Friday, December 28, 2012

Contemplating Hideki Matsui

Hideki Matsui during the 2009 World Series, when he
went 8-for-13 with three home runs and was named
the MVP of the series. For his postseason career in the
states — 11 series, all with the Yankees — he hit
.312/.391/.541, which is strong hitting by any standard.
Hideki Matsui — "Godzilla" — announced his retirement Thursday.

In truth, his announcement was merely his acceptance of what the 30 teams had been telling him since August, when Tampa Bay released him. He's 38, he hit .147 for the Rays last season, he's done.

This is the way most players "retire" — passively. The Chipper Joneses, who get to select the time they leave, are the exception. Most players have retirement happen to them.

Matsui's departure is of particular interest because he has been the rare — to my knowledge, unique — Japanese hitter whose power translated to this side of the Pacific. The Japanese players who have brought their skills to the West have had varying degrees of success, but only Matsui's tool box included legitimate power.

Matsui hit 175 homers in the states in his 10 seasons here — 10 seasons spent largely in what is usually the decline phase of a career. How many homers he'd have hit had he spent his entire career in the Americas is unknowable, of course, but it hardly seems outrageous to guess that he might have doubled his total.

He did hit 332 homers in 10 years in Japan's highest leagues before coming to the States. His career was split between two worlds, and the numbers may not be an accurate guide to his ability. A good player, definitely. A great player, perhaps. I'm inclined to think so.

1 comment:

  1. What was I reading...Matsui's first home run in the US was a grand slam against our own Twins? I know he was a formidable opponent, a powerful hitter and a fine fielder. I'm inclined to agree with you, Ed. He was a great player. We were blessed to see him play.