Sayonara Kid: Hideki Matsui calls it a career


(Jed Jacobsohn/Getty)

Ten years and eight days after leaving the Yomiuri Giants and officially coming over to MLB, former Yankee Hideki Matsui has decided to call it a career. Daigo Fujikawa reports that Godzilla has retired from baseball and will make the announcement at a press conference in New York. He last played for the Rays this past season.

“Hideki is proof that baseball is an international attraction that brings people from all over the world together in their passion for the game,” said Brian Cashman in a statement. “He was the type of player and person you want young fans of this game to emulate. He played with pride, discipline and of course talent, and flourished when the lights were at their brightest. People naturally gravitated towards him, and that’s a direct reflection of his character. He was a true professional in every sense of the word and it feels good knowing he was able to raise the championship trophy as a member of the Yankees.”

Matsui, 38, spent seven massively productive years in New York. They started with a grand slam in his first Yankee Stadium game (video!) and ended with a thorough beatdown of Pedro Martinez in Game Six of the 2009 World Series. That game almost single-handedly earned him World Series MVP honors. Matsui hit .292/.370/.482 (124 wRC+) with 140 total homers in pinstripes, and his best season came back in 2004, when he produced a .298/.390/.522 (140 wRC+) line with 31 homers.

You’ll be hard-pressed to find a player more reliable than Matsui. He played in 538 consecutive games to open his career with the Yankees before suffering a fluke wrist injury sliding for a ball in the outfield in 2006, and even then he still managed 140+ games played in five of his seven years in the Bronx. Godzilla produced a .312/.391/.541 (143 wRC+) batting line in the postseason and was, without question, someone everyone wanted at the plate in a big spot.

In addition to his on-field production, Matsui was also a total professional and as classy as they get off the field. He was a True Yankee™ in every way and it was a thrill to watch him during his time in New York. The news of his retirement is bittersweet because no one wants to see their favorite players hang the spikes up, but I’m also very happy Hideki is walking away from the game on his own terms (sorta). He was a global star who had a brilliant career and deserves all the praise he gets. So long Godzilla, and thanks for the memories.

Categories : News


  1. BillB says:

    I think without question he should go to monument park

    • JobaWockeeZ says:


    • Robinson Tilapia says:

      I don’t… all, actually, but let’s enjoy the moment and not get into why or why not.

      • Andy Pettitte's Fibula (formerly Manny's BanWagon) says:

        Agree. O’Neill has a better case than Matsui

        Not a knock against him but that’s for the really elite IMO.

      • forensic says:

        Completely agree. There needs to be a line drawn at some point. It’s an exaggeration, but you don’t put every guy who has ever won a ring out there just because they won something. There are already enough guys out there who I don’t think should be there.

        • Andy Pettitte's Fibula (formerly Manny's BanWagon) says:

          Who would you remove?

          • Jacob says:

            Don’t know about him but Maris for sure.

          • forensic says:

            Maris and Jackson, maybe even Martin.

            • Jacob says:

              Jackson always slips by me for some reason, but yes definately Maris and Jackson. I am not so much in belief of Martin being removed but I respect your opinion, Why do you think he should be removed?

              • forensic says:

                Only 7 seasons as a player, with four of them very partial years. Not exactly impressive numbers, though there was a little different standard back then. The question would be whether his time as manager would put him over the top. I’m kind of in between on that.

                • Jacob says:

                  Yea I respect that, see I grew up in a family where the late 70′s teams were gods, Somehow I am able to look past jackson though.

            • Andy Pettitte's Fibula (formerly Manny's BanWagon) says:

              I can’t agree with Jackson though I can’t be objective as he’s my all time favorite Yankee.

            • Robinson Tilapia says:

              You are a cold-hearted sumbitch.

        • Robinson Tilapia says:

          I’d love to have everyone I enjoyed in Monument Park, but that’s not what it’s about. Matsui passes that test, to me, as much as Mike Mussina would.

          You already will be making room for the Core Four and THEN you are probably leaving one, or both, of Joe Torre and Bernie Williams out. I still haven’t even hit Paul O’Neill.

          …..and all those guys should be there before Hideki. It’s a tough world.

          • Andy Pettitte's Fibula (formerly Manny's BanWagon) says:

            Jeter, Rivera, Posada, Pettitte, Bernie and Torre are 100% no brainers for monument park IMO and I would have a very hard time leaving out O’Neill.

          • Jacob says:

            Straight up numbers and play/character as a yankee, no feelings who do you take and leave out of the 90′s/now?

            I would have to go- Mo, Jeter, Bernie, Jorge.
            And that is hard for me because I love andy/torre.

            • Robinson Tilapia says:

              Core Four and Torre go in first. Really hard time leaving Bernie out. Easier time leaving O’Neill out.

              We need room for my Chuck Cary gag wing.

              • Jacob says:

                I mean anyone could make a case honestly for the whole 90′s dynasty just as one plaque that says “95-2001″ or whenever they want to end it, do I think they will or that they even should? No, but I could definately see someone making a good point for something like that.

                • cr1 says:

                  Not for the whole 90′s dynasty, wonderful as it was, but for the consistently best NYY team I ever saw play — 1998. The visual of those guys running onto the field together still runs in my head. Make a plaque out of that. Please.

              • jruizpr says:

                Don’t forget ARod, even if he has to pay for the monument and plaque himself, sorry, just being funny.

      • RetroRob says:

        BillB was kidding…I think.

      • jjyank says:

        Yep. Every good player can’t get a plaque.

      • Jacob says:

        Agreed 100%

      • Get Phelps Up says:

        I agree.

        Also the fact that the Yankees reissued his number just 2 years after he left tells me that they agree too.

      • Hall and Nokes says:

        I know the Yanks already recognize two levels of greatness (for lack of a better term), but maybe there should be a new level for interesting players who the fans loved, basically the True Yankee section?

    • trr says:

      are u nuts? he’s not even close….

    • Frank Vitagliano says:

      I Agree 100%

    • yankeefan1421 says:

      Loved Matsui, but not a monument park guy. I would put a lot of players out there before him. Nettles, O’Neill, Bernie, even Cone.

      He wasn’t here long enough…though his performance in the 2009 World Series was stellar and he was a total class act on and off the field.

  2. Frank says:

    What a great Yankee! A Thrilla from Godzilla!

  3. Kman says:

    Go go Godzilla! A player that made me proud to be a Yankees fan. Thanks for the thrills and memories.

  4. Robinson Tilapia says:

    *Standing ovation*

    Why is the entire office looking at me?

    Thank you, Godzilla. It was a joy to watch you play.

  5. Jim Is Bored says:

    That Pedro beat down in 09 was something else. What a fun game, really glad we got him a ring.

  6. Andy Pettitte's Fibula (formerly Manny's BanWagon) says:

    Mike hit the nail on the head stating what a classy player he was.

    Matsui, Rivera, Bernie and Jeter were nothing if not classy.

  7. forensic says:

    I find it hard to understand how you think he’s going out on his own terms. He went unsigned a month into his last season, was released with 2 months left, and only played 34 horrible games in the three months in between. This wasn’t a choice, he was beyond cooked and no one was giving him another chance.

    • RetroRob says:

      I paused at that comment too, although having watched baseball for many years, it’s not inaccurate. He could have gotten a Spring Training invite, or took a minor league assignment, or played in the independent leagues as many players do, hoping for that last shot. He made a decision, is holding a press conference, and is moving on. So, yes, all players preetty much retire because the end has come or is damn near, but Matsui is doing it on his own terms. He’s not being cut.

      • forensic says:

        Eh, I don’t even agree with the stretched definition of it, not that it’s a big deal. He couldn’t even get a ST invite or mL contract until nearly May last year, and his last roster change was being cut. I don’t even count Independent ball in this consideration since it is ‘Independent’.

        • RetroRob says:

          Yeah, as said, I paused and won’t fight that battle since I agree more with you. I just understand what he was saying. Few players leave like Mike Mussina. Most stop playing because teams stop calling. I have no issue with players, no matter how great, squeezing every last dollar and AB and having the uniforms ripped from their backs. Actually admire it. My guess in the case of Matsui is he realized any ST invite would end badly, so he decided to step out now.

          • MannyGeee says:

            This. Think back at how guys like Barry Bonds left (whoring himself out at the Winter Meetings) or someone like Jermaine Dye (never retired, just sorta waited on the front steps like a girl who got stood up on prom nite…)

            He saw the writing on the wall and took control of his destiny, if not retiring on “his terms”

            • ArchStanton says:

              Dye had offers but he didn’t want to get off the couch unless it was for $4 million or something.

              Matsui was at least very honest about his lack of prospects last season. The guy was and is pure class. One of my personal favorites.

          • dalelama says:

            He probably could have played more in Japan.

    • Robinson Tilapia says:

      Matsui may have a strange idea as to what his own terms are.

    • Mike HC says:

      Yea, it looks like he basically had to have the jersey ripped off his back. I guess he could have played another year in Japan though.

      • RetroRob says:

        Unlike Kuroda, he’s never talked about returning to play in Japan. He got married here a few years back, although not sure where his wife is from. He made a comment when he was still with the Yankees that led me to believe me might be planning to live in the U.S. after his playing days, although traveling back and forth reguarly. A life of leisure and lots of money provides such luxury. Perhaps he’ll address that during his press conference.

  8. Nathan says:

    He was one of my favorite Yankees. He just went about his business and was a solid contributor. That ’09 WS was just the icing on the cake.

    One of my favorite memories of Matsui was when he was on the Angels and the whole team rushed him to give him a hug.

  9. Kevin Schappert says:

    Great Yankee–great hitter, clutch player, teammate–type of player Yanks could use now–3 tremendous years in 03, 04, 05–not quite the same after the injury but always hit when it mattered

  10. Jacob says:

    Great player and Great guy. Loved rooting for you Godzilla, Thanks for the memories!

  11. jjyank says:

    Thanks for the memories, Godzilla. I loved watching managers bring in a LOOGY to face Matsui in a big spot late in the game, only to watch him come through anyway (career 114 wRC+ against lefties).

    You were a blast to watch.

    • Andy Pettitte's Fibula (formerly Manny's BanWagon) says:

      I was a little surprised to see that Matsui was only worth 14 fWAR and 18.6 bWAR for his entire career. Looks like defensive metrics hated him.

      Not that WAR is the end all be all of stats but in my mind, he was a lot better player than that would lead you to believe.

      • Rick says:

        I was surprised to see that as well. It is solely dragged down by his defensive metrics. His rookie year, he was only a .2 win player. We know that certainly was not the case.

  12. OldYanksFan says:

    I know about the PS, and also clutchiness, but just a thought.

    According to FanGraphs
    Matsui (over 7 years)
    Total WAR: 13
    Avg WAR: 2-ish
    Avg WC+: 124

    Swisher (over 4 years)
    Total WAR: 15
    Avg WAR: 3.75
    Avg WC+: 128

    Matsui gets a lot of Love.
    But I just wonder how many people, like me, think Swisher was a much better player?

    • Andy Pettitte's Fibula (formerly Manny's BanWagon) says:

      I will likely always think of Matsui as the better player.

      One explanation could be postseason performance.

      .312/.391/.541 in 235 PAs vs .169/.283/.305 in 181 PAs

      • Jacob says:

        I think he was also a better player regular season, slight edge off straight slash line though

    • JobaWockeeZ says:

      Maybe Swisher would get love if he wasn’t a black hole in the playoffs.

    • Jacob says:

      Ehhh, if he is better, which he could be and could not be depending on how much you look at his versatility in the field etc, it is not that he is MUCH better but only a little more but I think they are a very equal type of player. Corner OF 25+ Hr power, high OBP, Drove a good amount of runs, middle of the order type. I guess I personally believe Matsui was better because of his peak years but swisher is higher on my personal favorite list.

    • Jacob says:

      I could see swish getting the edge actually, mostly because he played an average of 150 games vs Matsui’s average of 138 due to injuries. If matsui did not get injured he would probably have a much better stat line

    • Mike HC says:

      I would take Matsui over Swisher no doubt. But definitely similar skill levels.

    • pat says:

      Swish is getting the WAR edge from his defensive stats. Most fans for the most part don’t care about defense. Matsui hit over .300 which for the most part is how regular fans judge a hitter.

    • MannyGeee says:

      Matsui was never really good defensively, but just horrible after the injury bug bit him. Swisher gets the edge for the glovework..

    • All Praise Be To Mo says:

      Could the big difference defensively come from the dif. b/t LF and RF in Yankee Stadium? LF a lot bigger and more balls dropping in there than in RF, easier to hide a lesser defensive player there than in LF.

    • Rick says:

      Offensively, Swisher doesn’t hold a candle to Matsui. The only reason he is credited with a higher WAR is because defensive metrics hate Matsui. And no offense to the defensive metrics, but Swisher was not THAT much of a better fielder than Godzilla.

    • mike says:

      thats why numbers are sometimes confusing, and why the Mark-2 Eyeball is such an effective weapon even today.

      martsui did have his weaknesses and was streaky, but he was a significantly more dangerous/effective hitter who gave the other team pause, where Swisher could never had that impact on a game.

  13. Mike HC says:

    Loved Matsui. His professionalism, clutch hitting and porn collection will be missed.

  14. Yeah, the porn joke should have been made at about comment #5.

    Also, another great moment in his history was the drawing of his wife.

    • Andy Pettitte's Fibula (formerly Manny's BanWagon) says:

      That is just classic. I wish I could get a drawing like that of my wife to carry around in my wallet.

    • MannyGeee says:

      That was my favorite Matsui moment. Talk about a loose screw man, the drawing of his wife was hilarious.

  15. mac says:

    I think it shows the flaw in relying only on WAR to compare players. Especially since there is more than one WAR.

    Look at BRef oWAr for both guys in their first four years as Yanks, Matsui 14.3 vs. 11.3 for Swish and that is with a 1.1 in season 4 for Matsui. I looked at oWAR b/c I think both players were offense first guys and inexact nature of defensive metrics.

    Ignoring post season stats, I think they were similarly productive players, I prefer Matsui’s 7 year 292/.370/.482 over Swish.

  16. Slappy McWaterbug says:

    Matsui, like Mo is, was a great player who was all class, an increasingly rare species. I’m glad I got to root for him, and hope him all the success in his second life.

  17. Dan says:

    Hideki Matsui was a class act and one of my favorite yankees in the past decade. It almost brought tears to my eyes seeing him apologize for his wrist injury when he was just trying to give an all out effort on that line drive to left. It was a great player and even a better person, the type of person that makes this world a better place. I tip my cap to Godzilla and will be praying for his success in whenever he goes to next.

    • I am not the droids you're looking for... says:

      This!! Plus the porn. Plus the drawing of his wife. Plus the combination of porn and class. How did he pull that off?

      One of the only guys who, it seemed, when things were on the line, would come to the plate and you just KNEW he would come through. And then he did. Over and over again. Awesome.

      Pretty much my favorite Yank every year he played for us. So long Godzilla. I already missed you. Now I shall miss you more.

      Oh, and I take Hideki over Swisher every fucking time without a moments hesitation.

  18. Bill says:

    Thanks for the memories Godzilla… Even though you weren’t actually a part of “the dynasty” the way you carried yourself with class and respect.. and the quality of your at bats when it mattered the most… it always felt like you were

    You weren’t Jeter or Rivera obviously, but you commanded the same sort of admiration they did, quite an accomplishment

  19. RetroRob says:

    I’m one of the first to dismiss the idea of “clutch” stats, since I don’t believe players can simply make themselves better when games matter the most. In fact, if they could, I would question how hard they work the rest of the time.

    Yet there are players I totally want up in tought situations. Matsui was one of them. SABR President and MLB team consultant Vince Gennaro did a recent study that tried to quantify which players maintain their hitting skills against the better pitchers. No surprise that Derek Jeter was one of the best in the game at maintaining his level of hitting against better pitchers. His study looked at regular season play, yet it could explain the perception that Jeter is clutch in the postseason. He’s “simply” maintaining his high level against better pitchers, which is not so simple for all players at all.

    What does this have to do with Matsui? Perhaps he was one of those players. For whatever it’s worth, his study also showed that Josh Hamilton had one of the largest drop offs against quality pitching. Hamilton has also been weaker in the postseason. He crushes the weaker pitchers. Now I can pick apart some of the study, but it’s an interesting concept. (And, no, I have no idea where Swisher ranked in the study!)

  20. King of Fruitless Hypotheticals says:

    suffered a fluke wrist injury sliding for a ball in the outfield

    Dear Yankee Outfielders,
    No more sliding. Thanks.

  21. MannyGeee says:

    Yeah, one of the saddest days of my fandom was the wrist injury, closely following game 7 2004.

    Loved Godzilla, always hoped he’d do better in his post Yankee career, cease he deserved it. You’ll be missed Matsui.

  22. Darren says:

    One weird thing about Matsui’s defense was how when he first joined the Yanks, he was incredibly quick at getting to the ball and releasing it VERY quickly, usually with an accurate throw, although nowhere near a cannon arm.

    By year 2 or 3, he looked really awkard out there and that quick release was gone. It seemed like a strange thing to happen.

    Anyway, enjoy the next phase of your life Godzilla, you were a great Yankee. I am proud to have been at your first home game (the grand Slam with snow in the stands) and yoiur last (Six RBI! We win the World Series!)

  23. Mick taylor says:

    Great Yankee . A great post season clutch hitter and everything post season choke king swisher was not. Fav moments, 2009 world series and 2003 7th game of al championship series hit off Pedro.

  24. soxhata says:

    It’s still a G D disgrace that Matsui didn’t immediately get a 1 year offer after virtually handing us game 6 on a silver platter.Instead Cashman bullshitted us on the benefits of Nick Johnson.Then after the 2010 season Cash admitted Nick was plan C!-BRUTAL1 Thanks for the memories Godzilla!

  25. Vern Sneaker says:

    A great Yankee, in the tradition of Bauer, Maris, Murcer, White, Piniella, Rivers, O’Neill, Swisher, some few others. Not Hall of Fame, and let’ s save the Monument Park space for Bernie.

  26. ThatstheMelkyMesaWaysa says:

    Hideki is without question my favorite player that I ever got to see play. It pains me to this day to watch the wrist injury because it sort of makes one wonder what his career would have been without the injuries. All of that aside, baseball as a whole just witnessed the end of the career of one of the classiest players it has seen. Hideki was someone who globalized the game on a level rivaling that of Ichiro. It’s a shame to see him go but he left us with many great memories.

  27. JT says:

    Matsui’s double off of Pedro to make it 5-3. Set up the whole inning….

  28. Pistol Pete says:

    Great clutch hitter, hit leftys late in games which is absolutely necessary for an everyday player and playoff pro. Loved Matsui, agree the double off Pedro was a huge Matsui moment and so was game six in 2009, thanks for the memories.

  29. dalelama says:

    Matsui possesses everything most of the current squad is missing: clutchness, heart, class, and guts—a pro’s pro who like Damon and Posada we have been unable to replace.

    • WhittakerWalt says:

      “Matsui possesses everything most of the current squad is missing: clutchness, heart, class, and guts”


      “I busted out my copy of the Big Book of Baseball Cliches and just started writing them down at random.”

  30. Grover says:

    Broken body and all, I wish we had him during the playoffs. I’ll miss tuning in to see his huge head.

  31. Rizi Walnuts says:

    Man, it was fun to watch that big bat swing.

  32. Claudell says:

    LOVE Matsui. Thanks for the memories, Godzilla.

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