With the baseball world starting to settle down from last night's crazy flurry of excitement due to the Cliff Lee drama coming to an end there have been moves to report on. As I alluded to in one of my last posts, one of my all-time favorites would be signing with a new team. Joe Stiglich of the Oakland Tribune reports that the Oakland Athletics will hold a press conference today to announce the signing of their new designated hitter Hideki Matsui.
In 2010 Matsui, formerly of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, batted .274 with 21 HRs and 84 RBI. In 482 at-bats, Matsui had 132 hits (24 2B/1 3B/21 HR) with 98 strikeouts and 67 walks. His OPS was .820 (.361 OBP%/.459 SLG%).
Stiglich makes the following statement about the Matsui signing:
Improving an anemic offense tops the A's priority list, and with Matsui, they finally found a middle-of-the-lineup caliber hitter willing to call the Coliseum home.
How much impact Matsui can make remains to be seen, as he's certainly on the downside of his career. He's hit .290 with 161 homers over eight major league seasons -- the first seven with the New York Yankees. He was 28 when he left Japan to join the Yankees.
One major league scout, who requested anonymity, said Matsui "at one time was a very good player who could do a lot of things. He's not that guy at all anymore."
But Matsui's numbers last season -- a .274 average with 21 homers and 84 RBIs -- represent a significant upgrade over anyone from Oakland's 2010 lineup.
I remember how the Yankees were supposed to get this big slugger from Japan who hit 50 homers in his last season for the Yomiuri Giants of the Nippon Professional Baseball League. In his 10 seasons in Japan, Matsui averaged 32.8 homers a year and was seen as being the next in the line of Bronx Bombers of Yankees lore. But what the Yankees received was something better. Matsui was an all around player who was not just a bopper but a complete hitter. Matsui could drive in runs with timely hits accompanied with the occasional power hit. In 7 seasons with the Yankees, Matsui had four seasons of 100 RBI or more while he only hit a maximum of 31 homers in 2004.
Out of the many moments that stood out for me about Matsui wasn't one at the plate but rather one on the field. This was on May 11, 2006 when Matsui dove for a ball in a game against the Boston Red Sox. In diving for the ball, Matsui broke his left wrist. What impressed me the most was that instead of rolling around in the grass as you'd expect someone to do with an injury of that type was that Matsui finished the play. He caught the ball, threw it back to the infield and then motioned to the bench that he was hurt. A true professional all the way.
I believe that Hideki Matsui will be a positive force for the Oakland A's both on the field and in the clubhouse. He will bring a winning presence to a group of young players who after Cliff Lee signed with the Philadelphia Phillies might just be the favored team in the AL West.
For Further Reading
- Click Here to access Hideki Matsui's career NPB and MLB statistics from the BaseballCube.com
- Click Here to access the Hideki Matsui page from JapaneseBallplayers.com
- Click Here to access Joe Stiglich's article Former Yankees and Angels slugger Hideki Matsui to sign with the Oakland A's from the Oakland Tribune's website dated December 14, 2010
- Click Here to access Susan Slusser's article A's, Hideki Matsui agree to 1-year deal from the San Francisco Chronicle website dated December 14, 2010
- Click Here for an interesting About.com page on the wrist injury sustained by Hideki Matsui in May of 2006