui DH and give Posada a full day off? Besides, if you do need to PH for Cervelli you’re better off having Posada come off the bench to do that, so he can catch. If he’s DH and you PH Matsui for Cervelli, you lose the DH when Posada goes to catcher. That may seem minor, but if Posada DH’s 40 or so times it’s going to come up.

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