Weekend Links: Jeter, Matsui, Betances, Game 162, Cuba, In-Market Streaming

(Shizuo Kambayashi/AP)
(AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi)

The Yankees are playing the Astros at 1:05pm ET this afternoon (Michael Pineda vs. Dallas Keuchel), but there will be no video broadcast of the game. No YES, no MLB.tv, no nothing. Lame. So, on this day with unwatchable Yankees baseball, here are some miscellaneous links to help you pass the time.

Jeter, Matsui To Participate In Home Run Derby For Charity

Derek Jeter and Hideki Matsui will square off in a Home Run Derby at the Tokyo Dome tomorrow to help raise money to support children affected by the earthquake and tsunami that devastated the region in 2011, reports the Associated Press. There will be over 600 participants in the event, including a group of baseball players from the Tohoku region, which was hit hardest by the disaster.

“(Derek) will make an enormous contribution to this event. He is a tremendous human being and was a great teammate and I’m sure the kids will be thrilled to see someone of his stature,” said Matsui to the Associated Press. Jeter and Matsui will also hold a baseball clinic for kids. Some photos of Jeter at sumo matches made the rounds a few days ago and I figured he was just on vacation. Great work by Jeter and Matsui to get together for charity. Hopefully some video of the Home Run Derby pops up soon.

The Deception & Dominance Of Betances

Owen Watson put together a really great article looking at an underrated part of Dellin Betances‘ game: his deception. We all know he throws high-90s with a nasty breaking ball, but his release point and delivery is incredibly consistent for both pitches, so hitters don’t get any sort of hint of what’s coming. This GIF is pretty great:

That’s two pitches laid over one another. One pitch is a 98 mph fastball (taken), the other an 82 mph curveball (swing and miss). Dellin’s delivery and release point are the same and both pitches look identical out of his hand. It’s basically impossible to tell whether a fastball or breaking ball is coming before the hitter’s brain has to tell his body to swing or not, hence all those called strikes he was getting on curveballs last year. They look like high fastballs out of the zone and hitter gives up.

Yankees Hired New Nutritionist This Offseason

The search for a competitive advantage extends beyond the field of play these days, with teams looking for ways to keep their players healthier through improved diet and rest. The Yankees hired a new nutritionist this offseason named Cynthia Sass, according to David Waldstein, and her job is to provide the team with the best possible diet and persuade players to eat it. “We’re trying to build a more perfect beast,” said Brian Cashman to Waldstein.

Teams typically provide players with two meals per day — breakfast and lunch for day games, lunch and dinner for night games — but they can’t force players to eat them. Sass, who spent the last eight years with the Rays and had previously worked with the Phillies and New York Rangers, has added healthy alternatives to the daily menu and will educate players, then adjust the menu based on their preferences. “I’m not there to shove it down their throat,” she said. “It’s not going to happen overnight. The goal is to make the best foods for athletes always available. If they want more of it, we’ll provide it.”

The Yankees have had nutrionists over the years — every team has — but the goal this winter was the refocus their efforts in hope of gaining a competitive advantage. The team also hired former minor league pitcher John Kremer as their “high performance science director” to coordinate the nutritionist, food preparation, medical staff, trainers, coaches … basically everyone who impacts team performance. Teams haven’t necessarily ignored the diet of their players, they just haven’t done as much to optimize it as you’d think. Sass was hired to do that for the Yankees.

MLB Schedules Every Game 162 At Same Time

In an effort to boost the drama and excitement of the final day of the regular season, MLB has scheduled Game 162 for every team at the exact same time this year, writes Bill Shaikin. All 15 games on October 4th — yes, the season ends October 4th — will begin at 3pm ET. The Yankees will be in Baltimore playing the Orioles that day.

“If a game impacts another game, they’re all occurring at the same time, so no team would be put into a lame-duck situation because their fate already had been decided by an earlier result,” said MLB COO Tony Petitti to Shaikin. “If we do have games coming down to the wire, we want to make sure we maximize that day.”

Last year the NL Central and second AL Wild Card spot came down to Game 162. The Pirates lost to the Reds, giving the Cardinals the division title and allowing St. Louis to scratch Adam Wainwright later that afternoon so he could start him in Game 1 of the NLDS. That sort of situation won’t happen this year. I love this idea and as a baseball fan I hope the final day of the regular season is pure chaos. Hopefully the Yankees are involved somehow.

(AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
(AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

MLB Likely To Play Exhibition Game In Cuba In 2016

Commissioner Rob Manfred confirmed to Brian Costa the league is likely to play a Spring Training game in Cuba next season. MLB has been in talks with the government about returning to the island as the two countries work to rebuild their relationship. MLB last played a game in Cuba in 1999, when the Orioles played the Cuban National Team.

“To the extent that we can play a role in helping the United States government effectuate a change in policy, that we’re following their lead and we’re acting in a way that’s consistent with what they want us to do, that’s an honor for us,” said Manfred to Costa. “The combination of their input and where we are in our calendar for 2015 makes the most likely point in time to be Spring Training of 2016. It’s not a three-day exercise to play a meaningful exhibition game in Cuba. You need a little lead time to get that done, to put everything together, to be able to broadcast it in the way that it deserves.”

It’s unclear right now if MLB would play a single exhibition game in Cuba or several. In the past the league has played two games when playing overseas, though traveling to Cuba is much easier than traveling to, say, Taiwan, like the Dodgers did in 2010. Anyway, the Yankees are baseball’s most recognizable and marketable team, so I suspect they will be given consideration for the game(s) in Cuba next spring. Imagine the Yankees vs. Yasiel Puig and the Dodgers or Jose Abreu and the White Sox with Orlando Hernandez throwing out the first pitch. That would be fun.

In-Market Streaming May Be On The Horizon

According to Josh Kosman, MLB will soon announce a deal allowing fans to stream games online in each team’s home market. So New Yorkers will be able to watch the Yankees and Mets on their iPad or laptop instead of sitting in front of a television. The particulars (cost, etc.) aren’t known yet, but Kosman says teams with their own networks will require fans to subscribe to the network to stream online. You won’t be able to simply purchase MLB.tv and watch the Yankees, you’ll have to subscribe to YES through their cable provider. That’s better than nothing, I guess.

Yankees hire Hideki Matsui as special advisor to Brian Cashman

(The Times of Trenton)
(The Times of Trenton)

Yesterday afternoon, the Yankees announced they have hired former World Series MVP Hideki Matsui as a special advisor to GM Brian Cashman. It was made official with a press conference at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa earlier this morning. Here’s the blurb from the press release on Matsui’s role with the team:

In his first full-time role in the New York Yankees front office, Matsui will work closely with General Manager Brian Cashman and Player Development Vice President Gary Denbo. Matsui will spend the majority of the 2015 season traveling throughout the Yankees’ minor league system and focusing on aspects of hitting with managers, batting coaches and players.

Matsui, who retired in June 2013 after signing a one-day contract with the Yankees, spend last summer traveling to the various minor league affiliates — mostly Double-A Trenton and Short Season Staten Island it seemed — and working with minor leaguers in an unofficial capacity. Sounds like he’ll be doing the same going forward, except now with a title.

“I’m really looking forward to working with the young players and offering whatever I can,” said Matsui to the Associated Press at this morning press conference while also hinting at an interest in coaching full-time down the road. “What I hope to do is help the development of the players and support them anyway I can.”

“Hideki Matsui is capable of anything. We’ll take as much Hideki Matsui as we can (get),”  said Cashman to Pete Caldera and the Associated Press. “We’ve kind of been waiting on him to tap into all he can provide … It could evolve into something bigger down the line.”

I can’t imagine anyone doesn’t like Matsui and/or isn’t thrilled with this news. I have no idea what kind of teacher and instructor he is, but the Yankees wouldn’t have hired him if they weren’t impressed with the work he put in last year. Matsui was awesome. I’m glad he’s back in the organization in some capacity.

Matsui will be at Spring Training as a special instructor

Via NYP: Hideki Matsui will be with the Yankees at Spring Training as a guest instructor this year. The team invited him to camp last year, but he declined because his wife was due to give birth to their first child. Matsui was working with the Yomiuri Giants during their pre-season workouts recently and he spent time with various minor league teams last year, so it seems like he really enjoys helping out younger players. Maybe he’s heading for a coaching career.

Photo: Masahiro Tanaka meets Hideki Matsui at Yankee Stadium in 2006

With a hat tip to Reddit, here’s a photo of a young Masahiro Tanaka meeting Hideki Matsui at the old Yankee Stadium (click for larger). It’s from 2006, when the Japanese high school All-Star team was touring the United States. There are some other (non-Yankees-related) photos in this stream.

Masahiro Tanaka Hideki Matsui

Now the Yankees just have to figure out how to get Tanaka to take their many millions of dollars to pitch in the new Yankee Stadium.

Update: Yankees to honor Hideki Matsui on July 28th

May 30th: The Yankees will indeed honor Matsui on July 28th, his bobblehead day. It’s also the 55th home game of the season. Godzilla will sign the one-day contract that day, then they’ll have an on-field ceremony before the game.

April 29th: … to a one-day contract so he can retire in pinstripes, reports George King. Matsui officially announced the end of his career over the winter, but King says “plans are in the works” for the one-day contract so he can have a ceremonious retirement. The Yankees are giving away Matsui bobbleheads on July 28th, so that seems like as good a day as any for all of this go down. I have no doubt it will awesome.

Yankees invited Hideki Matsui to Spring Training…

…as a guest instructor according to Dan Barbarisi. Matsui, who retired in December, declined the invitation because Mrs. Godzilla is due to give birth to Baby Godzilla in the not too distant future. I’m guessing we won’t have to wait very long to see Hideki back with the team though, there’s Spring Training and an Old Timers’ Day every year.

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.