It has been a sad sight the last two years watching Hideki Matsui shop himself around for a major league gig. After almost single-handedly destroying the Phillies in the 2009 World Series, the Yankees declined to offer him a contract. Matsui eventually signed with the Angels, had a decent year and found himself without a job again. Now it is being reported by ESPN.com that Matsui has reached an agreement to play for the Oakland Athletics.
The Fan promised himself that he wouldn't make value statements based on a player's personality because of lack of information. This writer doesn't have first hand access to the people written about. But simply observing Matsui over the years, he comports himself with almost a regal yet humble air. He carries himself with a lot of pride. And why shouldn't he? He was one of the biggest heroes in Japan before he came over to play for the Yankees. And by all accounts, the Yankees were a dream come true to the Japanese slugger. From what this Fan can remember, the Yankees were the only American team that Matsui wanted to play for.
And play for them he did. His steady presence and timely hitting have lead to a career 123 OPS+. He was never very good as a left fielder but once he blew out his knee, he was a very good Designated Hitter. In that capacity, he had a higher WAR than David Ortiz in 2009 with the Yankees. He quietly put up another solid season with the Angels last year. His 124 OPS+ was dead on for his career numbers. And he won that World Series game. Which brings the Fan to another point.
Most of the baseball world now measures players by wins. Even the W in WAR stands for "Wins." But for the Yankees, Wins Above Replacement really should be called World Series Wins Above Replacement (or WWWAR). Because as everyone knows, if the Yankees don't win a World Series, the season was a failure. So basically, the Yankees paid $200 million for four World Series wins in 2009. If that is the case and Matsui won the last game with his heroics, then you could say his game against the Phillies was worth $50 or one quarter of the payroll. Well, of course you'd have to whittle that down a bit for pitching and playing the field and all that, but if you boil it all down, Matsui's game may have been worth the $13 million the Yankees paid for him in 2009.
But the Yankees wouldn't pay for him in 2010. And the reality is that the move made sense based on Matsui's age and health. But his season for the Angels last year was worth far more than anything the Yankees put out there as a DH. But again, the Angels, a team that didn't hit last year except for Hunter and Matsui, did the same thing the Yankees did and let him walk. As a DH, Matsui should have one more good year in him. But he had to skulk around for a job which has to be hard for a once proud Japanese player who represented the best of that country's baseball.
It's sad really. But if Matsui can make it work and be productive, then more power to him and the Athletics hope he will stabilize their line up a little bit after playing DH tiddly winks last year. Matsui should enjoy playing for a city that has a large oriental population who will no doubt adopt Matsui as oof their own. But it just won't seem right seeing him in an Oakland uniform. When Matsui takes his baseball hat off and lets his jet black hair spill down, that cap should be a Yankee cap. But the world moves on and not everyone can be Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera.