HIDEKI MATSUI (FINALLY) GETS HIS DUE AS THE YANKEES WIN IT ALL

                                  Kallas Remarks by Steve Kallas

If you knew what you were watching, you knew that Hideki Matsui was the World Series MVP when he hit a two-run homer off Pedro Martinez to give the Yankees a 2-0 lead they would never relinquish early in Game 6. Most people didn’t know that, but it dawned on some of them when Matsui hit a two-run single off Pedro Martinez in his second at-bat to give the Yankees a 4-1 lead that they would never relinquish.

Between Matsui’s second and third at-bats, Ken Rosenthal of Fox, maybe not understanding that he was watching the World Series MVP, reported that, essentially, it was unlikely that Matsui would be back next year. Good grief!

Having no idea what to do with Matsui, Charlie Manuel would take Pedro out of the game before he had to face Matsui again. Going by the “book,” he brought in tough lefty J.A. Happ.  As any Yankee fan can tell you, Matsui is tougher against lefties than he is against righties and hit more homers off lefties than any lefty hitter in the majors. Matsui promptly hit a two-run double off the fence in right-center, giving the Yankees a 6-1 lead they would never relinquish.

AND NONE OF MATSUI’S GAME 6 HITS WAS THE BIGGEST OF THE SERIES

Very few understood at the time, but the biggest hit, the most important for the Yankees, was Matsui’s Game 2 homer that gave the Yankees a 2-1 lead, a lead that they would never relinquish in their 3-1, Game 2 victory to tie the World Series at one game apiece.

Why was this Game 2 homer the most important? Well, that’s easy. After losing Game 1 at home, the Yankees would have been in brutal trouble if they had lost Game 2 at home. To beat the Phillies four out of the next five (had they lost Game 2) would have been virtually impossible, especially since the Phillies had Cliff Lee for what everybody thought would be a Phillies win in game 5 (it was). So, it was subtle at the time (see Kallas Remarks, 9/29/09), but was clearly the homer that saved the Yankees.

DON’T THE YANKEES HAVE TO BRING HIM BACK NOW?

It’s been a theme by this writer that the Yankees, long before the MVP became the MVP, should bring Hideki Matsui back next year (see Kallas Remarks, 9/29/09). He gives a manager so many offensive options, so many offensive advantages, that the Yankees have to make room for the .615 World Series hitter. When you (or the Yankees) try and say the Yankees should only keep one out of Johnny Damon and Matsui, you (or the Yankees) have to now see how valuable BOTH of these guys are to the team. They, as much as anyone (A-Rod, Jeter, Rivera et al.), were responsible for the 27th World Series Championship.

HOW CAN THEY FIT MATSUI IN?

Well, that’s relatively easy. Let Matsui DH for 90 games. That will give Joe Girardi 72 games to give A-Rod his day off, or Damon his day off, or Posada his day off (presumably when A.J. Burnett is pitching and Jose Molina is catching). In the remaining 72 games that Matsui does not DH, he would probably pinch hit in about 45-50 of them (don’t forget, his three pinch at-bats in Philadelphia were home run, out and huge single).

That’s about 420 or so at-bats right there. Then, after a winter of rehabbing those surgically-repaired knees, maybe he can play once a week in the outfield in the right ballpark (not Yankee Stadium). That additional 20 games will give him another 80 at-bats or so.

If you can get Matsui 420-500 at-bats, you’ve hit the jackpot. Remember how Joe Girardi said that Matsui became great after the nine-game interleague road swing when he couldn’t DH and didn’t play the field? Girardi said that rested Matsui in the middle of the season and set him up for his stirring finish and playoff run.

DOES MATSUI WANT TO BE HERE?

Of course he does. Not being a modern day, greedy player (or agent-friendly, you know, look at me) immediately after the game, when asked about whether he’d like to come back or not, Matsui was blunt and truthful, saying, through a translator, that he loves the Yankees, he loves the fans and of course he wants to come back. A sleazier free agent would have said we’ll see what happens, I’m sure there will be great interest from other teams, and then he would hold up his MVP trophy.

DO THE YANKEES WANT HIM BACK NOW?

Well, hopefully they’ve seen the light by now. Considered a done deal by all the “experts” that he wasn’t coming back (if true), the Yankees will need to reevaluate. They’ll have to pay him more now, but it’s hard to believe that something for two years can’t be worked out.

Hideki Matsui has always been a great teammate and a professional hitter. He rose to the top of the heap on the biggest stage in the biggest game (six runs batted in for the first-time ever in a deciding World Series game). Anything the Yankees pay him will already have been paid back in advance by Hideki Matsui. He was the key to winning the World Series. The potential pitching problems never became the actual pitching problems because Matsui tacked on another two runs in each of his first three at-bats.

THE QUINTESSENTIAL YANKEE

Now that Matsui has won his World Series as a Yankee, you can call him a quintessential Yankee, even if he barely speaks English. To let this guy go now would be a disgrace to the Yankee organization. If George Steinbrenner still has a say, it’s hard to believe that he would let this happen.

We’ll see how it goes.

© Copyright 2009 by Steve Kallas.  All rights reserved.

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