Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Sayonara, Hideki

It's always a sad day when you lose the World Series MVP, but Matsui had gone further; he'd become a Yankee treasure. The quiet gentleman from Japan is on his way to the Los Angeles Angels, never more to don the stripes.

Old Hideki stayed an enigma right to the very end. Granted, that's mostly because he can't speak English even a little (though apparently he understands it fairly well). I still find myself wishing we had a little more insight into his personality, though. Here are the non-baseball things I learned about Matsui in his seven seasons with the Yanks:

1) He got married secretly, and drew a sketch of his wife for reporters. Some gems from that article:

"Matsui refused to reveal many details about Wednesday's wedding or his new wife, only saying she is 25 and from Japan, where she formerly worked "in a reputable position at a highly respected company."

As teammates congratulated him, Yankee captain Derek Jeter and outfielder Bobby Abreu claimed they were conned into a bet by the newlywed slugger.

Abreu and Jeter said at the start of spring training, Matsui overheard them wagering on who would be the first to get married.

"It was a bet between me and Bobby," Jeter said. "[Matsui] finagled his way into it. That's pretty good. Sneaky. How do you say 'sneaky' in Japanese? I should have known he was up to something."

2) He's really into pornography. His collection in Japan apparently exceeds 55,000 videos, according to this article in Time Magazine when he first came to the Yanks. Excerpt:

Throughout it all, Matsui remained almost unnervingly low-key. He wears no earrings, no rock-star sunglasses, no outlandish hip-hop togs of the type favored by contemporaries like Ichiro. Flash just isn't Matsui's style, even if the conservative Giants hadn't frowned on such outré displays. Instructed to stay in the team dormitory and refrain from dating during the first several years of his career, so as to devote all his concentration solely to baseball, Matsui agreeably complied, without so much as a whimper. Indeed, his only eccentricity, if it can be called that, is his extensive private library of adult videos. His refreshing ability to laugh self-deprecatingly about his porno collection, reporters say, is one reason why fans and even nonfans have taken to him so much. Says former reporter Isao Hirooka: "Hideki just wants to be like ordinary people."

What is a 'hip hop tog'? And one more, for fun, discussing the build-up in Japan before he came to the states:

Another newspaper article breathlessly noted recent revelations about gays in major-league baseball and stressed the need for Matsui to be vigilant in the Yankee Stadium shower room when he bent over to pick up the soap.

Lucky for Hideki, he was never sodomized by a teammate, in the shower or otherwise. And he went on to have a very nice stint in New York. My impression, informed by nothing but observation, is that he's a simple, nice, laid-back guy with incredible baseball focus. Probably pretty funny, too, or at least with a strong appreciation of humor. His face has the appearance of being carved from stone, and its structure and complexion made him look at least twenty years older than his actual age. When he wasn't smiling, he looked like a tired old samurai. It's arguable that he was the best clutch hitter for the Yankees in the past seven years; that honor can't go to anyone but he or Jeter. Hideki always came through, and he could hit lefties just as well as righties. It'll be a less interesting team without him, and I absolutely hate the fact that he's going to the Angels.

From a business standpoint, the move makes sense. Cashman couldn't afford to keep an older guy whose knees preclude him from playing the field. The DH needs to be available for Jorge every few days, and Hideki commands too much money not to be a full-timer. If he could play right field once in a while, it would be a different story, but alas, he cannot. And so Matsui-san hits the road west, and the Yanks lose a great warrior.

Sad, sad, sad. That sweet swing won't be forgotten.

Duke plays Gardner-Webb tonight at 7 in a lead-up to Saturday's showdown with Gonzaga. Also on Saturday, UNC takes on Texas in a game that should tell us a lot about the Longhorns. The bowls start Saturday, as does my college football pool, which is now up to 40 participants and a $250 top prize. You can e-mail me for more details or see the post from a couple days ago. Take care.

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