Remember Hideki’s arrival as Darvish slips away

Prospect Injury News: Adams, Slade, Murphy
The Justin Maxwell Option

All of the recent brouhaha over Yu Darvish, I got to thinking about Hideki Matsui. Unlike many high-profile Japanese players who made the jump to the states, Matsui hit the Majors as an unrestricted free agent. There was no blind bidding process and subsequent negotiation. Hideki was free to pick whatever team he wanted. It almost made sense.

For Darvish, the decision to push his team to post him was a calculated risk. As’s Patrick Newman and Eno Sarris showed (in an Insider-only piece) on Tuesday, Darvish probably could have made more had he waited a few more years. If his deal with the Rangers ends up being at an annual level of around $12 million, there’s a good chance he would earn more in the long term by returning to Japan this year and entering the States via bidding process. Teams wouldn’t have to pony over sunk dollars on a posting fee, and Darvish would stand to make all of the money from his contract.

Yet, the allure of guaranteed dollars is a tough one to resist. It’s why pitchers are willing to sign seemingly below-market deals earlier in their careers. The threat of injury lurks, and easy access to millions is too tempting to turn down. Darvish will sign a deal that locks him up for five or six years, but if he’s as good as advertised, he’ll cash in again in his early 30s. That said, he would be wise to sign a high-dollar, low-year deal with the Rangers and hit free agency at 29. Texas, though, would rather lock him up for longer.

Anyway, I digress. The erstwhile World Series MVP was my original focus. I realized a few days ago, as the Yanks continued through a silent off-season, that I missed Matsui. Now, I don’t believe the Yanks should bring him back, but I miss his presence in left field and his bat in the lineup. Bring back the glory days of Matsui, the player who hit .292/.370/.482 on the Yanks, and I’ll be happy.

So how anyway did the Yanks land Hideki? It was the more traditional path. By the end of 2001, Matsui’s name was bandied about as a future Major Leaguer. He was the highest paid Japanese player at the time, and the next stop for him would be the States. The first time the Yanks were tied to him arrived in August of 2002 when Jack Curry reported that Jean Afterman was scouting Matsui. Over the next few months, rumors of the Yanks’ interest hit the news. Would the Bombers land both Jose Contreras and Hideki Matsui prior to 2003?

Hideki was a new — and seemingly rare — breed of Japanese players. He used a quick bat to pull the ball and was a power hitter more in the American baseball mode. As the offseason wore on, both the Yankees and the Mets emerged as potential suitors for Matsui’s services. As the Yankees tried to determine if they wanted Bartolo Colon or Roger Clemens for 2003, they stepped up their pursuit of Matsui as well, and by mid-December, they seemed poised to land him for three years and $20-21 million. It was an easy negotiation and an easy deal. Godzilla came to New York.

Since Matsui’s arrival, no Japanese player has made quite the same impact on Major League Baseball. Daisuke Matsuzaka and, to a greater extent, Kei Igawa failed to deliver as advertised, and no power hitters or All Star position players in the Ichiro or Matsui mold have arrived on U.S. soil. Now, it’s Darvish’s turn, and in Texas, where the defending AL Champs are in bad need of pitching, he’ll get a chance to star. The whole world will be watching.

Prospect Injury News: Adams, Slade, Murphy
The Justin Maxwell Option
  • Rich in NJ

    I wish that Matsui had ended that misguided consecutive game streak before he arrived in the US. I suspect that it wore him down and contributed to his leg problems.

  • duzzi23

    Matsui was always won of my favorite Yankees he just produced and went about his business as a true professional. I’m glad he went out as a star on the biggest stage. Also i would of liked to keep himself instead nick Johnson in 2010. I know most dedicated stats guys dont believe in clutch but Matsui was clutch.

    • RetroRob

      I think it depends on how someone wants to define clutch. I don’t believe that a player can become a better player, but I do believe some players remain more focused and maintain their level of ability under pressure, and will be more likely to take advantage of a situation than other players. Matsui was one of those players. I always felt good when he was at the plate in a critical situation.

      • dalelama

        It comes down to this who would you rather have at bat in the post season with the game on the line Godzilla or Arod? I would pick Godzilla, not even considering he costs in his prime half as much.

        Arod .277/.386/.498/.884
        Godzilla .312/.391/.541/.933

        • Steve (different one)

          Matsui’s cumulative total up until the 2009 World Series:


          I mean, that WS counts, and it is a big part of his legacy, but let’s not pretend that he consistently raked at that level for the entire 7 years he was here. He was in 11 postseason series with the Yankees. He had an OPS under .765 in 6 of those series, under .700 in 4 of them.

          His postseason record is no different than any other Yankee with a lot of postseason AB’s, some good series, some terrible series, etc.

          I like Matsui a lot, but I don’t recall him having this clutch reputation until he abused Pedro in 2009.

          • RetroRob

            I don’t think anyone’s pretending anything. What was being said was clear.

            • Dalelama

              Sure its different, its better than most.

  • James

    Do arbitration rules apply to Japanese pitchers like Darvish?

    As in if, hypothetically, he only signed a one year deal with the Rangers would he still be arbitration eligible like another player earning service time, or is he an unrestricted free agent? Does the club still have the three or four years of control?

    • Need Pitching

      I believe all of the normal Arb and pre-arb rules would theoretically apply, but the likelihood is that if Darvish signed a contract for less than the 6 years to take him to free agency, it would contain a provision preventing the Rangers from tendering him a contract or arbitration offer. I believe Matsui’s contract had a similar provision where the Yankees agreed not to offer him arbitration at the end of his original deal, so that he may become a free agent if he wasn’t able to work out an extension with the Yankees.

  • Plank

    This post is missing a mention of the crucial detail of his epic porn collection.

    He also gave the most awesome introduction of someone (his wife) since Mufasa presented Simba on Pride Rock.

  • Nick

    im still annoyed that cashman put all his eggs in the damon basket and let matsui go to the angels

    • RetroRob

      That’s not what happened. You should be annoyed that Matsui’s agent jumped the market and signed immediately with the Angels, otherwise Matsui would have returned to the Yankees.

      • Brian S.

        Is that what happened? I don’t remember him signing that early. And I’m surprised his agent could only find him one year if that is the case.

        • MannyGeee

          he jumped real real early… struck while the iron was hot. but yeah, if he would have waited a week or three for Boras to be Boras, the Yankees would have prob walked away from Damon and Nick Johnson and brought Matsui back.

          Got to remember that Matsui had little value besides his stick though, he was a few years removed from being an everyday OF… maybe his agent decided that the first offer might be the only.

          • RetroRob

            I think Matsui’s agent, Arn Tellem, made a calcuated decision, and it probably was the right one. The Yankees were only going to bring back one of Damon or Matsui to serve as the mostly DH, with the preference appearing to be Damon since he could play the field when necessary, was a better baserunner, and fit better at the top of the line-up. The Yankees were also looking at giving Gardner the fulltime shot in LF in 2010, and if that failed, they’d still have Damon to play the field, something Matsui couldn’t do.

            Knowing how Boras likes to go late into the game with his clients, and that Matsui appeared to be the Yankees second choice, they jumped at the Angels offer. If they had waited and the Yankees signed Damon, then it was Matsui who would have been left hanging without a job.

            So it certainly wasn’t as the guy said above that Cashman put all of his eggs in the Damon basket. Tellem and Matsui made a quick choice based on where they thought the market was going. In retrospect it appears if they held out they would have returned to the Yankees, but the odds didn’t seem good at the time.

    • MannyGeee

      wow, revisionist hisroy FTW!!!!

  • Nathan

    Matsui was a consummate professional. I remember all the hoopla of him coming to the Yankees and would turn into a 40-HR guy and its sad that some were initially disappointed that he wasn’t that type of hitter but he was a solid contributor. Four (almost five) 100 RBI seasons, four 20+ HR seasons, and a .290+ average.

    Oh and of course the WS heroics. Matsui is a made Yankee in my book…

  • Now Batting

    I don’t care so much about bidding low on Yu, but I am afraid this is a prelude to much more frugal days. Not being heavily involved in Kuroda and Oswalt for one year deals puzzles me.

    George would never let this go down.

    • Brian S.

      Is there something in the new CBA that is discouraging the Yankees from spending anymore money *this* offseason? The trust fund babies have proven that they will spend to win but I don’t blame them for wanting to reduce payroll to 189 in 2014.

      • David, Jr.

        This hits right at the core of what is going on.

        Ticket prices are enormous. They have huge other revenue sources. If they are making extremely large profits, you bet I blame them for not putting the best product on the field to escape a luxury tax.

    • Under the luxury tax is not cheap

      I love the idea here that not spending 200 million dollars is “frugal”. Is anyone here a politician, cuz nobody seems to have any problem spending other people’s money.

      I think its about time the yankees exercised some financial responsibility. We’ve spent more money than everyone in baseball for more than 10 years and have 1 world championship to show for it. St. Louis doesn’t even spend 100 mill and they got 2 in the same period of time. Obviously the “spend crazy and get everybody” philosophy doesn’t work.

      • Bryan

        If other teams are spending a greater portion of their revenues on payroll, how is that consistent with the Yankees’ philosophy of winning a WS every year?

        You might say that payroll level doesn’t necessarily equate to talent, but keep in mind a lot of Yankees are overpaid, so our $200m payroll isn’t truly indicative of our team’s talent.

        This season’s 97 wins was quite lucky: Garcia, Colon, and even Nova performing well above expectations. Hughes’ 2010 second half should’ve been a red flag, AJ’s 2010 and age should’ve been a red flag.

        That said, we should always give Cashman the benefit of the doubt in December, and wait until Feb before criticising him.

    • Sweet Dick Willie

      Not being heavily involved in Kuroda and Oswalt for one year deals puzzles me.

      Where have you read/heard that they’re not?

      • Now Batting

        Reports indicated Kuroda was close to signing with a team that’s “not the Yankees”. Obviously this could change but just going on real time information.

        As for the new CBA discouraging spending…the old CBA taxed at 40% if you exceeded the threshold twice. The new one is 50%. Hurts a little more but not enough by itself to justify a total change in philosophy.

        Have a problem with me telling others how to spend their money? Pretty sure it’s us, the fans, who have helped make the Yankees the most lucrative team in baseball. As a broke graduate student I was ok with spending $7 on a hotdog and $10 on a beer so long as that money was being reinvested into the team. Knowing its going to two guys milking what their dad created? Eh not so much.

        • Nathan

          Exactly. What is the difference between the Yankees and the Royals? When it boils down to it, it is the brand of baseball which all boils down to money. The players and the stadium, that is it. All teams play nine innings, 27 outs.

          When you watch the Yankees, you expect a certain level of product.

  • LarryM.,Fl.

    He was a pleasure to watch and root for as a Yankee!

  • Brian in NH

    I think you have to remember, when looking at the number of players who become “stars” in the US when the come from NPB, the NBP league is still generally considered a AAAA level league compared to MLB. And there are only 12 teams in all of NBP. When you compare that to the number of AAA teams and players we have in the US, there is a much smaller chance of bonafide stars coming out of NPB (even smaller if you include Mexican League with the traditional AAA leagues, IL and PCL). In a league full of AAAA players, even the best AAAA players have a tough go of it in the US. Daisuke probably doesn’t last as long as he does in a major league rotation if he wasn’t so high profile.

    • MannyGeee

      butbutbut…. the GyroBall!

  • Jumpin’ Jack Swisher

    I’d take him back, bad knees and all, right now. What we’d do with him, I have no idea, but Hideki Matsui in any other uniform is just wrong.

  • JohnC

    I’d take back Bobby Abreu. Another clutch hitter. Bet If it had been him up in those key spots int he playoffs instead of Swisher or Arod, Yanks would have advanced

    • Sweet Dick Willie

      It must be nice living in La La Land. If I ever feel the need for a vacation from reality, maybe I’ll come visit you.

    • Jumpin’ Jack Swisher

      There’s this sport called “baseball,” John. You might give understanding it a shot sometime.

  • I am not the droids you’re looking for…

    I loved Hideki Matsui and always will. He was a consistent, class act (porn aside…) who was one of my favorite players during his time here.

  • Kurt

    I miss Hideki too. In a clutch situation there’s no one on the current team who I’d rather have up to bat. Too bad there’s really not a spot for him as we need to break Jesus in.

  • http://Http// hideki fan for life

    Hideki is my all-time favorite Yankee! I’d love to see the Yanks bring him back where he belongs.